Everyone knows about DNA. It is the essence of our being, determining who we are and what we pass on to our children. The ribosome, on the other hand, doesn’t enjoy such wide understanding. Yet without it nothing lives. It is the mother of all molecules. For if DNA is data then it can’t go anywhere, or do anything, without a machine to process it. The ribosome is that machine. Nobel Prize winner Venki Ramakrishnan tells the story of the race to uncover the structure of the ribosome, a fundamental discovery that resolves an ancient mystery of life itself and could lead to the development of better antibiotics to fight the most deadly diseases.

Venki Ramakrishnan was born in India and moved to the USA in 1971 at the age of 19 to get a PhD in physics. He then went to graduate school again to study biology for two years before embarking on a long career in the USA. He moved to England to work at the famous MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in 1999. His work is on the structure and function of ribosomes, the large molecular machines that translate genetic information into proteins. He shared the 2009 Chemistry Nobel Prize and is currently also the President of the Royal Society.