(p.403) Appendix 3 Biographical notes on crystallographers and scientists mentioned in the text
(p.403) Appendix 3 Biographical notes on crystallographers and scientists mentioned in the text
Ernst Abbe 1840–1905
Abbe’s father was a mill worker in Eisenach, Germany, and it was his employers who provided the scholarships which enabled Abbe to proceed from High School to study physics at the Universities of Jena and Göttingen. In 1863 Abbe achieved his ambition of becoming a lecturer at Jena, but his career may be said to commence in 1866 when he began his long and fruitful collaboration with Carl Zeiss. As a theoretician he established the relation between the aperture and the limit of resolution of a lens (the equation is engraved on his memorial at Jena); as an optical designer he invented the apochromatic objective lens (made possible with the new glasses developed by the Schott glassworks); and as an industrialist he and Zeiss developed systematic microscope production on a large scale.
In 1876 he was made a partner in the Carl Zeiss firm and became the sole owner following the death of Zeiss in 1888. In 1891 he created the Carl Zeiss Foundation whose charter was used in Prussia as a model for progressive social legislation.
George Biddell Airy 1801–92
Airy’s life was characterized, to a remarkable degree, by a determination to succeed and meticulous organization: he made a record of everything that he wrote, with dates, and discarded not the merest note or receipt. His entry to Cambridge in 1819, which was largely facilitated by a wealthy uncle in Colchester, provided him with the opportunity to break away from a modest parental background and thence his career developed rapidly. He was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1826, Plumian Professor of Astronomy in 1828 and Astronomer Royal in 1835, a post he filled for 46 years and which entirely fitted his temperament. He largely re-equipped the Greenwich Observatory and transformed it into a highly efficient Institution—but at a price: it provided no centre for the training of innovative scientific minds and the discoveries of John Herschel and John Couch Adams were made elsewhere. Airy was, in effect, the prototype of the modern government scientist and played a major role in the development of institutional science in Victorian England. He designed (with the lawyer, Edmund Beckett Denison) the clock for the new Palace of Westminister—it had to be redesigned (p.404) in 1852 when it was discovered that the interior walls had been made too small—but its continued functioning almost without interruption for over 140 years is a measure of their achievement.
Airy calculated the magnitude of the image formed by a telescope objective of a star—a point source of light—and thereby laid the foundations for the theory of the resolving power of optical instruments. He was knighted in 1872, having refused that honour three times previously on the grounds that he couldn’t afford the fees.
William Thomas Astbury 1898–1961
Astbury was born in Longton in Staffordshire, England, one of the ‘five towns’ of the pottery manufacturing industry in what was then called the ‘Black Country’. His family was poor, but Astbury’s success in winning scholarships provided him with an excellent early education and entry into Jesus College, Cambridge, which would otherwise have been beyond his reach. His initial studies in mathematics and physics were interrupted by the First World War, during which time he served with the X-ray unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps. On his return to Cambridge, through the influence of Arthur Hutchinson, Demonstrator in Mineralogy, he studied in addition chemistry, mineralogy and the newly emerging science of X-ray crystallography pioneered by the Braggs. Arthur Hutchinson indeed was the ‘source’ of many of the crystals first studied by the Braggs which he ‘borrowed’ (without permission) from the Mineralogical Museum.
In 1921 Astbury joined W.H. Bragg’s newly formed research group at University College, London and in 1923 moved with the group to the Royal Institution where (together with Kathleen Yardley) he developed the first space group tables to help determine, from X-ray evidence, to which of the 230 space groups a crystal belongs. W. H. Bragg thought them unnecessary—all that was needed was common sense. Astbury replied that not everyone has common sense. However, the major direction of his life’s work, in macromolecular structures, came about as a result of a request from Bragg in 1926 that he take some X-ray photographs of fibres which Bragg wished, if possible, to use in one of his Royal Institution lectures. This was typical of Bragg’s subtle way of directing research—to simply ask for help on some particular topic. Astbury was so successful in applying X-ray techniques to the study of cellulose, silk and wool fibres that in 1928 Bragg recommended him for the post of Lecturer in Textile Physics and Director of the Textile Physics Research Laboratory at Leeds University which, particularly through the work of J. B. Speakman, was pre-eminent in the study of the physical and chemical properties of fibres. Here he made rapid progress in distinguishing the fully-extended chain structures characteristic of cellulose and silk (the simplest polypeptide protein structure) and the much more complex protein structure, keratin—the basic material not only of wool and hair fibres but also of nails, horn and quills. He showed, in wool, that the keratin polypeptide chains occurred in two forms, a folded form, which he called α-keratin and an extended form, β-keratin, a discovery of enormous scientific and technological importance in understanding the extensibility of wool fibres and in the processing of woollen fabrics. He disseminated this information in a series of University Extension lectures in 1932 and which formed the basis of his book Fundamentals of Fibre Structure (Oxford University Press, 1933).
(p.405) Astbury proposed a model for α-keratin in which the amino acid peptide links were folded in the form of hexagons, parallel to the chain axis and perpendicular to the cross-linking side arms. This model was superseded in 1951 by Pauling’s α-helix model but it did nevertheless represent the first attempt to model a protein chain structure in which specific linkages held the polypeptide chains in a characteristic conformation.
In 1935, together with a research student, Florence Ogilvy Bell, Astbury began to study the structure of nucleic acids and in 1938 together they published the first X-ray diffraction photograph (or fibre diagram) of a nucleic acid and attempted, unsuccessfully, to interpret its structure.
In 1945 Astbury was appointed to the new Chair of Biomolecular Structure at Leeds which he occupied until his early death in 1961.
