David Mervyn Blow

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David Blow

David Mervyn Blow

(1931-06-27)27 June 1931
Birmingham, England
Died8 June 2004(2004-06-08) (aged 72)
EducationKingswood School[1]
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (BA, PhD)[1]
Known forHaemoglobin
X-ray crystallography
Mavis Sears
(m. 1955)
AwardsWolf Prize in Chemistry (1987)
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
National Institutes of Health
Imperial College London
ThesisX-ray analysis of haemoglobin : determination of phase angles by isomorphous substitution (1958)
Doctoral advisorMax Perutz[2]
Other academic advisorsAlexander Rich[2]
Doctoral students
Other notable studentsThomas A. Steitz
Brian Matthews[2]

David Mervyn Blow FRS FInstP[5] (27 June 1931 – 8 June 2004)[1][6][7] was an influential British biophysicist. He was best known for the development of X-ray crystallography, a technique used to determine the molecular structures of tens of thousands of biological molecules. This has been extremely important to the pharmaceutical industry.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

Blow was born in Birmingham, England. He was educated at Kingswood School in Bath, Somerset and the University of Cambridge where he won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. His PhD was awarded in 1958 for X-ray analysis of haemoglobin supervised by Max Perutz.[9]

Career and research[edit]

Following graduation from Cambridge, Blow spent two years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded by the Fulbright Foundation[1]

In 1954, he met Max Perutz;[10] they began to study a new technique wherein X-rays would be passed through a protein sample. This eventually led to the creation of a three-dimensional structure of haemoglobin.[11] Blow was appointed professor of biophysics at Imperial College London in 1977. His doctoral students include Richard Henderson[3][4] and Paul Sigler.[2]

Awards and honours[edit]

Blow was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1972. He was awarded the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1987.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Blow married Mavis Sears in 1955, and they had two children, a son Julian and a daughter Elizabeth.[1][7] He died of lung cancer at the age of 72, in Appledore, Torridge.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Anon (2017). "Blow, Prof. David Mervyn". Who's Who. ukwhoswho.com (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U7898. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e "David Blow Academic Genealogy". AcademicTree.org.
  3. ^ a b Henderson, Richard (1969). X-ray analysis of α-chymotrysin : substrate and inhibitor binding (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 500470310. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.458866.
  4. ^ a b Al-Khalili, Jim (2018). "Richard Henderson zooms in on the molecules of life". BBC.
  5. ^ Henderson, R.; Franks, N. P. (2009). "David Mervyn Blow. 27 June 1931 -- 8 June 2004". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 55: 13. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2008.0022.
  6. ^ a b Pearce, Jeremy (19 July 2007). "David Blow, 72; Briton Developed Method to Study Proteins". The New York Times.
  7. ^ a b c Rossmann, Michael (25 June 2004). "David Blow Pioneering scientist in protein crystallography". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Vrielink, Alice (2005). "David Mervyn Blow". Physics Today. 58 (3): 88–89. Bibcode:2005PhT....58c..88V. doi:10.1063/1.1897573.
  9. ^ Blow, David Mervyn (1958). X-ray analysis of haemoglobin : determination of phase angles by isomorphous substitution. copac.jisc.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 879392023. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.596730. Archived from the original on 16 February 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  10. ^ Blow, David Mervyn (2004). "Max Ferdinand Perutz OM CH CBE. 19 May 1914 – 6 February 2002: Elected F.R.S. 1954". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 50: 227–256. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2004.0016. JSTOR 4140521. PMID 15768489.
  11. ^ Rossmann, M. G.; Blow, D. M. (1962). "The detection of sub-units within the crystallographic asymmetric unit". Acta Crystallographica. 15 (1): 24–31. CiteSeerX doi:10.1107/S0365110X62000067. ISSN 0365-110X.