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Chemistry International

The News Magazine of IUPAC

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Volume 36, Issue 1


Crystal Structure Número Uno

Daniel Rabinovich
Published Online: 2014-02-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci.2014.36.1.4

Welcome to the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr), an exciting yearlong celebration of crystallography and its contributions to fields as diverse as chemistry, nanotechnology, mineralogy, physics, molecular biology, medicine, and materials science. The year 2014 marks the centennial of the Nobel Prize in Physics that the German physicist Max von Laue (1879-1960) received for his discovery of the diffraction of X‑rays by crystals in 1912. Furthermore, von Laue’s seminal work confirmed that X‑rays were a form of electromagnetic radiation (a controversial topic since their discovery by Röntgen in 1895) and that crystalline materials consisted of organized, three-dimensional arrays of atoms, molecules or ions. Before long, William Henry Bragg (1862-1942), a Professor of Physics at Leeds University, working collaboratively with his son William Lawrence (1890-1971) at Trinity College, Cambridge, realized that X‑rays could be used to uncover the structure of crystals with atomic resolution. The structures of sodium chloride and potassium chloride, bromide and iodide were described for the first time in a paper published in September of 1913 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, effectively giving birth to the science of X‑ray crystallography. A staggering number of crystal structures have been determined in the ensuing decades and the Cambridge Structural Database, the main repository for crystallographic data of organic and organometallic compounds, contains nowadays more than 700 000 entries! The stamp illustrated in this note shows the archetypical face-centered cubic structure of sodium chloride and honors the Braggs, who received the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.” Interestingly, the Braggs remain to this date the only father and son team to have jointly received a Nobel Prize and, perhaps even more impressive, William Lawrence was only 25 years old at the time of the award, the youngest Nobel Laureate ever. Certainly a role model for college students today!

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About the article

Published Online: 2014-02-13

Published in Print: 2014-01-01

Citation Information: Chemistry International, Volume 36, Issue 1, Pages 4–4, ISSN (Online) 1365-2192, ISSN (Print) 0193-6484, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci.2014.36.1.4.

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