Collection Level Description: Correspondence and papers of Sir John Cowdery Kendrew
Reference: MSS. Eng. b. 2010-2018, c. 2385-2611, d. 2105-2223, e. 2317-2358
Title: Correspondence and papers of Sir John Cowdery Kendrew
Dates of Creation: 1927-1988
Extent: 397 boxes
Language of Material: English
John Cowdery Kendrew was born in Oxford on 24 March 1917. He was educated at the
Dragon School, Oxford, (1923-1930), and Clifton College, Bristol, (1930-1936). In
1936 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge as a Major Scholar, reading chemistry,
physics, biochemistry, and advanced mathematics (the latter two as half subjects)
for the first part of the natural sciences tripos, and chemistry for the second. In
June 1939 he graduated with First-Class Honours in chemistry and immediately began
research in reaction kinetics in the Department of Physical Chemistry, under E.A.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Kendrew was encouraged to continue his
research, but he was eager to contribute to the war effort. In early 1940 he was
appointed Junior Scientific Officer at the Air Ministry Research Establishment, and
worked on the development of airborne radar. In September 1940 he was attached to
the staff of Sir Robert Watson-Watt for operational research duties, with special
reference to anti-submarine warfare, bombing accuracy, and radio aids. Most of his
war service was spent abroad: in Cairo with the Middle East Command and then in
India and Ceylon with the South-East Asia Command, where he was officer in charge of
operational research and Scientific Adviser to the Allied Air
Wartime travels and encounters were to have major effects on his future career. J.D.
Bernal, whom he met in Cairo, India, and Ceylon, persuaded him of the importance of
research into protein, and this was reinforced by a meeting with L.C. Pauling in the
course of a roundabout journey home via Australia and America in the spring of 1945.
Though he hesitated for some time and explored the possibility of remaining in
Government service to continue operational research and planning for peacetime
policies, he decided to return to Cambridge.
In September 1945, having been awarded an ICI research fellowship, Kendrew began a
collaboration with M.F. Perutz at the Cavendish Laboratory. They started
investigating the structure of haemoglobin, embarking on a comparison of foetal and
adult haemoglobin. This work gained him his Ph.D. in 1949. From the beginning,
however, they also attempted the crystal analysis of myoglobin, the protein
responsible for oxygen storage in muscle. This project was hampered by the
difficulty of growing crystals of a size suitable for X-ray analysis. Protein
crystallography in the Cavendish, under the guidance of W. Lawrence Bragg, was put
on a more secure footing by the creation, in 1947, of the Medical Research Council
unit for the molecular structure of biological systems. After exploring many
possible problems and materials Kendrew chose myoglobin and in particular
sperm-whale myoglobin as the most suitable for analysis by X-ray crystallography; he
and his collaborators eventually succeeded in producing a three-dimensional model at
a resolution of 6-Å in 1957 and 2-Å in 1959. The crystallographic
calculation for both models relied decisively on the use of the first electronic
digital computers built at Cambridge, EDSAC I and II, of which Kendrew made
pioneering use. This work gained Kendrew, jointly with Perutz, the 1962 Nobel prize
for chemistry, the same year that F.H.C. Crick and J.D. Watson (both of the MRC
Unit) shared the Prize in Physiology or Medicine with M.H.F. Wilkins for the
determination of the structure of DNA.
Alongside the laboratory work, Kendrew had maintained his links with university life
principally through Peterhouse, which had welcomed him during the early postwar
years as a Research Fellow 1947-1953 and later as a Supernumerary Fellow. He was
Director of Studies in Natural Sciences for many years, with responsibility for the
selection and tuition of undergraduate members, as well as holding several College
offices. He later became an Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse, as also of his
undergraduate college, Trinity.
From the late 1950s Kendrew became more involved in scientific matters in the wider
world. He was a founding member and first Honorary Secretary of the British
Biophysical Society; in 1959 he undertook the Editorship of the new Journal
of Molecular Biology, which he retained until 1987; he was Deputy Chief
Scientific Adviser in the Ministry of Defence 1960-1963; and he served on committees
and advisory boards of the Royal Society where he had been elected to the Fellowship
in 1960. With the award of the Nobel Prize this involvement gained momentum and an
altogether new dimension in international terms with the development of the European
Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and its Laboratory (EMBL).
