Nobel Prize Laureate Scientist. A chemist, he was honored in 1985 for his discovery of x-ray crystallography, a method by which complex molecular structures may be mapped. The child of European immigrants, he graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School, alma mater of Nobel laureates Arthur Kornburg and Paul Berg, at 15 and in 1937 earned his undergraduate degree from the City College of New York (CCNY), while there meeting mathematician Herbert Hauptman with whom he was to share the Nobel Prize decades hence. After working for the New York State Health Department, Karle obtained a master's degree from Harvard in 1938 and in 1940 enrolled at the University of Michigan where he met his future wife Isabella Lugoski who was to be his research partner throughout his life. He received a second master's from Michigan in 1942 and his doctorate in 1944 and during World War II worked at the University of Chicago where he performed research for the Manhattan Project. After the conflict he moved to Washington, D.C. and was hired by the Naval Research Laboratory where he was joined by his wife two years later and where he was to spend more than 60 years. In the late 1940s he and Dr. Hauptman began experiments on finding the structure of molecules too small to be seen with the strongest of light microscopes; their technique involved passing an x-ray beam thru the particle being studied and recording the resultant image on radiographic film. A slow and difficult process thought to have little practical value, x-ray crystallography (or diffraction) first appeared in scientific journals in 1950; in a pattern that was to repeat itself over the years, Isabella was to come up with real uses for her husband's theoretical discoveries leading to the gradual acceptance of x-ray crystallography as a tool in the study of the biochemical basis of disease states and in the manufacture of new drugs, as well as in several non-medical areas such as metallurgy. The Chief Scientist of the Naval Research Laboratory from 1968 until his 2009 retirement, he held a concurrent Professorship at the University of Maryland from 1951 until 1970. His honors were many including the presidency of the American Crystallographic Association, 1976 election to the National Academy of Sciences (followed by his wife two years later), the 1985 Nobel Prize, and in 2009 the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. Dr. Karle died in a hospice facility of liver cancer.
Bio by: Bob Hufford
Isabella Helen Lugoski Karle