As a pioneer it was perhaps inevitable that Astbury should see his own work superseded. His great legacy is his early stimulation to so many others in the field of molecular biology.
William Barlow 1845–1934
Following an inheritance from his father, Barlow, one of the last great English amateurs in science, took up the study of crystallography in his early thirties and attempted to relate the properties of crystals to the packing arrangements of their constituent atoms. He collaborated with W. J. Pope at Cambridge and guessed (correctly) the structure of the alkali halides. His mathematical ability and developing interest in symmetry enabled him to extend the methods of Bravais and Sohncke to find the ‘symmetrical groupings to fit the forms and compositions of a variety of different substances’ but he did not publish his derivation of the 230 space groups until 1894, three years after Fedorov and Schönflies, of whose work he almost certainly had no prior knowledge.
John Desmond Bernal 1901–1971
Bernal was born in Nenagh, County Tipperary. His father, a prosperous farmer, came from a branch of Sephardic Jews who had fled from Spain to Ireland to escape the Inquisition but which had yet converted to Catholicism in the nineteenth century. His mother, an American citizen, but also Irish by birth, was undoubtedly a formative influence in Bernal’s early life. As a young boy, Bernal’s scientific interests were first awakened on reading Faraday’s The Chemical History of a Candle (which led, in turn, to him carrying out his own chemical experiments).
At the age of 10, Bernal and his younger brother, Kevin, were sent to Hodder, a preparatory school for Stonyhurst in England and then to Stonyhurst itself. Stonyhurst was, and is, a leading Catholic school, but Bernal recalled ‘I learned nothing there but the joys of prison life’. Wisely, his parents removed him to Bedford School, where Bernal was free to pursue his scientific interests and from where he won a scholarship to Emmanuel College Cambridge to read mathematics.
Bernal rapidly immersed himself in what might be called the post-war revolutionary zeal and mores of Cambridge: he became a member of ‘The Heretics’ (an elite gathering that opposed the then religious orthodoxy of university life), abandoned his (p.406) Catholic faith, and became a convert to Marxism. His bohemian appearance, evident intellectual ability, and encyclopaedic knowledge earned him the flattering nickname ‘Sage’ (conferred on him by Dora Grey, one of his many lovers). It came as a shock that he did not (as a result of the social and intellectual distractions of his life) achieve a first class in Part 1 of the Mathematics Tripos: a happy result of which led him to transfer to Natural Sciences and to encounter, through the benign teaching of Arthur Hutchinson, the subject of crystallography. Here he attempted, entirely unaided, to describe the 230 space groups mathematically, a task that so impressed Hutchinson that he recommended to William Bragg that Bernal should be accepted as a research student at the Davy–Faraday Laboratory in the Royal Institution.
At the R.I. Bragg set Bernal the task of determining the structure of graphite. At first, Bernal did not find experimental work to his liking and mentioned to Bragg his mathematical paper. A bond between these two very different men was established when Bragg confessed that he had not even looked at it! Bernal went on to study metallic compounds, wrote a systematic account of X-ray rotation methods, and devised ‘Bernal’ charts to assist in the interpretation of X-ray rotation photographs.
In 1927 Bernal returned to Cambridge as Lecturer in Structural Crystallography (and later Assistant Director of Research in the Cavendish Laboratory). The years up to 1937 (when he was appointed Professor of Physics at Birkbeck College, London and elected FRS in the same year) were scientifically the most creative of his life. His personal magnetism and intellectual brilliance inspired a succession of able young men and women who passed through his laboratory (physically, a leaky four-roomed but centrally located hut). He and his students, most notably Isodore Fankuchen, Dorothy Crowfoot, Helen Megaw, Nora Wooster, and (later) Max Perutz were (along with W.T. Astbury at Leeds) the first to apply crystallographic techniques to organic molecules (sterols, pepsin, vitamins, enzymes, and the tobacco mosaic virus). Indeed, Bernal and Astbury were the pioneers of the New Science of Molecular Biology.
But Bernal’s intellect was not confined to crystallography. In 1929 he published The World, the Flesh and the Devil: An Enquiry into the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul, which expressed his optimism about the social benefits of science and that Arthur C. Clark called ‘the most brilliant attempt at scientific prediction ever made’ (perhaps Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, published a few years later, and that expresses the opposite view, was written with Bernal’s book in mind). In 1934, C.P. Snow (who attempted, unsuccessfully, to get Bernal elected to a Fellowship at Emmanuel College) based his first novel The Search on Bernal and his work.
Bernal’s appointment at Birkbeck College was soon interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. But his Marxist politics and espousement of the Soviet system (as expressed in his 1939 book The Social Function of Science) were no obstacles to his commitment to the war effort. He joined the Ministry of Home Security to assess the effects of enemy bombing and from 1942 he and Solly Zuckerman served as scientific advisors to Lord Louis Mountbatten. Bernal’s detailed mapping of the Normandy beaches was a significant contribution to the success of the D-Day landings.
Bernal’s stock was at its zenith in the years following the war. He established the Biomaterials Research Laboratory at Birkbeck (inconveniently housed in two bomb-damaged houses) and again attracted researchers of the calibre of Aaron Klug, Andrew (p.407) Booth and (later) Rosalind Franklin. In 1946 he was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society and together with Olga Kennard began the systematic recording of crystallographic data that developed into the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre. But increasingly he became a hard-line supporter of the Soviet system at a time when its failures and oppression were clearly evident to his contemporaries. He became a founder of the Soviet-sponsored World Peace Council and was, as C.P. Snow describes ‘as being in continuous motion to socialist capitals’. Not even the Lysenko affair affected his admiration for Stalin and in 1953 he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize.