Many other commitments to national and international science policy also belong to
these years. In Britain they include service on the Council for Scientific Policy
and chairmanship of some of its committees and working parties 1964-1972, service on
the Defence Scientific Advisory Council 1969-1974, continuing service on the Council
and other committees of the Royal Society and on other learned societies, in
particular the British Biophysical Society and the Institute of Biology. Examples of
increasing involvement in international science and scientific policy can be seen in
his appointment as Governor of the Weizmann Institute, Israel, in 1964 and the
Vice-Presidency and Presidency of the International Union of Pure and Applied
During the 1960s Kendrew continued his research on myoglobin, refining the resolution
to 1.4-Å and determining the co-ordinates of virtually all the 2500 atoms in
the molecule. In the later 1960s, however, his other commitments increasingly
absorbed his time and energy and his official move to Heidelberg as Director-General
of EMBL in 1975 marked the end of his active research. The creation of the EMBL as a
physical entity, and more importantly as an international centre of excellence where
several teams and research projects could co-exist and collaborate was a lasting
achievement. In addition, or in consequence, Kendrew's diplomatic skills, mastery of
detail and experience in chairmanship made him constantly in demand on a wider
stage. He served, often as chairman, on the scientific councils or advisory boards
of laboratories or research institutions in Naples, Basel, Brussels, Stockholm,
Heidelberg and others, on various UNESCO committees, and on many electoral boards
for honours and appointments in Britain and abroad. His formal association with
science at the international level may be said to have culminated in his service
with the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) as Secretary-General
1974-1980 and President 1983-1988.
Kendrew's original contract of secondment from the Medical Research Council and
appointment as Director-General of the EMBL was renewed twice, until 1982, when he
retired on reaching the age of 65. His last appointment brought him back to Oxford,
where he served as President of St. John's College until 1987. He died of cancer in
Cambridge on 23 August 1997.
Scope and Content
The collection contains:
- Notebooks, notes, and essays
- School [MSS. Eng. e. 2317-2341]
- War service [MS. Eng. e. 2342]
- University [MS. Eng. e. 2343]
- Notes and essays
- School [MS. Eng. c. 2385]
- University [MS. Eng. c. 2385; MSS. Eng. d. 2105-2128]
- War service [MS. Eng. d. 2128]
- Later miscellaneous notes [MS. Eng. d. 2128]
- Second World War
- Career [MS. Eng. c. 2386]
- Correspondence and papers, 1941-1946 [MSS. Eng. c. 2386-2387]
- Notes [MS. Eng. e. 2344]
- Coastal Command [MS. Eng. c. 2388]
- Bomber Command [MS. Eng. c. 2388]
- Anti-submarine warfare [MS. Eng. c. 2388]
- Combined operations [MS. Eng. c. 2388]
- Methodology [MS. Eng. c. 2388]
- Middle East Command [MSS. Eng. c. 2389-2392]
- South East Asia Command [MS. Eng. c. 2393]
- Postwar papers [MS. Eng. c. 2394]
- History of Operational Research (OR) [MS. Eng. c. 2394]
- Early research
- Reaction kinetics [MS. Eng. c. 2395]
- Information retrieval/Data processing
- Information retrieval [MS. Eng. c. 2395]
- Computation on EDSAC I [MS. Eng. c. 2396]
- Protein analysis projects
- Adult and foetal sheep haemoglobin [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- Muscle [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- Protein solubility [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- Procollagen [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- Controlled shrinkage of protein crystals [MS. Eng. c.
- Polypeptide configuration [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- X-ray experiments [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- Chymotrypsinogen [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- Correspondence "New proteins" [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- Early research reports
- Reports, 1946-1953 [MS. Eng. c. 2397]
- Myoglobin notebooks (Kendrew and collaborators)
- Preliminary work [MSS. Eng. d. 2129-2134; MSS. Eng. e.
