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A new Chair in Biophysics Created at Imperial College London

Published: Friday, February 03, 2006
Last Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2006
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Chair in Biophysics has been created in memory of Professor David Blow, the 'founding father of biophysics'.

A new Chair in Biophysics has been created in memory of Professor David Blow, the 'founding father of biophysics' at Imperial College London.

David Blow made his name through significant advances in protein crystallography. The conversion of proteins into three-dimensional crystals allows their atomic structure to be studied.

Professor So Iwata, formerly Professor of Membrane Protein Crystallography has been appointed to the new Chair, and he will build on David Blow's considerable research record in protein crystallography.

David Blow joined Imperial in 1977, becoming Professor of Biophysics and later Head of the Department of Physics until 1994. He continued his association with Imperial as a Senior Research Fellow until 2004, the year he died.

David Blow graduated in physics from Cambridge in 1954 and, while looking for an exciting area of research, heard about an Austrian scientist called Max Perutz. Perutz, who later received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, was heading a Medical Research Council unit for the molecular study of biological systems, and Blow became his research student.

He began his research career by learning to purify and crystallise horse, pig, rabbit and dog haemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in the blood.

Then he went on to develop a new method for data analysis, published with Francis Crick. This led to the foundations of protein crystallography, which has been used to study many protein structures since.

In 1977 Blow joined Imperial, becoming the first Professor of Biophysics and, according to Professor Sir Peter Knight, Principal of the Faculty of Natural Sciences "the father of biophysics at Imperial."

Professor Paul Freemont, who worked with him to coordinate structural biology activities across Imperial, remembers him being a "protein crystallographer of supreme ability."

Professor Knight recalls Professor Blow's "terrific research vision" and also his extremely warm heart. He donated the royalties from a book he had written to fund a new student scholarship.

Professor Nick Franks, who was appointed to his first post by Professor Blow, added, "Structural biology in general, and protein crystallography in particular, has played a pivotal role in the development of molecular biology over the past 40 years."

"David was one of the pioneers in this field, and those who had the privilege of working with him knew him as a man of complete integrity, scrupulous fairness, and good natured warmth. It is entirely appropriate that David should be honoured with this Chair."

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