First ECA Max Perutz Prize to Professor George Sheldrick


georgeThe European Crystallographic Association has awarded the 2004 Max Perutz Prize to Professor George Sheldrick.

Professor George Sheldrick is one of the most widely known crystallographers in the field. He made seminal contributions to the development of direct methods and helped to transfer the methodology into a straightforward procedure for solving small molecule structures. He has made significant contributions to structural chemistry and has published well over 700 publications in leading international, peer-reviewed journals. In recent years, his work has also become very important in biological crystallography, in the areas of structure solution based on anomalous phasing and in the refinement of protein structures at atomic resolution.

His program SHELX, which is constantly evolving, has underpinned the automation of chemical X-ray crystallography in the past three decades, and allowed the method to become a routine tool for physical and organic chemists. SHELX is the most comprehensive, reliable, and useful program for the determination and refinement of crystal structures from diffraction data. SHELX is the most cited software in crystallography and its continual use is in fact part of the foundation on which the remarkable success of our discipline rests: a large proportion of the several hundred thousands of crystal structures that have been determined owe their ‘existence’ to SHELX. The wealth of information available in the Cambridge Structural Database rests firmly on structures determined using his software. The free availability of the SHELX programs to the academic community has been especially important, setting a standard for others to follow. In the past fifteen years, Professor Sheldrick has focused his research on the problems of macromolecular structure determination. He has pioneered the use of direct methods for large molecules containing many atoms when atomic resolution data is available, building on the ideas of dual space refinement to provide an easy-to-use powerful phasing package in the program SHELXD. This has proved that size alone is not an insurmountable barrier when modern computing resources are exploited. This has fostered a new attitude in macromolecular crystallography by showing that with proper treatment even the biggest macromolecular structures can be refined to a level that is not very far from what has been traditionally reserved for small molecules. However, the most frequent application of SHELXD is in locating the anomalous scatterers in protein structures, a prerequisite to structure solution using anomalous phasing. His accompanying program SHELXE takes the process one step further, rapidly calculating the phases required to produce an electron density map and using a novel density modification procedure to resolve the phase ambiguity for SIR or SAD data.

George Sheldrick is head of Department for Chemistry at the University of G?ttingen. He is an excellent and dedicated teacher. His graduate students and young colleagues carry on his research traditions, and they can be found in many European laboratories. He also contributes to many workshops and training courses throughout Europe. His lucid lectures, and his deep understanding of crystallography delight students, and other participants.

George Sheldrick’s contributions to crystallography have previously been recognized by many international awards including:

  • The Meldola Medal (1970)
  • The Corday Morgan Medal (1978)
  • The Royal Society of Chemistry Award for Structural Chemistry (1981)
  • The Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (1989)
  • Member of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen (1989)
  • The Patterson Prize of the American Crystallographic Association (1993)
  • The Dorothy Hodgkin Prize of the British Crystallographic Association (2004)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society (2001)

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