- Main myoglobin programme [MSS. Eng. d. 2135-2194]
- Collaborators' notebooks [MS. Eng. c. 2398; MSS. Eng. d.
2195-2203; MSS. Eng. e. 2352-2358]
- Atomic co-ordinates/amino-acid sequencing [MSS. Eng. d.
- Miscellaneous [MSS. Eng. d. 2213-2216]
- Myoglobin notes and data (Kendrew and collaborators)
- Preliminary work [MSS. Eng. b. 2010-2014; MS. Eng. c.
- Main myoglobin programme [MS. Eng. b. 2015; MS. Eng. c.
- Collaborators' notes and data [MS. Eng. b. 2016]
- Miscellaneous [MS. Eng. c. 2401]
- Myoglobin materials and apparatus (Kendrew and collaborators)
- Supplies and specimens [MS. Eng. b. 2017]
- Optical diffractometer [MS. Eng. b. 2017]
- Microcamera [MS. Eng. b. 2017]
- Densitometer [MS. Eng. b. 2017]
- Computer time [MS. Eng. b. 2017]
- Myoglobin collaborators and staff
- Individual files [MSS. Eng. c. 2402-2403]
- Chronological files [MS. Eng. c. 2404]
- Myoglobin correspondence
- Aspects of myoglobin [MSS. Eng. c. 2405-2406]
- Atomic co-ordinates/amino-acid sequencing [MS. Eng. c.
- Publications [MS. Eng. c. 2408]
- Myoglobin models
- Skeletal model [MS. Eng. c. 2409]
- Ball-and-spoke model [MS. Eng. c. 2409]
- Science Museum, London [MS. Eng. c. 2409]
- Correspondence [MS. Eng. c. 2410]
- Myoglobin miscellaneous
- Pantographs [MS. Eng. d. 2217]
- MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge
- Buildings [MS. Eng. c. 2411]
- Apparatus and equipment [MS. Eng. c. 2412]
- Staff [MS. Eng. c. 2413]
- Research and administration [MSS. Eng. c. 2414-2415]
- Historical [MS. Eng. c. 2415]
- European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO)
- Early history
- Preliminary meetings and correspondence, 1963 [MS. Eng. c.
- Formal constitution and statutes [MS. Eng. c. 2418]
- Relations with other organisations [MSS. Eng. c.
- Policy document [MS. Eng. c. 2421]
- Funding [MSS. Eng. c. 2422-2423]
- Miscellaneous correspondence [MS. Eng. c. 2423]
- Nominations and elections, 1963-1982 [MS. Eng. c. 2424]
- Circulars and lists, 1964-1975 [MS. Eng. c. 2425]
- Correspondence and meetings, 1964-1980 [MSS. Eng. c.
- Membership and elections, 1963-1974 [MS. Eng. c. 2429]
- Minutes and circulars, 1963-1981 [MS. Eng. c. 2430]
- Fund Committee
- Membership, 1965-1974 [MS. Eng. c. 2431]
- Correspondence and papers, 1964-1974 [MS. Eng. c. 2431]
- Fellowship applications, 1964-1974 [MS. Eng. c. 2432]
- Minutes, 1965-1973 [MS. Eng. c. 2433]
- Course Committee
- Membership, 1965-1974 [MS. Eng. c. 2433]
- Correspondence and papers, 1965-1974 [MS. Eng. c. 2433]
- Minutes and circulars, 1966-1969 [MS. Eng. c. 2433]
- Laboratory Committee
- Meetings, correspondence and papers, 1963-1973 [MSS. Eng. c.
- Appointments [MS. Eng. c. 2437]
- Finance and accounts [MS. Eng. c. 2437]
- General administrative correspondence [MS. Eng. c.
- Symposium Committee
- Correspondence and papers, 1974-1981 [MS. Eng. c. 2438]
- Minutes, 1974-1980 [MS. Eng. c. 2438]
- Press releases, articles, comments, 1963-1971 [MS. Eng. c.