The last major act of Bernal’s scientific career was the Royal Society Bakerian Lecture that he presented in 1962 on ‘The Structure of Liquids’. Here, he called into question the whole definition of what ‘crystalline’ meant. In his opinion biomolecular studies had ‘broken formal crystallography, shattered it completely’. How delighted he would have been to see the discovery of quasicrystals!
In 1963 Bernal’s strong constitution began to give way: he was unable to walk for more than a few miles on the Annual Easter Aldermaston March and in the summer suffered his first stroke. A further stroke in 1965 left him increasingly incapacitated, unable to speak, and more and more cut off from the world. Towards the end of his life his young daughter Jane would visit to tell him about her day at school: perhaps he understood her but by this time he was incapable of outward expression.
It is not easy to summarize what must have been the conflicting passions in the life of Desmond Bernal. Perhaps the last words should be those of Francis Crick: ‘Bernal was the first genius he had met who had consideration for the feelings of others’.
Johannes Martin Bijvoet 1892–1980
Bijvoet was born and brought up in an old waterside house in the centre of Amsterdam. He recalls that his wish to become a chemist arose from the excellent teaching at his secondary school, where the emphasis was on understanding rather than rôte learning. As a result (and also having passed the then rigorous examinations in Latin and Greek required for university entrance) he entered Amsterdam University in the years preceding the First World War. Here the emphasis was on routine analytical chemistry, which gave him much less satisfaction.
During the war, Bijvoet, like all young men of his age, was conscripted for the military service, but since the Netherlands was a non-combatant nation, it was simply a period of enforced idleness which Bijvoet used ‘to study quietly thermodynamics and statistical mechanics’—an indication perhaps of his serious attitude to life.
Bijvoet’s move to the area of crystallography arose from the excitement aroused by Bragg’s model of NaCl, a model which was by no means accepted by the professorial staff at the University, including his own supervisor, as an adequate representation of the structure. However, these objections had a happy consequence in that it was decided that X-ray investigations should be undertaken in which Bijvoet would have a leading role.
However, despite sound progress made in the solution of crystal structures, the ‘chemists’ remained unconvinced. Bijvoet recalls a ‘painful memory’ of a visit by W. H. Bragg in which in despair at the persistent hackneyed arguments against the results of X-ray analysis, Bragg ‘raised his arms up to heaven’. Even after Bijvoet’s (p.408) appointment in 1928 as lecturer in crystallography and thermodynamics he records that he ‘passed through a time of struggle for the raison d’etre of X-ray analysis’.
In 1939 Bijvoet was appointed to the Chair of Chemistry at the van’t Hoff Laboratory of the University of Utrecht, a post which the previous holder, Ernst Cohen, was forced, as a Jew, to vacate and who, despite his support for Germany following the First World War, was later to be killed by the Nazis.
It was at Utrecht, in the years 1949–1951, that Bijvoet and his colleagues, made their most outstanding contribution to X-ray crystallography: the use of anomalous scattering to determine absolutely (and not relatively) the right and left handed forms of enantiomorphic crystals—a fulfilment, in a sense, of van’t Hoff’s work of 1874 on tetrahedrally bound carbon in organic crystals. The experimental work, carried out with crystals of sodium rubidium tartrate, was of great difficulty. Exposures of over 100 hours were needed, using an improvised X-ray tube with a zirconium target and a ‘freakish’ pump which had to be watched continuously.
Bijvoet was closely involved in the establishment of the International Union of Crystallography in 1946 and became President in 1951. He retired to Winterswijk, a rural district of the Netherlands, in 1962.
William Henry Bragg 1862–1942
W.H. Bragg was born in Westward, Cumberland. At the age of seven, following his mother’s death, he went to live first with an Uncle in Market Harborough, Leicestershire and then to a boarding school in the Isle of Man. In 1881, he won a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge to read mathematics; he graduated as ‘Third Wrangler’ in Parts I and II of the mathematical tripos in 1884, then a first class in Part III in 1885. On the basis of this remarkable mathematical achievement in the same year he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Adelaide. The story goes that some friends pointed out that he did not know any physics. ‘Ah’, said Bragg ‘but the boat takes ten weeks to reach Australia, plenty of time to read up on the subject.’
For nearly twenty years, Bragg immersed himself in the affairs of the University, developed his clear teaching style but did little serious research. It was only in 1903, at the age of 41, that he identified a research area suited to his particular gifts—the problems of radioactive emission, the ionization of gases and the nature of X-rays which he considered to be ‘corpuscular’ in nature. His rapidly growing reputation resulted in election to the Royal Society in 1907 and, in the same year, Bragg was offered the Cavendish Chair of Physics in the University of Leeds, a post which he took up in 1909.
The contrast between Leeds and Adelaide could not have been more great: his Australian wife, Gwendoline, was particularly appalled by Leeds, the dirt and smoke, the rows of back-to-back houses and the poor rickety children. It was no better in the University; Bragg was restricted by the syllabus, found the students inattentive and also found himself in a losing battle with his corpuscular theory of X-rays and γ-rays. However, he derived support from Arthur Smithells, Professor of Chemistry, from Ernest Rutherford at Manchester and not least from the emerging scientific abilities of his elder son, (p.409) Lawrence. Gwen immersed herself in social work for poor children and for the family there were weekends spent in the beautiful surrounding Dales countryside.
In June and July 1912, Laue’s two papers announcing the diffraction of X-rays were presented at meetings of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. They were published in late August, but even before then word ‘got around’; it did so to the Braggs during a family holiday at Cloughton, a village on the Yorkshire coast, by way of a letter from Lars Vegard, a former colleague, who enclosed a photograph which he had obtained from Laue.1 Laue’s photograph clearly showed the wave nature of X-rays but both father and son were reluctant to abandon the corpuscular theory and on their return to Leeds, attempted to interpret the patterns in terms of corpuscles travelling along ‘avenues’ between the atoms. This work resulted in a letter to Nature in October 1912, authored solely by W.H. Bragg. It represents the last attempt to ‘save’ the corpuscular theory. Thereafter, the wave theory was unquestioned.
