Richard Henderson, FRS, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2017

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Richard Henderson, FRS, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2017's Geni Profile

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Richard Henderson, FRS

Birthplace: Scotland, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Mr. Henderson

Occupation: molecular biologist and biophysicist
Managed by: Yigal Burstein
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Richard Henderson, FRS, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2017

Richard Henderson FRS (born 19 July 1945) is a Scottish molecular biologist and biophysicist and pioneer in the field of electron microscopy of biological molecules. He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank.


Starting in 1975 with Nigel Unwin, Henderson studied the structure of the membrane protein bacteriorhodopsin (bR) by electron microscopy. A seminal paper in Nature by Henderson and Unwin (1975) established a low resolution structural model for bR showing the protein to consist of seven transmembrane helices. This paper was important for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it showed that membrane proteins had well defined structures and that transmembrane alpha-helices could occur. After 1975 Henderson worked without Unwin on the structure of bR.

In 1990 Henderson published an atomic model of bR by electron crystallography in the Journal of Molecular Biology. This model was the second ever atomic model of a membrane protein. The techniques Henderson developed for electron crystallography are still in use. More recently, Henderson has devoted his attention to single particle electron microscopy: he was an early proponent of the idea that single particle EM is capable of determining atomic resolution models for proteins, explained in a 1995 paper in Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics. He made seminal contributions to many of the approaches used in single particle EM, including pioneering the development of direct electron detectors that recently allowed single particle cryo-EM to achieve this goal.


Henderson was educated at Boroughmuir High School and Edinburgh University (B.Sc. Hons in Physics, 1st Class). He completed his PhD research under the supervision of David Blow at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology and received the degree from Cambridge University in 1969. He has worked at the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC LMB) in Cambridge since 1973, and was its director between 1996 and 2006.


  • 1978 William Bate Hardy Prize
  • 1983 Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society
  • 1984 Sir Hans Krebs Medal by the Federation of European Biochemical Societies
  • 1998 Elected a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences
  • 1981 Ernst-Ruska Prize for Electron Microscopy
  • 1991 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award
  • 1993 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine
  • 1999 Gregori Aminoff prize (together with Nigel Unwin)
  • 2003 Hon. Fellow Corpus Christi College Cambridge
  • 2003 Hon. Member British Biophysical Society
  • 2005 Awarded Distinguished Scientist Award and Fellow, Microscopy Society of America
  • 2008 Hon. D.Sc. Edinburgh University
  • 2016 Copley Medal of the Royal Society
  • 2016 Alexander Hollaender Award in Biophysics
  • 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank "for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution"
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Richard Henderson, FRS, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2017's Timeline

July 19, 1945
Scotland, United Kingdom