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Jean Hanson FRS, (1919 – 1973)

Professor of Biology


Described the double sliding filament structure of muscles

Jean Hanson was one of the most influential researchers to have worked at King's in modern times. She was a founder member of the King’s biophysics research unit established by the Medical Research Council in 1947, which was set up to examine structural problems in biology using powerful new physical methods. She remained at King’s until her untimely death, apart from an important period of research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hanson discovered the overlapping arrays of actin and myosin filaments which slide past each other during contraction. She demonstrated the existence of the double sliding filament mechanism in a wide variety of muscle types, including smooth muscles from invertebrates. Her work led to an understanding of how athletes can run faster and develop greater stamina by providing an insight into the molecular secrets of locomotion. Recovery from injury and disease became speedier and more complete with increased knowledge of the operation of muscles, including those of the heart.

Hanson received the title of Professor of Biology in the University of London in 1966 and became King’s first female Fellow of the Royal Society in 1967.