Bragg’s significant achievement at this time was the design and construction in the Leeds physics workshops in the winter of 1912–1913 of the X-ray spectrometer and it was this instrument that enabled him and Lawrence to make the first determinations of crystal structures, for which work they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1915.
Bragg records how he and Lawrence worked together in the physics laboratory far into the night and it is near impossible to disentangle the relative contributions of father and son. Certainly Lawrence’s deep physical insight and his exploitation of the law of reflection that bears his name was of primary importance. But set against this is Bragg’s foresight, expressed in the Bakerian lecture to the Royal Society in 1915, that the series of spectra (reflections) from a given set of crystal planes represented a series of harmonic terms which could be analysed by Fourier methods—a notion of profound importance in crystallography which awaited some ten years before it could be exploited in crystal structure determination.
In 1915 Bragg accepted the Quain Chair of Physics at University College London but only took up the post in 1918, following secondment for research at the Admiralty during the course of the War. At University College he assembled and encouraged a remarkable team of researchers—W.T. Asbury, G. Shearer, A. Muller, K. Yardley—and made the first attacks on the structure of organic crystals (by tacit agreement Lawrence, then at Manchester, worked on inorganic, mainly mineral and silicate, crystals).
In 1919 Bragg was invited to give the Christmas lectures ‘to a Juvenile Auditory’ at the Royal Institution, continuing a long-standing tradition that had begun with Michael Faraday. The lectures, subsequently published as ‘The World of Sound’, show his powers of simple exposition and his affection for young people (he dedicated the book ‘to Peggy, Gwendy and Phyllis who discussed with me so many things in this book as we walked to school in the mornings’).
(p.410) It was perhaps as a result of these lectures that Bragg was elected in 1923 to the headship of the Royal Institution and the title, inter alia of Fullerian Professor of Chemistry. Bragg was by now the distinguished icon of British science, he was elected to the Order of Merit in 1931, yet in spite of his heavy administrative duties continued to attract to the Institution younger scientists such as J.D. Bernal who maintained Britain’s leading role in X-ray crystallography. His book The Universe of Light (1933) was based on his 1931 Royal Institution Christmas lectures.
In 1935, at the age of 73, Bragg was elected to the Presidency of the Royal Society, a post he held until 1940. It was a difficult time for him, the gathering clouds of war and the administrative duties taxed his strength. His daughter, Gwendolen, records seeing on one occasion how wearily he looked up from his papers. ‘Daddy, need you work so hard’ she cried, and he answered simply ‘I must dear, I’m always afraid they’ll find out how little I know.’
William Lawrence Bragg 1890–1971
W. L. Bragg, the elder son of W. H. Bragg and Gwendoline Bragg (née Todd) was born in Adelaide, Australia. He attended St Peter’s Collegiate School there and enrolled at Adelaide University at the early age of 15, achieving a first class degree in mathematics before coming to England with his family in 1909. He immediately entered Trinity College, Cambridge and within a year again achieved a first class in Part I of the Mathematics Tripos. For Part II he made the momentous decision to switch from Mathematics to Natural Sciences—a decision perhaps prompted by his father. He now began to acquire his knowledge of optics which was to be of such seminal importance in his later discoveries, from C. T. R. Wilson, his most influential teacher (whose lectures were the best, and whose delivery was the worst!).
In June 1912, Bragg graduated with a first class degree but before then, from late 1911 he had already begun research at the Cavendish Laboratory under the supervision of Professor J. J. Thomson. It was a hopeless time for him, there was very little apparatus available, virtually no workshop facilities and he made no progress with his research project (on ionic mobility) at all. However, all this was to shortly change. In order, perhaps, to escape from the frustrations of the Cavendish Laboratory, in August 1912 he joined his family on their summer holiday where he heard from his father the first news of Laue’s discovery of the scattering of X-rays by crystals which clearly showed the wave nature of X-rays and where, as he records in his unpublished autobiography, ‘I realised that my golden opportunity for research had come.’
The first ‘breakthrough’ was made by Bragg following his return to Cambridge in October. He noticed that the spots were elliptical in shape—and this was just the shape one would expect of the X-rays were effectively reflected from sheets of atoms in the crystal. Moreover he realized, following the ideas of William Pope, Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge, that if the atoms in Laue’s zinc blende crystals were packed in the form of a face-centred cubic, rather than a simple cubic pattern, he was able to explain the positions of all the spots in the Laue photographs. Bragg announced his interpretation in a paper ‘The diffraction of short electromagnetic waves by a crystal’ (p.411) read to the Cambridge Philosophical Society on 11th November 1912 and which included for the first time the Bragg law in embryonic form (where θ is the complement of θ subsequently used).
How was it that a twenty-two year old student succeeded where all the ‘best brains’ of Europe had failed? Genius certainly, but perhaps a genius whose mind was not encumbered with complicated theory and which rather drew on simple optical ideas. There is a story recounted by R.W. James, an early close colleague. At a meeting of English and German delegates at Leipzig in 1931 it did not go unnoticed by the German delegates that, in comparison with their own rigorous education, there was a distinct lack of training in mathematics and physics among the English. ‘Tell me’, confided one of James’s German colleagues, ‘how does Bragg discover things? He doesn’t know anything.’