- Annual reports, 1966-1981 [MS. Eng. c. 2439]
- European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC)
- Early history
- "Swiss Initiative", 1964-1967 [MS. Eng. c. 2440]
- Intergovernmental meetings and negotiations, 1967-1969 [MS.
Eng. c. 2441]
- Signing and ratification of Agreement, 1969-1970 [MS. Eng. c.
- General correspondence and papers, 1969-1979 [MS. Eng. c. 2443]
- Membership, 1968-1976 [MS. Eng. c. 2444]
- Subcommittees and working groups
- Laboratory Working Group I - role of the laboratory [MS. Eng.
- Laboratory Working Group II - organisation, structure,
administration [MS. Eng. c. 2445]
- Laboratory Working Group III - site of the laboratory [MS.
Eng. c. 2446]
- Laboratory Working Group IV - financial aspects [MS. Eng. c.
- Steering Group of Laboratory Working Groups [MS. Eng. c.
- Enlarged legal sub-group [MS. Eng. c. 2448]
- "Andres" Working Group on the future of Conference [MSS. Eng.
- Conference and committee papers [MSS. Eng. c. 2450-2458]
- European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
- Laboratory agreement [MS. Eng. c. 2459]
- Headquarters agreement [MS. Eng. c. 2459]
- The building of the laboratory
- Temporary accommodation in Heidelberg [MS. Eng. c.
- Early planning and costing [MS. Eng. c. 2461]
- Building Committee [MSS. Eng. c. 2462-2463]
- Architects, tenders, plans [MSS. Eng c. 2464-2466]
- Furnishing and interior design [MS. Eng. c. 2467]
- Inauguration [MS. Eng. c. 2468]
- Research committees and working groups
- Provisional Scientific Advisory Committee (PSAC) [MS. Eng. c.
- Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) [MSS. Eng. c.
- Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Working Group [MS. Eng. c.
- Computer Policy Working Group [MS. Eng. c. 2480]
- Recombinant DNA (rDNA) Committee [MS. Eng. c. 2481]
- Scientific Purchases Committee [MSS. Eng. c. 2482-2486]
- Workshops [MS. Eng. c. 2487]
- Research divisions - Heidelberg
- Cell Biology [MSS. Eng. c. 2488-2491]
- Biological Structures [MS. Eng. c. 2492]
- Instrumentation [MSS. Eng. c. 2493-2494]
- Outstation at Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY) - Hamburg
- Early history [MS. Eng. c. 2496]
- Relations with DESY [MS. Eng. c. 2496]
- DESY committees [MS. Eng. c. 2497]
- Staff [MS. Eng. c. 2497]
- Equipment [MS. Eng. c. 2498]
- Research [MSS. Eng. c. 2499-2500]
- Outstation at Institut Max von Laue - Paul Langevin (ILL) - Grenoble
- Early history [MS. Eng. c. 2501]
- ILL - EMBL building [MS. Eng. c. 2502]
- ILL Scientific Council [MS. Eng. c. 2503]
- Staff [MS. Eng. c. 2503]
- Equipment [MS. Eng. c. 2503]
- Research [MS. Eng. c. 2504]
- Research programmes [MS. Eng. c. 2504]
- Seminars, lectures, courses [MS. Eng. c. 2505]
- Visitors and staff [MS. Eng. c. 2506]
- Membership [MS. Eng. c. 2507]
- Organisation and planning [MS. Eng. c. 2508]
- Committees [MS. Eng. c. 2509]
- Finance [MSS. Eng. c. 2510-2511]
- Staff Association [MS. Eng. c. 2511]
- Miscellaneous [MSS. Eng. c. 2512-2513]
- Appointments [MS. Eng. c 2514]
- Director-General's notes and correspondence
- Notes [MS. Eng. c. 2515]
- Kendrew's appointments and career at EMBL [MS. Eng. c.
- Personal correspondence [MS. Eng. c. 2516]
- Director-General's correspondence [MSS. Eng. c.
- Finance Committee and Council minutes [MSS. c. 2523-2532]
- UK societies, organisations, and consultancies
- Bristol University [MS. Eng. c. 2533]
- British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) [MS. Eng. c.
