King's College London
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The pioneering work of Professor Jean Hanson, 1919-1973

The Biophysics Research Unit

Randall, a balding man in a white coat, with his head leaned back peering upwards into an object. He sits on a stool in a laboratory with an electron microscope to his rightJohn Randall with EM3, 1952-3 Jean Hanson was one of a number of exceptionally able and scientifically curious young physicists and biologists who were collectively inspired by the leadership of the remarkable physicist, John Turton Randall, at the groundbreaking Medical Research Council Biophysics Research Unit, King's College London, which was set up in 1946-47.

Randall, Wheatstone Professor of Physics at King's, had hitherto enjoyed a successful career as a research physicist at GEC and at the University of Birmingham where he had undertaken crucial work for the Admiralty developing the cavity magnetron that transformed the performance of radar.

His focus at the new King's Unit lay in the study of cells, and in particular in overseeing the design and building of bespoke equipment with which to investigate the microscopic processes that underlay cell function and division.

Perhaps Randall's greatest facility was in recognising talent and motivating staff and he assembled a youthful team comprising around 30 biologists, biochemists and physicists.

Unusually for higher education and industry at the time, these included a relatively high number of women scientists including Angela Martin, Sylvia Jackson, Honor Fell, Marjorie M'Ewen and later Rosalind Franklin.
 

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