In comparison to the Cavendish Laboratory, his father’s laboratory at Leeds was much better equipped, in particular the availability of an X-ray spectrometer, with which father and son carried out their joint researches in the spring, summer and autumn of 1913. The notebook in which they recorded their observations is now held in the Brotherton Library at Leeds University and in its closely-pencilled pages one can recognize the data which resulted in a stream of papers in which the structures of ZnS, NaCl, KCl, FeS2, sulphur, diamond, CaCO3 and the calcite series of crystals, the spinels and CaF2 were all wholly or partially determined and for which father and son were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1915.2
At the outbreak of war, Bragg enlisted with the Royal Artillery and was posted to France in August 1915. It was from here, in the closing weeks of 1915, that the news reached him both of the Nobel Prize and also the death of his younger brother, Bob, in the Gallipoli landings.
In 1919 Bragg was appointed to the Langworthy Chair of Physics at Manchester, a post vacated by Ernest Rutherford. It was a tough assignment: the mainly ex-servicemen students had little time for authority and in Bragg’s lectures little short of hooliganism prevailed. However, by 1921 this difficult transitional phase was over: he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, became married, solved the structure of α-quartz and in 1923 broke what he later called the ‘sound barrier’ in X-ray analysis in his analysis of the structure of aragonite, in which he made explicit use of space group theory for the first time. He also pioneered the use of Fourier methods in the analysis of diopside and beryl and studied the structures of metals and alloys.
At this time Bragg and his father made a tacit agreement to divide their work on crystal structure determination: Bragg would work on inorganic structures and the father, then at University College, London, would work on organic structures. Many years were to elapse before Bragg became involved, as Cavendish Professor, in organic structures, but as early as 1935, cognisant of the work of Astbury at Leeds, he realized that the structures produced by living matter were the most interesting field of all.
(p.412) In 1937 he left Manchester to become Director of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL)—a socially but perhaps not a scientifically, prestigious appointment. Bragg (and certainly his wife) never overcame their disparaging view of life in the north of England, the (then) black and smoky Manchester in particular. He mentioned that ‘the students are rather rough diamonds, as indeed they must be when one considers their circumstances’.
The appointment at NPL was short-lived. Even before Bragg took it up, Rutherford died and in 1938 Bragg was offered, and accepted, the Cavendish Chair of Experimental Physics at Cambridge. Almost immediately the Second World War intervened and Bragg was primarily involved in war work such that his tenure only commenced in earnest when the war was over. Even so, Bragg pursued the analogies between light and X-ray diffraction in the analysis of crystal structures (his so-called ‘flys’ eye’ and ‘X-ray microscope’ techniques). But most significant of all was his support, from 1939, of the work of Max Perutz, an Austrian refugee who had been working with J. D. Bernal on the structure of haemoglobin. It seemed an entirely impossible task; haemoglobin clearly had a far more complicated structure than anything then known but it is a measure of Bragg’s willingness to take chances that, as he said ‘some intuition led me to think that this line of research must be pursued’. Bragg’s support led, in 1947 to the establishment of the Medical Research Council Unit on the molecular structures of biological systems and ultimately to the solution of the structure of haemoglobin and myoglobin in 1960 by Perutz and Kendrew and the structure of DNA in 1953 by Watson and Crick. There is no doubt that this Nobel prize-winning work owed its origin to Bragg’s willingness ‘to take chances’.
Bragg resigned the Cavendish Chair in 1953 to take up the post of Director and Fullerian Professor in the Royal Institution. Since the days of his father, the Institute had declined to a point where almost no research was done at all. Bragg set about a major programme of reform; he assembled what was to become a prestigious research group on biological structures and in addition to the long-standing Christmas lectures revived the programme of afternoon schools’ lectures, which were far more enthusiastically received than his university lectures. When asked why (as with his father) he had such an easy rapport with school children his explanation was simple ‘we enjoy the same things’. He records that the period 1960–1966 was ‘the happiest time of my life’: a family atmosphere prevailed at the Royal Institution and the only thing lacking, for Bragg, was a garden. In 1966, the year of his retirement, Bragg was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society—its highest award—and a year later was made a Companion of Honour. But the anticipated peace of his retirement was soon to be shattered when he received the first draft of Watson’s book The Double Helix, which he himself had encouraged Watson to write many years previously and which now, in view of its scurrilous remarks (even on Bragg himself) provoked widespread hostility. Bragg had always had a high regard for Watson’s imaginative and brilliant ideas (whereas Crick did all the talking!); perhaps he also felt an affinity for Watson, who, like himself, had arrived in England very much as an outsider. But Bragg recognized the value of this personal record and on condition of the removal of some of the most offending passages agreed to write a supportive foreword.
(p.413) Auguste Bravais 1811–63
Bravais was born in Annonay in France, studied mathematics in Paris and became a naval cadet in Toulon, which enabled him to participate in explorations to Algeria and the North Cape. He was appointed Professor of Physics at the École Polytechnique in 1845, and his interest in the relationships between the external forms and internal structures of crystals led to the derivation of the fourteen space lattices in 1848, published in his famous Memoire sur les systèmes formés par des points distribués régulièrement sur un plan ou dans l’espace (1850)—work which was partly based on Frankenheim’s fifteen ‘nodal’ lattice types. However, constant application to a wide range of studies which aroused his curiosity led, in 1857, to a breakdown of his health.
Martin Julian Buerger 1903–86
Buerger was born in Detroit, USA, and studied mining engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, specializing after graduation in research in mineralogy. It was during this time that he attended, in 1927, a course of lectures on X-ray diffraction given by W. L. Bragg, as a result of which Buerger realized that in order to understand the chemical and physical properties of crystals it was necessary to know their structures. Hence began his life-long work in X-ray crystallography, not only in the solving of crystal structures but in the invention of the equi-inclination Weissenberg camera, the precession camera and the writing of several well-known textbooks, the earliest of which X-Ray Crystallography is, like Bragg’s The Crystalline State: Volume 1, A General Survey, a classic which is still current today.
