Curriculum Vitae

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick in West London. He obtained his B.A. at St. Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1959 at Birkbeck College London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin (officially supervised by JD Bernal). Tragically, Franklin died during this period and the work was completed with Aaron Klug.

After a post-doc (1960-61) at Childrens’ Hospital Boston, with Don Caspar where he also started to work on muscle structure with Carolyn Cohen, he returned to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. Here he developed methods and X-ray optics for the analysis of structures by X-ray fibre diffraction. He worked with Aaron Klug on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and with Hugh Huxley and J.D. Pringle (Oxford) on muscle.

In 1968 he moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement in 2003. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus by fiber diffraction and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules by protein crystallography including the structure of the muscle protein actin. He solved the structure of the actin filament using X-ray fiber diffraction data in combination with crystal data.

Increasingly he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. In 1970 he pioneered the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg.


  • 1945-1952: Chiswick County School
  • 1952-1955: St. John´s College, Cambridge
  • 1955: BA, University of Cambridge
  • 1959: MA, University of Cambridge
  • 1959: Ph.D. University of London

Positions held

  • 1955-1960: Research Assistant and Research Associate, Birkbeck College (University of London) Department of Crystallography
  • 1960-1961: Research Associate in Pathology The Childrens Hospital, Boston, USA and Childrens Cancer Research Foundation
  • 1961-1968: Scientific Staff, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England
  • 1968: Member of EMBO
  • 1968-2003: Director of the Department of Biophysics, Max-Planck-Institut für Medizinische Forschung Heidelberg
  • 1971- 1999: Professor of Biophysics at the University of Heidelberg
  • 1972: Scientific Member of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  • 1975-1976: Acting Head of Outstation, EMBL Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory at DESY, Hamburg
  • 1981: Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, London
  • 1994: Elected Member of the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften
  • 1997: Elected Corresponding Member of the Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Düsseldorf

Prizes and Awards

  • 1997: Award of the Gabor Medal of the Royal Society of London
  • 2000: Award of the European Latsis Prize
  • 2001: Award of the Gregori Aminoff Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Go to Editor View