The Art Of Planning And Managing A Research Laboratory

[Ed. note: Max Perutz shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in chemistiy with John Kendrew for developing the X-ray diffraction techniques that revealed the structures of macromolecules and, thereby launched the science of molecular biology. But more recently, he has been lauded for his spectacular success as a manager of scientists. In particular, the accolades single out his tenure as head of the Medical Research Council’s molecular biology laboratory in Cambridge, from 1947 to 1979. What makes

Max Perutz
Aug 7, 1988

[Ed. note: Max Perutz shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in chemistiy with John Kendrew for developing the X-ray diffraction techniques that revealed the structures of macromolecules and, thereby launched the science of molecular biology. But more recently, he has been lauded for his spectacular success as a manager of scientists. In particular, the accolades single out his tenure as head of the Medical Research Council’s molecular biology laboratory in Cambridge, from 1947 to 1979. What makes a good manager? The Scientist asked Perutz for his opinion.]

In 1959, when the Unit for Molecular Biology was still part of the Cavendish Laboratory, our budding fame brought a Soviet delegation to discover how I had planned the unit. Had I selected staff as Noah gathered animals for his Ark—two mathematicians, two physicists, two biochemists, and two biologists—and waited for their discoveries to hatch? Our visitors did not believe me when I said...

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