A University of Leeds academic has shed important new light on the fascinating story of a pioneer whose contribution to one of science’s biggest discoveries has long been overlooked.
From the late 1920s, University of Leeds biophysicist William T Astbury carried out groundbreaking work using X-rays to study the molecular structure of wool fibres for the West Yorkshire textile industry.
As a result, Professor Astbury helped transform our understanding of biology and made the very first studies of the structure of DNA, so helping to lay the foundations for the 1953 discovery of its double-helical structure by the Cambridge scientists James Watson and Francis Crick. Yet while they went on to win the Nobel Prize, Professor Astbury’s name is barely remembered outside Leeds.
Setting Professor Astbury and his work against the wider social and historical backdrop of the time, The Man in the Monkeynut Coat, by Visiting Fellow Kersten Hall, explores the life of this long neglected pioneer.