photo of W.T.Astbury

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 Leeds.

Last November, Leeds Civic Trust unveiled the blue plaque shown below, in honour of Astbury's ground-breaking work.

blue plaque

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.

Display Case 1 Display Case 2

We would like to acknowledge our thanks to the Royal Society's 'Local Heroes' Fund, the Arts Faculty at the University of Leeds, and the British Society for the History of Science for supporting these exhibitions.

Website constructed and written by K. Hall and E.Winterburn, Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds

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