Buerger was closely associated with the founding of the International Union of Crystallography and was a member of the Commission for the International Tables from its establishment in 1948.
Francis Harry Compton Crick 1916–2004
Crick was born in the village of Weston Favell, close to the shoe manufacturing town of Northampton where his father owned a factory. He recalls that, in his middle-class boyhood, it was the gift from his parents of the ten volumes of Arthur Mee’s Childrens’ Encyclopaedia that stimulated his interest in the world. In this great and once popular work, all the articles on science (‘Wonder’), art, literature, and engineering (‘How it Works’) are jumbled up together. Crick read it all avidly and kept the ten volumes throughout his life.
Crick was educated first at Northampton Grammar School (in Miss Holding’s class who ‘made everything interesting’), then on a scholarship at Mill Hill School in North London. In 1934 he enrolled on the Physics course at University College London; the teaching did not stimulate him and in 1937 he obtained a ‘good’ second class degree. However, he became a graduate student under the autocratic Professor Andrade who set him the ‘dullest PhD project imaginable’ (on the viscosity of water above 100°C). Fortunately, the war intervened, during which time his apparatus was (happily) destroyed (p.414) by bombing. During and after the war he worked in the Admiralty Research Laboratory but, having been inspired by Erwin Schrödinger’s book, What is Life? decided that research on the biophysics of the cell was what he really wanted to do. This decision fulfilled the requirement of what he later called The Gossip Test: ‘What you are really interested in you gossip about’. Hence, in 1947, he obtained a studentship at Strangeways Research Laboratory and in 1949 joined the recently formed Medical Research Council Unit at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to research for a PhD on protein structure under Max Perutz and John Kendrew. Crick rapidly assimilated both the theoretical aspects and experimental techniques of X-ray crystallography and made a major contribution (together with W. Cochran and V. Vand) in his derivation of the Fourier transform of a set of atoms arranged in a helical pattern. Thus was set the groundwork for his fruitful collaboration with Jim Watson that led the model of the structure of DNA in 1953. The story of the ‘race to DNA’—of Crick and Watson’s uneasy relationship with Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at Kings College London, of the rivalry between Lawrence Bragg and Linus Pauling—has been widely told. For Crick it led to a Fellowship at Brooklyn Polytechnic with David Harker working on protein structure, but the collaboration was not a fruitful one; neither Harker’s fixed working routine, nor the environment of downtown Brooklyn (in stark contrast to Cambridge) was amenable to him and he returned to the MRC unit in 1954. His work now broadened to address the problem of the role of DNA (and RNA) in protein synthesis and to an unravelling of the genetic code—the subject of his 1962 Nobel Prize lecture. Increasing fame brought increasing honours—Fellowship of the Royal Society, a Visiting Fellowship at Harvard and, in 1960, Fellowship of the newly-established Churchill College in Cambridge—which he resigned a year later because, as a committed atheist, he objected to the proposed building of a chapel.
In 1977 Crick was offered, and accepted, a Chair at the Salk Institute in Southern California, thus ending his long association with the MRC unit at Cambridge. By now Molecular Biology, and indeed Technology, was firmly established and Crick turned to what he considered to be the central problem of existence: namely the nature of consciousness itself and the neurology of the brain.
This led to a second long collaboration—with Christof Koch whom he first met in 1981 when Koch was a graduate student at Tubingen—and which culminated in his 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis—The Scientific Search for the Soul in which he suggests that the part of the brain called the claustrum is the key structure in producing consciousness. Crick’s ideas brought him into conflict with those of Roger Penrose (author of The Emperor’s New Mind), but only history will be able to judge this last phase of his life’s work.
Crick refused a knighthood but accepted, in 1991, the Order of Merit—an honour personally bestowed by the Sovereign herself.
Peter Joseph William Debye 1884–1966
Debye was born in Maastricht in the Netherlands, was educated at Aachen and Munich and held a number of Chairs in Physics before becoming Director of the Kaiser (p.415) Wilhelm Institute for Theoretical Physics 1935–40. He then emigrated to the USA in 1940, becoming Professor of Chemistry at Cornell University.
Debye was primarily a theoretician concerned with the application of physical methods to molecular structure and is best known for his work of specific heat, electrolysis and the electron diffraction of gases. He was a member of staff in the Institute of Experimental Physics at the University of Munich at the time that Laue carried out his famous X-ray diffraction experiments. His development of a technique and camera (with P. H. Scherrer) for the investigation of X-ray diffraction from powders was made at the University of Göttingen in 1915.
Paul Peter Ewald 1890–1985
Ewald, a posthumous child, was brought up by his mother, Clara Philippson Ewald, a renowned portrait painter; they travelled widely and Ewald learned English and French at an early age. He graduated from the Köningliches Victoriagymnasium in Potsdam in 1905 and spent a short time studying chemistry at Cambridge before returning to the University of Göttingen in 1906. Ewald’s interests then moved from chemistry to mathematics; he transferred to the University of Munich to attend the courses of lectures given by Sommerfeld on hydrodynamics.
The story of Ewald’s thesis topic is given in Section 8.1 and it is clear that Ewald deserves greater recognition for his contribution to the interpretation of X-ray diffraction patterns than he has hitherto been accorded—unlike Laue or the Braggs he was not awarded a Nobel Prize. Yet his doctor’s thesis of 1912, which he discussed with Laue, contained within it the basis of the ‘reciprocal lattice and reflecting sphere construction’ analysis of the geometry of (X-ray) diffraction which is equivalent to Bragg’s law. Indeed, it was only after reading Laue, Friedrich and Knipping’s published papers that Ewald realized the relevance of his own approach and, in particular, the applicability of the formula in his thesis which he had brought to the attention of Laue but which in fact he (Laue) had not used.