- British Biophysical Society [MS. Eng. c. 2535]
- British Broadcasting Corporation Science Consultative Group [MS. Eng.
- British Council [MS. Eng. c. 2535]
- British Museum [MS. Eng. c. 2535]
- Campaign for Better Broadcasting [MS. Eng. c. 2535]
- CIBA Foundation [MS. Eng. c. 2535]
- Commonwealth Science Council (CSC) [MS. Eng. c. 2536]
- Council for Scientific Policy (CSP) [MSS. Eng. c. 2537-2547]
- Design Research Unit [MS. Eng. c. 2548]
- High Energy Particle Physics Review Group (HEPP) [MSS. Eng. c.
- Imperial Chemical Industries LTD. (ICI) [MS. Eng. c. 2555]
- Medical Research Council (MRC) [MS. Eng. c. 2555]
- Ministry of Defence [MS. Eng. c. 2555]
- Ministry of Overseas Development [MS. Eng. c. 2556]
- Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford [MS. Eng. c. 2557]
- Royal Institution [MS. Eng. c. 2558]
- Royal Society [MSS. Eng. c. 2559-2564]
- International societies, organisations, and consultancies
- Asian Molecular Biology Organisation (AMBO) [MS. Eng. c. 2565]
- Basel Institute for Immunology [MS. Eng. c. 2565]
- Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zurich [MS. Eng. c. 2566]
- European Communities Commission [MS. Eng. c. 2566]
- European Research and Development Committee (CERD) [MS. Eng. c.
- French Academy of Sciences [MS. Eng. c. 2566]
- International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) [MSS. Eng. c.
- International Foundation for Science (IFS) [MS. Eng. c. 2569]
- International Institute of Cellular and Molecular Pathology (ICP) [MS.
Eng. c. 2569]
- International Union of Biochemistry (IUB) [MS. Eng. c. 2570]
- International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) [MS. Eng.
- Laboratorio di Embriologia Molecolare, Naples [MS. Eng. c.
- Max-Planck-Gesellschaft [MS. Eng. c. 2573]
- National Academy of Sciences (NAS) [MS. Eng. c. 2574]
- National Scientific Research Center, Iran [MS. Eng. b. 2018]
- North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) [MS. Eng. b. 2018]
- Stazione Zoologica, Naples [MS. Eng. b. 2018]
- UNESCO [MS. Eng. b. 2018]
- Union Internationale Contre le Cancer (UICC) [MS. Eng. b. 2018]
- United Nations University (UNU) [MSS. Eng. c. 2575-2576]
- Universite Libre de Bruxelles [MS. Eng. c. 2577]
- Weizmann Institute of Science and Weizmann Institute Foundation [MSS.
Eng. c. 2578-2579]
- World Health Organization [MS. Eng. c. 2580]
- Lectures, publications, and broadcasts
- Lectures, publications, and reviews [MSS. Eng. c. 2581-2587; MS. Eng.
- Radio, television, and films [MS. Eng. c. 2588]
- Correspondence with publishers and editors [MSS. Eng. c.
- Addenda: lectures, 1946-1987 [MSS. Eng. d. 2219-2223]
- Journal of Molecular Biology
- Founding papers, 1957-1959 [MS. Eng. c. 2593]
- Correspondence with editors and authors [MSS. Eng. c.
- Correspondence with Academic Press [MSS. Eng. c. 2595-2596]
- Visits and conferences [MSS. Eng. c. 2597-2600]
- Correspondence [MSS. Eng. c. 2601-2602]
- References and recommendations
- Theses and higher degrees [MS. Eng. c. 2603]
- Appointments and staffing [MSS. Eng. c. 2603-2604]
- Grant applications/research funding [MSS. Eng. c. 2604-2605]
- Miscellaneous [MS. Eng. c. 2605]
- Biographical [MSS. Eng. c. 2606-2611]
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The material was received from Kendrew at various dates between April 1987 and April 1989.
Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's
card (for admissions procedures see http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/services/admissions/).
A fuller description and detailed index are available in the Library and at The National Archives.
Kendrew | John Cowdery | 1917-1997 | molecular biologist
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