Tuesday, August 05, 2008

a plodding life

During my week off, I read Georgina Ferry's biography of Max Perutz, who solved the crystal structure of haemoglobin in an epic quest lasting over 3 decades, and who set up the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, which I understand has produced more Nobel laureates than France or Canada in the time since it opened.

All this makes for an exciting story, even though the protagonist is anything but a glittering star. Perutz was a very patient and persistent "plodder" who, while eager for success and recognition, was never seen as a genius and never had the over-sized ego that often comes with such a label. The persistent plodding won him the haemoglobin structure and the Nobel prize, while his modesty allowed him to quietly run a world-leading institute where he had to handle primadonnas like Francis Crick.

Obviously, the book is a must for anybody interested in proteins. For everybody else, I was worried a bit that it might turn out a bit boring as I knew that Max was a less than glittering person. But I think the author has managed the trick to turn his plodding life into a compelling story, which should be interesting for non-specialist readers as well. The main lesson for the general public is, of course, that one doesn't have to be a towering genius of stature of a Crick or Bernal in order to be a successful scientist. Relatively ordinary people can make an impact too.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails