Did you know that Max Perutz was born today in 1914? He was a molecular biologist. A molecular biologist studies the structure of cells and other biological molecules such as DNA and proteins. They also study how these molecules work and how they are produced. Max Perutz earned a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies on the structure of hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is a molecule found in red blood cells that help to transport oxygen. Myoblobin is found in muscles and helps to store oxygen.
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Max Perutz’s parents expected him to study to become a lawyer, but Perutz persevered and finished his undergraduate degree in chemistry.
During World War II, Perutz was forced to put his education on hold. His parents had fled Austria when Hitler’s armies invaded. As a result they lost all their personal wealth and could no longer support Perutz. He withdrew from school. Due to his skiing and mountaineering skills, he was accepted as part of a team studying how snow turns into ice in Swiss glaciers and eventually also known as an expert on glaciers. Because of his Austrian heritage, he along with other of German or Austrian backgrounds, was sent to Newfoundland. He was interned for several months before being able to return to university.
Due to his expertise on ice, Perutz was recruited for Project Habakkuk, the secret project to build an aircraft carrier out of ice that could be used when refueling planes crossing the Atlantic.
Max Perutz shared the 1962 Nobel Prize with John Kendrew.
The chemical formula for hemoglobin is C2952H6446O832N812S8Fe4.
Myoglobin is what gives red meat the reddish color. In raw red meat, the iron molecule is still bound to the oxygen molecule (ferrous iron, +2 oxidation). When the meat is cooked, it turns brown because the iron has lost an electron and is now in ferric iron (+3 oxidation). Meat will retain a pinkish color if exposed to nitrates since the iron becomes bound to nitric oxide; for example, cured hams or corned beef. Carbon monoxide has the same effect on raw meat, due to iron-binding properties of carbon monoxide.