William T. Astbury was a physicist who pioneered the use of
X-rays to explore the structures of biological macromolecules
found within living cells. In so doing, he popularised a new
approach to the study of living systems - molecular
biology. Such was Astbury's prowess and reputation that the
Nobel Prize winner Max Perutz referred to Astbury's laboratory
at Leeds as 'the X-ray Vatican' and one legacy of his
groundbreaking work is the Astbury
Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, at the University of
Last November, Leeds Civic Trust unveiled the blue plaque shown below, in honour of Astbury's ground-breaking work.
In 2010, the Museum of History of Science, Technology and Medicine organised an exhibition exploring Astbury's work. Beneath a commemorative plaque honouring the invention of X-ray crystallography by Sir William Bragg ( a technique which would prove crucial to Astbury's work) in the Brotherton Library foyer, a series of objects and documents representing his invaluable contribution to biological science were displayed in two glass cases shown below.
Click on the images of the two glass cabinets shown below to explore their contents.
Website constructed and written by K. Hall and
E.Winterburn, Centre for History and Philosophy of Science,
University of Leeds