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John Cowdery Kendrew (1917-1997)

Sir John Kendrew died on August 23, 1997, at age 80. He was educated at schools in Oxford and Bristol, and Trinity College, Cambridge, England. After the second World War he began his work with Max Perutz in the Medical Research Council at the Cavendish Lab, Cambridge, under Sir Lawrence Bragg. Perutz set out to solve the structure of haemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in blood. Kendrew chose myoglobin, haemoblobin's small brother. Kendrew applied the heavy atom method to myoglobin using three dimentional data and many different heavy atoms, and in 1957 produced the first low-resolution map of a protein. Four years later Kendrew had the coordinates of the 1,250 non-hydrogen atoms in myoglobin, an epoch-making achievement. In 1958 Kendrew founded the Journal of Molecular Biology. In 1952, John Bennett from the Cambridge computer lab (EDSAC) and Kendrew wrote a three-dimentional Fourier program, probably the first. In 1962 Perutz and Kendrew were awarded the Nobel Prize. That same year they moved into the slendid new MRC Lab of Molecular Biology on Hills Road, Cambridge, with Perutz as director, and Kendrew as deputy director and head of the division of structural studies. Kendrew was appointed project leader to develop the European Molecular Biology Lab founded in Heidelberg in 1974. He set up the EMBL outstations at DESY (Hamburg) and ILL (Grenoble) for synchrotron light as an X-ray source and for neutron scattering; the DESY outstation was the first in the world to use synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction. Between 1982 and 1988 John Kendrew was vice-president and then president of the Int'l Council of Scientific Unions, and he was a governor of the Weizmann Inst., Israel. On leaving EMBL he was appointed president of St. John's College, Oxford.

K.C. Holmes
Nature, September 1997
21 July 2008