Rodney Porter
Rodney Robert Porter

(1917-10-08)8 October 1917
Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, England
Died6 September 1985(1985-09-06) (aged 67)
Alma mater
Known forChemical structure of antibodies
Scientific career
ThesisThe free amino groups of proteins (1948)
Doctoral advisorFrederick Sanger[2]

Prof Rodney Robert Porter, CH, FRS[1] FRSE HFRCP (8 October 1917 – 6 September 1985) was a British biochemist[3][4] and Nobel laureate.[5][6][7]

Education and early life

He was born in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, England, the son of Joseph Lawrence Porter, chief clerk of the Railway Carriage and Wagon Works in Earlestown (Newton-le-Willows), and his wife, Isabel May Reese. He was educated at Ashton-in-Makerfield Grammar School.[8]

Rodney Robert Porter received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Liverpool in 1939 for Biochemistry.

His career was interrupted by the Second World War during which he served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers serving in Sicily and North Africa. In 1944 he was promoted to Major and transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps acting as a War Department analyst, based in Naples in Italy.[9]

After the war he moved to the University of Cambridge where he became Fred Sanger's first PhD student.[2] He was awarded his doctorate (PhD) in 1948.[10][11]

Career and research

Porter worked for the National Institute for Medical Research for eleven years (1949–1960) before joining St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, Imperial College London and becoming the Pfizer Professor of Immunology. In 1967 he was appointed Whitley Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. His colleague Elizabeth Press (Betty Press) worked with him at NIMR, St Mary's and at Oxford contributing extensively to the work which led to the Nobel Prize.

Awards and honours

Porter was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1964.[1] He won the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 1966.[12] In 1972, Porter shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Gerald M. Edelman for determining the chemical structure of an antibody.[13][14][15][16][17] Using the enzyme papain, he broke the blood's immunoglobin into fragments, making them easier to study. He also looked into how the blood's immunoglobins react with cellular surfaces. He subsequently worked with colleagues Kenneth BM Reid, Robert Sim and Duncan Campbell on developing understanding of the Complement Proteins associated with defence against infection.

In 1991, Raymond Dwek founded the Oxford Glycobiology Institute at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford and this building was named after Porter as the Rodney Porter building. The department organises the Rodney Porter Memorial Lecture every year.


In 1948 he married Julia New. They had five children together.


Porter died following a four-car accident on 6 September 1985, near Beacon Hill outside Guildford, as the driver of one of the cars. Julia was only slightly injured in the accident. They had been en route to France for a holiday, just prior to his formal retirement.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Perry, S. V. (1987). "Rodney Robert Porter. 8 October 1917-6 September 1985". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 33: 445–89. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1987.0017. JSTOR 769960. PMID 11621436.
  2. ^ a b "Rodney Porter Memorial Lectures". Oxford: University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015.
  3. ^ Johnstone, A. P.; Kerr, M. A.; Turner, M. W. (1985). "Rodney Robert Porter (1917–1985)". Journal of Immunological Methods. 85 (1): 1–4. Bibcode:1985Natur.317..383S. doi:10.1016/0022-1759(85)90268-6. PMID 3908556.
  4. ^ Steiner, L. A. (1985). "Rodney Robert Porter (1917–1985)". Nature. 317 (6036): 383. Bibcode:1985Natur.317..383S. doi:10.1038/317383a0. PMID 3900741. S2CID 4334421.
  5. ^ Raju, T. N. (1999). "The Nobel chronicles. 1972: Gerald M Edelman (b 1929) and Rodney R Porter (1917-85)". Lancet. 354 (9183): 1040. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)76658-7. PMID 10501404. S2CID 54380536.
  6. ^ Schlesinger, M. (1973). "The 1972 Nobel prize for medicine, G.M. Adelman and R.R. Porter". Harefuah. 84 (1): 41. PMID 4571222.
  7. ^ Harboe, M. (1972). "Nobel prize for immunoglobulin research". Tidsskrift for den Norske Laegeforening. 92 (34): 2363–2365. PMID 4568120.
  8. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  9. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  10. ^ Britannica Information on Rodney Porter
  11. ^ Rodney R. Porter on Edit this at Wikidata, accessed 11 October 2020
  12. ^ "Rodney R. Porter". Gairdner Foundation. Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  13. ^ Kyle, R A; Shampo M A (November 2000). "R.R. Porter—the 4-chain structure of immunoglobulin G". Mayo Clin. Proc. 75 (11): 1110. doi:10.4065/75.11.1110. PMID 11075737.
  14. ^ "Proceedings of the International Symposium on "The role and significance of international cooperation in the biomedical sciences." Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Rodney R. Porter. Washington, D.C., September 21–23, 1983". Perspect. Biol. Med. 29 (3 Pt 2): S1–229. 1986. PMID 3523420.
  15. ^ Small, P A (1985). "Rod Porter: his gifts to a young scientist". Biosci. Rep. 5 (10–11): 969–71. doi:10.1007/BF01119909. PMID 3913473. S2CID 10952281.
  16. ^ Pasternak, C A (1985). "Rodney Robert Porter". Biosci. Rep. 5 (10–11): 809–13. doi:10.1007/BF01119892. PMID 3913470. S2CID 43082617.
  17. ^ Pasternak, Charles A. (1985). "Special issue in memory of Rodney Porter". Biosci. Rep. 5 (10–11): 809–1014. doi:10.1007/bf01119892. PMID 3913469. S2CID 43082617.
  18. ^ Los Angeles Times: 13 September 1985