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John B. Fenn

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John B. Fenn for his world-renowned achievements.

A kiss blown on the wind to John B. Fenn, the Virginia Commonwealth University professor who in October learned he was one of the year's three winners of the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Fenn's technique for determining the mass of protein molecules has become an essential tool used in pharmaceutical laboratories. Everyone who meets Fenn, 85, is charmed by his modesty ("I've got fundamentally a simple mind," he says), humor (His Nobel lecture on mass spectrometry was titled "Electrospray Wings for Molecular Elephants") and agility (After the news broke, Fenn was often seen dashing back and forth in the halls of the chemistry department, answering his constantly ringing phone and patiently explaining over and over what his work was all about).

Fenn is now taking a well-deserved break from all the attention, most likely relaxing with his favorite pastimes: watching public television, listening to classical music and deciphering New York Times crossword puzzles.

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