During the First World War, Ewald became a field X-ray technician in the northern Russian Front but had sufficient time to publish, from 1916 onwards, a series of papers on crystal optics and dynamical theory. In 1921 he became first Professor of Theoretical Physics in the University of Stuttgart and then Rector in 1932. It was an inauspicious time: only one year after his inaugural address, in which he pleaded for the pursuit of social and political harmony, he was forced, by a Nazi Party decree, to resign his Rectorship because his wife was Jewish and he part-Jewish himself. The increasing persecution and corruption of the objective academic ideals of German science by the Nazi Party forced him in 1937 to leave Germany for England with the support of W. L. Bragg. He lived in Cambridge with his family in a financially precarious situation until 1939 when he became Professor of Theoretical Physics in the Queens University in Belfast. In 1949 he became Professor of Physics at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, and although he remained in the USA for the rest of his life he never gave up his British citizenship.
(p.416) The International Union of Crystallography was founded in 1947 largely through Ewald’s initiative, with W. L. Bragg as President and he himself as Vice-President. It was, in a sense, a fulfilment of those ideals for which he had pleaded fifteen years previously.
Evgraph Stepanovich Fedorov 1853–1919
Son of an army engineer, Fedorov attended military school in Kiev and became, in turn, a combat officer and member of the revolutionary underground. His first ideas on the derivation of the 230 space groups were contained in his book The Elements of Configurations, started in 1879, when he was 26 years old but not published until 1885. His complete derivation of the space groups was circulated in 1890 to his friends (including Schönflies) as a series of preprints but was not published until 1891, shortly before Schönflies’ independent derivation.
Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier 1768–1830
Fourier, son of poor parents who died when he was nine, attended the military school in his home town of Auxerre, France, where his great mathematical ability was first recognized. As a young man he was caught up in the Revolution; he was imprisoned both by Robespierre (being released only as a result of Robespierre’s execution in 1794) and, subsequently, by the counter regime, ironically as a supporter of Robespierre.
Fourier’s administrative and political talents were recognized by Napoleon who made Fourier secretary of the newly formed Institut d’Egypte, but after Napoleon’s fall he found himself out of favour with Louis XVIII and was not elected a member of the Academie Francaise until 1827.
Fourier’s main achievements lie in his development of the mathematical techniques applied to the diffusion of heat and (what are now called) Fourier series and Fourier integrals. He also made substantial contributions to the theory of equations, linear inequalities, and probability.
Frederick Charles Frank 1911–1998
Frank was born in Durban, South Africa. His parents were English and the family returned to England, to Abbots Farm in Suffolk, when Frank was just ten weeks old. His early schooling was at the village of Denham Abbots, then Ipswich Grammar School from which he won, in 1929, an Open Scholarship to Lincoln College, Oxford, to read chemistry. Having achieved a first class degree in 1933 he switched to research in engineering, gaining the DPhil degree in 1937, and then went on to do two years’ research in physics at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute für Physik in Berlin. It was this wide educational background (and fluency in German) which was to be of such value to him in his later wide-ranging research from the physics and properties of crystals to geophysics and continental drift.
(p.417) At the outbreak of World War II, Frank joined the Chemical Defence Research Establishement at Porton Down in Wiltshire—but in view of his experience was ‘head-hunted’ by R. V. Jones to join him in Scientific Intelligence in the Air Ministry. Then followed a remarkably fruitful six-years’ partnership, vividly described in Jones’ book Most Secret War (1978) and in which he pays tribute to Frank’s acute powers of observation and interpretation—perhaps the most spectacular being his identification, near Bruneval on the French coast, of the paraboloid antenna of the much-sought Würtzburg 53 cm radar and which was captured intact in a British parachute raid in 1942.
Immediately following the war, Frank was involved in secretly recording conversations among ten eminent German scientists detained at Farm Hall, near Cambridge. The transcripts, of enormous historical interest, were eventually released in 1992 and published, with notes and an introduction by Frank, as Operation Epsilon: The Farm Hall Transcripts (1993).
In 1946, Professor Nevill Mott, Director of the H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory in the University of Bristol invited Frank to examine problems associated with the deformation and growth of crystals. Here Frank was spectacularly successful and contributed largely to the subject now known as physical metallurgy. He showed how, during deformation, dislocations (the line-defects in crystals) could be continuously generated (Frank–Read sources); he identified different types (Frank partial and Frank sessile dislocations) and showed how crystal growth could be explained in terms of (screw) dislocations intersecting growth surfaces. From here he moved to polymeric materials and described the chain-folded structures of polymer crystals and the linear defects, for which he coined the term disclinations, which occur in single crystals. These physical intuitions extended to geophysics; island arcs for example being simply explained by analogy with the shape of a dimple in a squashed ping-pong (table tennis) ball.
Frank was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1954, was its Vice-President 1967–69 and received the Copley Medal, the Society’s premier award, in 1994. He became Head of the Physics Department at Bristol in 1969 and was knighted soon after his retirement in 1977.
Frank was a man with a strong sense of duty and social conscience, which extended from his tireless help to young research students to his membership of the ‘Pugwash’ movement, which strove to alert nations to the dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation.
Moritz Ludwig Frankenheim 1801–69
Frankenheim was born and educated in Brunswick and the University of Berlin, where he was appointed lecturer in 1826. He was subsequently appointed Professor of Physics at Breslau, a post which he held until 1866. It was in a work of 1835 that he showed there could be only fifteen ‘nodal’, i.e. space lattice types, which much later (1856) he corrected to fourteen configurations, 8 years after Bravais’ derivation of the fourteen space lattices.
