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Fellows Directory

Aaron Klug

Aaron Klug

Sir Aaron Klug OM FRS


Elected: 1969


Aaron Klug was a Nobel Prize-winning chemist and biophysicist who made outstanding contributions to molecular biology and, in particular, our knowledge of the structure of viruses. Aaron combined existing electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction techniques to develop crystallographic electron microscopy — a method for constructing three-dimensional structures of biological molecules from two-dimensional images.

His interest in viruses stemmed from a collaboration with Rosalind Franklin at Birkbeck in the 1950s, where he performed structural studies on the helical tobacco mosaic virus. Aaron’s most notable work soon followed — determining that spherical viruses are constructed from repeating protein units arranged according to icosahedral symmetry. This research, together with the development of methods for elucidating structures, led to him receiving the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Aaron served as Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge for a decade from 1986, and from 1995–2000, he led the Royal Society as its President. He received a knighthood in 1988 for his services to molecular biology. His techniques for structural determination are now widely used to study proteins.

Sir Aaron Klug OM FRS died on 20 November 2018.

Biographical Memoir

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
    • Biophysics and structural biology, Biochemistry and molecular biology


  • Blackett and Jagdish Chandra Bose Memorial Lectures

    On 'Protein designs for the regulation of gene expression'.

  • Copley Medal

    In recognition of his outstanding contributions to our understanding of complex biological structures and the methods used for determining them.

  • Croonian Medal and Lecture

    On 'Engineered zinc finger proteins (ZFPs) for the regulation of gene expression'.

  • Leeuwenhoek Medal and Lecture

    On 'The structure and assembly of regular viruses'.

  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry

    For his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.

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