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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index P > Max Ferdinand Perutz Quotes

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Max Ferdinand Perutz
(19 May 1914 - 6 Feb 2002)

Austrian-British biochemist.


Science Quotes by Max Ferdinand Perutz (11 quotes)

A discovery is like falling in love and reaching the top of a mountain after a hard climb all in one, an ecstasy not induced by drugs but by the revelation of a face of nature that no one has seen before and that often turns out to be more subtle and wonderful than anyone had imagined.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
'True Science', review of Peter Medawar, Advice to a Young Scientist (1980). In The London Review of Books (Mar 1981), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Climb (12)  |  Discovery (530)  |  Drug (37)  |  Face (45)  |  Fall (60)  |  Hard (34)  |  Imagination (186)  |  Inducement (2)  |  Love (115)  |  Mountain (92)  |  Nature (832)  |  Reach (42)  |  Revelation (27)  |  Wonder (106)

For Christmas, 1939, a girl friend gave me a book token which I used to buy Linus Pauling's recently published Nature of the Chemical Bond. His book transformed the chemical flatland of my earlier textbooks into a world of three-dimensional structures.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
'What Holds Molecules Together', in I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998), 165.
Science quotes on:  |  Book (147)  |  Chemical Bond (5)  |  Dimension (19)  |  Friend (48)  |  Linus Pauling (35)  |  Structure (155)  |  Textbook (14)  |  Token (3)  |  Transformation (40)  |  World (479)

I rarely plan my research; it plans me.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
'My Commonplace Book', in I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998), 314.
Science quotes on:  |  Plan (57)  |  Research (441)

I saw [Linus Pauling] as a brilliant lecturer and a man with a fantastic memory, and a great, great showman. I think he was the century’s greatest chemist. No doubt about it.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
From transcript of audio of Max Perutz in BBC programme, 'Lifestory: Linus Pauling' (1997). On 'Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA' webpage 'I Wish I Had Made You Angry Earlier.'
Science quotes on:  |  Century (73)  |  Chemist (73)  |  Greatness (33)  |  Lecturer (6)  |  Memory (71)  |  Linus Pauling (35)

I took him [Lawrence Bragg] to a young zoologist working on pattern formation in insect cuticles. The zoologist explained how disturbances introduced into these regular patterns pointed to their formation being governed by some kind of gradient. Bragg listened attentively and then exclaimed: “Your disturbed gradient behaves like a stream of sand running downhill and encountering an obstacle.” “Good heavens,” replied the zoologist, “I had been working on this problem for years before this simple analogy occurred to me and you think of it after twenty minutes.”
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
As quoted in David Phillips, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Nov 1979), 25, 132, citing: Perutz, M.F. 1971 New Sci. & Sci. J. 8 July 1967.
Science quotes on:  |  Analogy (40)  |  Sir Lawrence Bragg (12)  |  Disturbance (17)  |  Disturbed (2)  |  Downhill (2)  |  Explanation (147)  |  Formation (51)  |  Gradient (2)  |  Insect (56)  |  Obstacle (19)  |  Pattern (41)  |  Sand (23)  |  Simple (76)  |  Zoologist (9)

On hearing the news [of being awarded a Nobel Prize], a friend who knows me only too well, sent me this laconic message: 'Blood, toil, sweat and tears always were a good mixture'.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1962).
Science quotes on:  |  Award (4)  |  Blood (82)  |  Friend (48)  |  Good (150)  |  Message (19)  |  Mixture (18)  |  News (12)  |  Nobel Prize (22)  |  Sweat (11)  |  Tears (2)  |  Toil (10)

Scientists like myself merely use their gifts to show up that which already exists, and we look small compared to the artists who create works of beauty out of themselves. If a good fairy came and offered me back my youth, asking me which gifts I would rather have, those to make visible a thing which exists but which no man has ever seen before, or the genius needed to create, in a style of architecture never imagined before, the great Town Hall in which we are dining tonight, I might be tempted to choose the latter.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
Nobel Banquet Speech (10 Dec 1962).
Science quotes on:  |  Architecture (31)  |  Beauty (141)  |  Choice (52)  |  Comparison (45)  |  Creation (191)  |  Existence (207)  |  Fairy (6)  |  Genius (153)  |  Gift (38)  |  Offer (6)  |  See (96)  |  Small (63)  |  Temptation (6)  |  Town Hall (2)  |  Visibility (6)

