Max Ferdinand Perutz was born into a family of textile manufacturers. His parents wanted him to study law in preparation for going into the family business; however, he was more interested in chemistry. He attended the University of Vienna but decided that he wanted to work for his doctorate at Cambridge University. He became a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in 1936, and stayed at Cambridge for the rest of his life. After the Nazi invasion of Austria, the family business was stolen and his parents became refugees. Max Perutz won a Rockefeller Foundation grant that allowed him to stay in England until the end of World War II. In 1942, he married Gisela Peiser and the couple had two children. In 1947, Max Perutz was named head of the newly constituted Medical Research Council Unit for Molecular Biology, and held this post until he was made Chairman of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 1962. Dr. Perutz's pioneering work on the structure of hemoglobin won him the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with John Kendrew.
He also became an expert mountaineer and skier and took an intense interest in glaciers. Dr. Perutz was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and also an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He was made Commander of the British Empire in 1962. In his later years, Dr. Perutz was a regular book reviewer and essayist for The New York Review of Books on biomedical subjects; many of these essays were reprinted in his book I Wish I Had Made You Angry Earlier (1998). He won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science in 1997.