Few scientists have thought more deeply about their calling and its impact on humanity than Max Perutz (1914-2002). In 1947 he founded the small Cambridge research group in which Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA: under his leadership it grew to become the world-famous Laboratory for Molecular Biology. Max himself explored the protein haemoglobin which won him a shared Nobel Prize in 1962, the same year as Crick and Watson. The work of his amazing team
launched a new era of medicine, heralding today's astonishing advances in the genetic basis of disease.
Born in Vienna, Jewish by descent, lapsed Catholic by religion, Max came to Cambridge in 1936, to join the lab of the legendary Communist thinker J.D. Bernal. There he began to explore the structures of the protein molecules that hold the secret of life. In 1940 he was interned and deported to Canada as an enemy alien, only to be brought back and set to work on a bizarre top secret war project.
Max Perutz's story brims with life. This biography has the zest of an adventure novel and is full of extraordinary characters. Max was demanding, passionate and driven but also humorous, compassionate and loving. Small in stature, he became a fearless mountain climber; drawing on his own experience as a refugee, he argued fearlessly for human rights; he could be ruthless but had a talent for friendship. An articulate and engaging advocate of science, he found new problems to engage his imagination until weeks before he died aged 88.