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John Turton Randall

Professor Sir John Turton Randall (1905-1984)


Pioneer and leader in biophysics

Sir John Randall, in his role as Wheatstone Professor of Physics at King's College London, was responsible for setting up the Medical Research Council Biophysics Unit that pioneered x-ray analysis of the DNA molecule under the supervision of Maurice Wilkins.

His early career was spent at the University of Birmingham and it was here that in 1940 he collaborated with Harry Boot on the development of the cavity magnetron, which was a type of vacuum tube crucial to improving the performance of radar for the war effort. The cavity magnetron is also the key component of microwave ovens.

Randall proved an inspirational leader at King's, fostering a collegial and 'democratic' working environment among a team of talented young researchers. He was willing to take research in radically new directions, initiating research into DNA, and the structure of collagen and muscle fibre, among other projects.

The Biophysics Unit was later renamed in his honour, and the world-leading research centre at King’s is now known as the Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics.