Rodney Robert Porter FRS (1917-1985)
Rodney Robert Porter worked at NIMR from 1949 to 1960. He had a first-class degree in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Liverpool and during World War Two worked as a War Department analyst on army food supply and nutrition. In 1945 he did postgraduate work with Fred Sanger in Cambridge on the structure of haemoglobins and revealed the “piled up talent of an age group that had been unable to express itself adequately at scholarship since 1939.”
He gained his PhD in 1948 and joined NIMR in 1949, initially in the Division of Bacterial Chemistry under Martin Pollock, and then Biochemistry with Archer Martin from 1953. He used column chromatography to separate antibodies of different specificity, and found that one crystallisable fraction in particular bore the capacity to bind to specific antigens. He left NIMR in 1960 for the new Wright-Fleming Chair in Immunology at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School. His pioneering work
on the structure and sequencing of immunoglobulins led to the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Dr G.E. Edelman. Tragically, he died in a car accident while on holiday at the age of 67.