John Walker
Walker in 2018
John Ernest Walker

(1941-01-07) 7 January 1941 (age 83)[5]
EducationRastrick Grammar School
Alma materUniversity of Oxford (BA, DPhil)
Christina Westcott
(m. 1963)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Oxford
Laboratory of Molecular Biology
University of Cambridge
ThesisStudies on naturally occurring peptides (1970)
Doctoral advisorEdward Abraham[4]

Sir John Ernest Walker FRS FMedSci[3] (born 7 January 1941) is a British chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997.[6] As of 2015 Walker is Emeritus Director and Professor at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge, and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.[7][8][9][10][11]

Early life and education

Walker was born in Halifax, Yorkshire, the son of Thomas Ernest Walker, a stonemason, and Elsie Lawton, an amateur musician. He was brought up with his two younger sisters (Judith and Jen) in a rural environment and went to Rastrick Grammar School. At school, he was a keen sportsman and specialized in physical sciences and mathematics during his final three years there. He received a 3rd class Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from St Catherine's College, Oxford.[12][13] Walker began his study of peptide antibiotics with Edward Abraham at Oxford in 1965 and received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1969.[4][12] During this period, he became interested in developments in molecular biology.

Career and research

From 1969 to 1971, Walker worked at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and from 1971 to 1974 in France. He met Fred Sanger[14] in 1974 at a workshop at the University of Cambridge. This resulted in an invitation to work at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the Medical Research Council, which became a long-term appointment. Among the other staff was Francis Crick, who was well known for his discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. At first, he analyzed the sequences of proteins and then uncovered details of the modified genetic code in mitochondria. In 1978, he decided to apply protein chemical methods to membrane proteins. In this way, Walker characterized the subunit composition of proteins in the mitochondrial membrane and the DNA sequence of the mitochondrial genome.

His landmark crystallographic studies of the F1-ATPase, the catalytic region of the ATP synthase (done in collaboration with crystallographer Andrew Leslie), from bovine heart mitochondria revealed the three catalytic sites in three different conformations imposed by the position of the asymmetric central stalk. This structure supported the binding change mechanism and rotary catalysis for the ATP synthase (and related enzymes), one of the catalytic mechanisms proposed by Paul Boyer. This work, published in 1994, led to Walker's share of the 1997 Nobel prize for chemistry. Since this structure, Walker and his colleagues have produced most of the crystal structures in the PDB of mitochondrial ATP synthase, including transition state structures and protein with bound inhibitors and antibiotics. Scientists trained in Walker's group at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge or MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit have gone on to determine crystal bacterial complex I and cryo-EM maps of mitochondrial complex I and vacuolar type ATPases.

Teaching and mentoring

Many students and postdoctoral research fellows who studied with John Walker have gone on to independent research careers, including Leonid Sazanov, Postdoctoral Fellow (ISTA) and Daniela Stock, Postdoctoral Fellow (Sydney).

Awards and honours

Walker was elected an EMBO Member in 1984.[1] He shared his Nobel Prize with the American chemist Paul D. Boyer for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate. They also shared the prize with Danish chemist Jens C. Skou for research unrelated to theirs (Discovery of the Na+/K+-ATPase). Sir John was knighted in 1999 for services to molecular biology. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Campaign for Science and Engineering.[15] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1995.[3] Walker is also a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences and an Honorary Fellow of St Catherine's College, Oxford.[16] He became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1999.[17] In 2012 he was awarded the Copley Medal.[3]

Personal life

Walker married Christina Westcott in 1963, and has two daughters.[2]


  1. ^ a b "John E. Walker". EMBO.
  2. ^ a b "WALKER, Prof. John Ernest". Who's Who. Vol. 1996 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b c d Anon (1995). "Sir John Walker FMedSci FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  4. ^ a b Walker, John Ernest (1969). Studies on naturally-occurring peptides. (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford. EThOS[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "John E. Walker – Facts".
  6. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1997".
  7. ^ John Walker interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 14 January 2008 (film)
  8. ^ Freeview Video of Fredrick Sanger in conversation with John Walker by the Vega Science Trust
  9. ^ A three part video interview with Sir John Walker by the Vega Science Trust
  10. ^ Walker, J. E.; Saraste, M; Runswick, M. J.; Gay, N. J. (1982). "Distantly related sequences in the alpha- and beta-subunits of ATP synthase, myosin, kinases and other ATP-requiring enzymes and a common nucleotide binding fold". The EMBO Journal. 1 (8): 945–51. doi:10.1002/j.1460-2075.1982.tb01276.x. PMC 553140. PMID 6329717.
  11. ^ John E. Walker publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  12. ^ a b "John Walker – Curriculum vitae – Mitochondrial Biology Unit".
  13. ^ John E. Walker on Edit this at Wikidata, accessed 29 April 2020
  14. ^ Walker, John (2014). "Frederick Sanger (1918–2013) Double Nobel-prizewinning genomics pioneer". Nature. 505 (7481): 27. Bibcode:2014Natur.505...27W. doi:10.1038/505027a. PMID 24380948.
  15. ^ "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  16. ^ "John Walker – Honours and Awards – Mitochondrial Biology Unit".
  17. ^ Anon. "J.E. Walker". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 14 February 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2016.

 This article incorporates text available under the CC BY 4.0 license.