Few scientists have thought more deeply about their calling and its impact on humanity than Max Perutz (1914-2002). 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. 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.
Seven years later he founded the small research group in which Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA. Max Perutz himself explored the protein haemoglobin and his work, which won him a shared Nobel Prize in 1962, launched a new era of medicine, heralding today's astonishing advances in the genetic basis of disease.
Max Perutz's story, wonderfully told by Georgina Ferry, brims with life; it 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. Georgina Ferry's absorbing biography is a marvellous tribute to a great scientist.
Georgina Ferry is a former staff editor on New Scientist, and contributor to Radio 4's Science Now . Her books include the acclaimed biography Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life (1998); The Common Thread (2002, with Sir John Sulston) and A Computer called LEO (2003). She lives in Oxford.