All the three recipients of this year’s Chemistry Nobel Prize – Martin Karplus, Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt – have of course played some part in the general exploration of water’s roles in molecular biology. But Levitt in particular has been inspirational. It was what he wrote with Mark Gerstein in Scientific American in 1998 that, more than anything else, persuaded me there was a story to be unfolded about the importance of water in biology:
“When scientists publish models of biological molecules in journals, they usually draw their models in bright colors and place them against a plain, black background. We now know that the background in which these molecules exist – water – is just as important as they are.”
Much of the popular discussion of the Nobel award has centred around the technical computational aspects of these guys’ work, almost as though they deserve praise as programmers. But it is comments like this one that reveal the deep chemical insight behind all that computer stuff. This why I view the decision with deep satisfaction.