John E. Walker : biography
Professor Sir John Ernest Walker (born 7 January 1941) is an English chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997. He is currently a group leader at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge, and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College.
He married Christina Westcott in 1963, and they have two daughters.
He was born in Halifax, Yorkshire, the son of Thomas Ernest Walker, a stonemason, and Elsie Lawton, an amateur musician. He was brought up with his two younger sisters in a rural environment and went to Rastrick Grammar School. At school, he was a keen sportsman and specialized in physical sciences and mathematics the last three years. He received a B.A. degree from St Catherine's College, Oxford.
He began study of peptide antibiotics with Edward Abraham at Oxford in 1965 and received his DPhil in 1969. During this period, he became interested in the spectacular developments in molecular biology. From 1969 to 1971, he worked at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and from 1971–1974 in France. He met Fred Sanger in 1974 at a workshop at Cambridge University. This resulted in an invitation to work at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the Medical Research Council, which became a long-term appointment. Among the other staff was Francis Crick, who was well known for his discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. At first, he analyzed the sequences of proteins and then uncovered details of the modified genetic code in mitochondria. In 1978, he decided to apply protein chemical methods to membrane proteins.
He shared his Nobel Prize with the American chemist Paul D. Boyer for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate. They also shared the prize with Danish chemist Jens C. Skou for research unrelated to theirs (Discovery of the Na+/K+-ATPase). Sir John was knighted in 1999 for services to molecular biology. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering, a fellow of the Royal Society London and a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences.
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