Tom Steitz was an over-towering figure in X-ray crystallography. In 2000, together with Peter Moore he solved and interpreted the structure of the 50S subunit of the ribosome of Haloarcula marismortuis, a salt-loving archaebacterium living in the Dead Sea. For his part in the elucidation of ribosome structure he received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Ada Yonath and Venki Ramakrishnan, who both focused on the small ribosomal subunit of T. thermophilus.
Tom was just a few days older than I. My memories go back to the time we collaborated, in 1998, using a cryo-EM map of the Haloarcula marismortui 50S subunit to solve a remaining ambiguity in the X-ray phasing. When he presented the results, he always talked about recognizing Hercules in our map. Just now, after searching the internet, I found a statue of the demi-God bearing the whole Earth on his shoulders which Tom might have had in mind. And the traditional blue of our large subunit map might have reinforced the association with the patina of the bronze statue.
We all miss him, his sharp intellect, his insights into structure, his dry wit.
A true Hercules of the ribosome community.