The discovery of an interaction among the four hemes made it obvious that they must be touching, but in science what is obvious is not necessarily true. When the structure of hemoglobin was finally solved, the hemes were found to lie in isolated pockets on the surface of the subunits. Without contact between them how could one of them sense whether the others had combined with oxygen? And how could as heterogeneous a collection of chemical agents as protons, chloride ions, carbon dioxide, and diphosphoglycerate influence the oxygen equilibrium curve in a similar way? It did not seem plausible that any of them could bind directly to the hemes or that all of them could bind at any other common site, although there again it turned out we were wrong. To add to the mystery, none of these agents affected the oxygen equilibrium of myoglobin or of isolated subunits of hemoglobin. We now know that all the cooperative effects disappear if the hemoglobin molecule is merely split in half, but this vital clue was missed. Like Agatha Christie, Nature kept it to the last to make the story more exciting. There are two ways out of an impasse in science: to experiment or to think. By temperament, perhaps, I experimented, whereas Jacques Monod thought.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
From essay 'The Second Secret of Life', collected in I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998), 263-5.
Science quotes on:  |  Agent (19)  |  Binding (8)  |  Carbon Dioxide (18)  |  Chemical (59)  |  Agatha Christie (5)  |  Clue (12)  |  Collection (35)  |  Combination (58)  |  Common (68)  |  Contact (18)  |  Cooperation (21)  |  Curve (16)  |  Discovery (530)  |  Effect (111)  |  Equilibrium (15)  |  Excitement (31)  |  Experiment (490)  |  Half (20)  |  Hemoglobin (2)  |  Heterogeneity (3)  |  Interaction (18)  |  Ion (6)  |  Isolation (23)  |  Molecule (105)  |  Jacques Monod (21)  |  Mystery (100)  |  Nature (832)  |  Necessity (112)  |  Obvious (42)  |  Oxygen (45)  |  Plausibility (5)  |  Pocket (5)  |  Proton (10)  |  Science (1321)  |  Sense (160)  |  Site (6)  |  Solution (143)  |  Split (5)  |  Story (39)  |  Structure (155)  |  Surface (58)  |  Temperament (6)  |  Thinking (220)  |  Thought (280)  |  Touch (38)  |  Truth (645)  |  Vital (24)  |  Wrong (84)

What is known for certain is dull.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
'My Commonplace Book', in I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998), 314.
Science quotes on:  |  Certainty (87)  |  Dull (21)  |  Knowledge (997)

When I saw the alpha-helix and saw what a beautiful, elegant structure it was, I was thunderstruck and was furious with myself for not having built this, but on the other hand, I wondered, was it really right?
So I cycled home for lunch and was so preoccupied with the turmoil in my mind that didn’t respond to anything. Then I had an idea, so I cycled back to the lab. I realized that I had a horse hair in a drawer. I set it up on the X-ray camera and gave it a two hour exposure, then took the film to the dark room with my heart in my mouth, wondering what it showed, and when I developed it, there was the 1.5 angstrom reflection which I had predicted and which excluded all structures other than the alpha-helix.
So on Monday morning I stormed into my professor’s office, into Bragg’s office and showed him this, and Bragg said, 'Whatever made you think of that?' And I said, 'Because I was so furious with myself for having missed that beautiful structure.' To which Bragg replied coldly, 'I wish I had made you angry earlier.'
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
From transcript of audio of Max Perutz in BBC programme, 'Lifestory: Linus Pauling' (1997). On 'Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA' webpage 'I Wish I Had Made You Angry Earlier.'
Science quotes on:  |  Anger (11)  |  Beauty (141)  |  Sir William Bragg (9)  |  Earlier (8)  |  Elegance (16)  |  Fury (4)  |  Helix (8)  |  Miss (9)  |  Professor (36)  |  Structure (155)  |  Thought (280)  |  Turmoil (4)  |  Wish (40)  |  Wonder (106)  |  X-ray Crystallography (10)

Women's liberation could have not succeeded if science had not provided them with contraception and household technology.
— Max Ferdinand Perutz
'The Impact of Science on Society: The Challenge for Education', in J. L. Lewis and P. J. Kelly (eds.), Science and Technology and Future Human Needs (1987), 18.
Science quotes on:  |  Contraception (2)  |  Household (5)  |  Liberation (4)  |  Provision (13)  |  Science (1321)  |  Success (170)  |  Technology (147)  |  Woman (65)



Quotes by others about Max Ferdinand Perutz (2)

No politics, no committees, no reports, no referees, no interviews – just highly motivated people picked by a few men of good judgment.
[Describing the compelling ideas of Max Perutz on how best to nurture research.]
Quoted in Andrew Jack, "An Acute Talent for Innovation", Financial Times (1 Feb 2009).
Science quotes on:  |  Best (93)  |  Committee (8)  |  Compelling (7)  |  Idea (373)  |  Interview (2)  |  Judgment (58)  |  Motivation (19)  |  Nurture (8)  |  Pick (10)  |  Politics (72)  |  Referee (3)  |  Report (27)  |  Research (441)  |  Selection (24)

I learned what research was all about as a research student [with] Stoppani ... Max Perutz, and ... Fred Sanger... From them, I always received an unspoken message which in my imagination I translated as “Do good experiments, and don’t worry about the rest.”
From Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1984), collected in Tore Frδngsmyr and ‎Jan Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures in Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 268.
Science quotes on:  |  Experiment (490)  |  Good (150)  |  Imagination (186)  |  Message (19)  |  Receive (25)  |  Research (441)  |  Rest (45)  |  Student (109)  |  Translation (11)  |  Worry (17)


See also:

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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