Nobel Prize given a home at Trinity

The Nobel Prize medal awarded to Rodney Porter (1917-1985), former Whitley Professor of Biochemistry and Fellow of Trinity College, has been presented to Trinity during a reception attended by members of the Porter family and current biochemistry students.

In 1972, Professor Porter, CH, FRS, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with Gerald Edelman, for determining the chemical structure of an antibody. His widow, Julia, has very generously given his medal to Trinity, where it is hoped to eventually have it on permanent display.

Rodney Porter was born in Lancashire and educated at Ashton-in-Makerfield Grammar School.  He read for a BSc in Biochemistry at Liverpool University and, having served in the army during the Second World War, he continued his studies at Cambridge, working with Nobel prize-winning scientist Fred Sanger.  It was while studying for his doctorate that he developed a particular interest in protein chemistry and immunology.  In 1949, he joined the National Institute for Medical Research, working with Nobel prize-winner A J P Martin.

In 1960, he became Pfizer Professor of Immunology at St Mary’s Hospital London Medical School; this was the first chair in immunology in the UK.  He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1964, received the Gairdner Foundation Award of Merit in 1966, the Ciba Medal in 1967, and in the same year he succeeded Sir Hans Krebs as the Whitley Professor of Biochemistry at Oxford and became a Fellow of Trinity. In 1983 he was awarded the Copley Medal for his elucidation of the structure of immunoglobulins and of the reactions involved in activating the complement system of proteins. He was awarded the Campanion of Honour in 1985, a few month before his death.

Professor Porter was one of the most illustrious scientists at Oxford – his association with the college is a matter of great pride to Trinity, and the college is delighted to be able to give a home to his Nobel medal, where it will inspire future generations of students in his field.

Posted: 8 May 2018

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