Max F. Perutz: Life, Legacy and Breathing Molecule

Published: 2021-06-29 06:44:39
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   Max F. Perutz: Life, Legacy and Breathing Molecule  Abstract Max Ferdinand Perutz is probably the most eminent name in Molecular Biology often referred to as “Godfather of Molecular Biology” or “Founding Father of Molecular Biology”. Max was beyond just a great scientist; he was an honorably gracious man with brilliant humane instincts. Max won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with former student and fellow colleague John Kendrew for understanding the breathing molecule - Hemoglobin that makes the blood red. By determining the three dimensional structure of hemoglobin, he solved the most intricate mystery of biology. Max unraveled the secrets of life and founded the world-renowned MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) at Cambridge. Max’s life marked the remarkable era of scientific enlightenment, resilience and his modest leadership; he himself scaled great scientific heights and foster even greater achievement for others. In this paper, I will briefly touch upon the history and legacy of Max Perutz’s personal and professional life emphasizing his distinct contribution in determining molecular structure of Hemoglobin. Max Ferdinand Perutz would request young scientists and colleagues throughout his life, “Please call me Max” when addressed formally. To honor his humbleness, we will too address him as “Max” throughout the paper. Childhood and Early Life Max was born on May 19th, 1914 in Vienna, Austria. Max’s mother Adele “Dely” Goldschmidt and father Hugo Perutz came from eminent Viennese family of successful textile industrialists. Perutz family had significant business stake in textile manufacturing as they    [pic 1]  Max spent his childhood in Vienna in an elegant building adjacent to British Embassy. But, his childhood was not all glory; Max suffered a severe bout of pneumonia when he was just few months old. He suffered two more such spells before the age of five. Max was often wrapped in moist and cold sheets to bring down the fever. At the age of nine, Max suffered another horrifying illness outbreak. However, with the advice from their family doctor, Max was sent to Semmering, a resort situated on the picturesque mountain pass where Max Image 1: Max F. Perutz (, 1962) stayed for few weeks. The fresh air from mountain at one-thousand-meter altitude seemed to do the trick as he returned healthier and sturdier. Hugo and Dely loved max the most, but they were mostly busy and distracted. Max spent most of his time in Vienna with nanny Cilly Jetztfellner. Due to these factors, Max’s intellectual development slowed down and his stimulation was stalled to some extent. Max was often victim of dissimilar choices of his own and mother’s. Dely tried to indulge Max in piano lessons, which he gave up soon. She tried to involve him in Theatrical education, which also he did not continue. Interestingly, a private tuition arranged by mother to learn French and English language allured Max’s interest to some extent. With the continual encouragement and understanding from teacher Miss Rein, Max developed interest in English language.

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