(p.418) Rosalind Elsie Franklin 1920–58
Rosalind Franklin was born in London into a prosperous upper middle class Jewish family. She was one of five children (three brothers and a younger sister) and followed a Franklin family tradition in being educated at St. Paul’s Girls’ School where she was a Foundation Scholar. By the age of 15 she had no doubts that she wanted to be a scientist (which was a new departure away from her cultural background) and in 1938 won an Exhibition (a scholarship) to Newnham College, Cambridge. Her studies were affected by the outbreak of war when many of the university staff were seconded to the war effort and in 1941 she graduated, to her disappointment and against expectations, with a second, rather than a first class degree. However, she was awarded a Research Scholarship at Newnham College which she held for a year before being appointed as a Research Officer at the British Coal Utilization Research Council—a youthful organization where she established her reputation as a research scientist and for her work there was awarded the PhD degree by Cambridge University in 1945. In 1947 she was appointed Chercheur in the Laboratoire Centrale des Services Chimique de l’Etat in Paris and it was here that she developed X-ray diffraction techniques in the analysis of carbon structures—work which has partly laid the foundations to a whole new materials technology. In 1951 she decided it was time to return to England and on the basis of her expertise in a difficult area of X-ray analysis was appointed to a Newall and Turner Research Fellowship in the Medical Research Council Unit at King’s College, London to work on DNA—the elucidation of the structure of which was widely recognized as being a matter of paramount importance. It has, indeed, been represented as a race between competing laboratories and individuals, but if so it was a race which could not be won by one group alone but rather with the inputs from various individuals. Franklin’s great contribution was her meticulous experimental work, and cautious, unspeculative but well-founded deductions. Together with a research student, Raymond Gosling, who, under M. H. F. Wilkins’ direction had obtained diffraction patterns of DNA which showed a high degree of crystallinity, she demonstrated the effect of varying humidity on the crystal structure of DNA and in 1951 showed that the B-form (that which occurs under conditions of high humidity) had a structure consistent with a helical conformation and that the bases must lie on the inside, rather than the outside, of the sugar phosphate chains. Her photograph of DNA, which was crucial in demonstrating the correctness of Crick and Watson’s model in 1953, was taken with Gosling over the weekend of 1 May 1952.
In the last five years of her life, before her untimely death from cancer, she worked in the Crystallography Laboratory at Birkbeck College London, where she discovered the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus.
Joseph Fraunhofer 1787–1826
Fraunhofer was the eleventh child of a poor master glazer in Straubing, Germany, who, after the early death of his parents and an unsatisfactory apprenticeship, joined the optical instrument workshop of a scientific instrument maker in Munich in 1806. Here his versatility as experimental scientist, optical instrument technician and glassmaker laid (p.419) the foundations of the pre-eminence of the German optical instrument industry which was to be consolidated with such success by Otto Schott, Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe later in the century. It was a result of his investigations into the optical properties of glass that Fraunhofer discovered that the solar spectrum was crossed by many fine dark lines (some of which William Wollaston had first noticed in 1802), thereby laying the foundations of spectrometry. Following the work of Thomas Young he made the first quantitative study of diffraction and found the reciprocal relationship between the separation of the lines in diffraction gratings and the dispersion of light. In 1823, three years before his death from tuberculosis, he was appointed to the post of director of the Physics Museum of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.
Augustin Jean Fresnel 1788–1827
Fresnel was born in Broglie, France, and grew up in a stern Jansenist home environment. In 1804 he entered the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, his intended career being in civil engineering; from there he entered the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees, graduating in 1809. His first big job as a civil engineer was the construction of the Imperial Highway to link France and Italy through the Alpine Pass of Col Montgenevre.
Fresnel’s interests in optics and the nature of light appear to have begun in about 1814, but were stimulated in 1815 when he was suspended from his engineering work because of his opposition to Napoleon’s return to France from exile in Elba—a period of enforced leisure during which time Fresnel was under police surveillance. However, in 1823 he become a member of the French Academy of Sciences and in 1824 was appointed to the lighthouse commission in France and developed the echelon lens which bears his name.
Like Thomas Young, but working entirely independently, Fresnel advocated and elaborated on the wave theory of light, though it is not known to what extent he was familiar with the ideas of Christiaan Huygens. Like Young, he introduced the principle of interference, drawn from analogy with his work on acoustics, publishing the results of his experiments on the diffraction and interference of light in 1815.
Fresnel collaborated closely with François Arago in studies on the polarization phenomena of light and followed Young in the realization that light waves must be transverse rather than longitudinal. For most of his short life Fresnel suffered severe ill-health; he was awarded the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society shortly before his early death.
Georges Friedel 1865–1933
Georges Friedel was one of a long line of distinguished scientists—his great-grandfather had been Dean of the Faculty of Sciences at Strasbourg University, his father Charles, son Edmond, and grandson Jacques, all made significant contributions to chemistry and mineralogy.
Georges was born in Mulhouse, but the family left their Alsace home for Paris prior to the Franco–Russian war where they had an apartment in the building of the School of (p.420) Mines—the proximity of which was to be a great influence during Georges’ boyhood. In 1885 he was placed first in the competitive examination of the École polytechnique and three years later both married and moved to the École Nationale des Mines in St Etienne where he was subsequently appointed Professor, and then Director, in the years before the First World War. After the war, it was a great joy for him to be able to return to his beloved Alsace as Chairman of the Institute of Geological Sciences in the newly-reopened French University of Strasbourg.
Friedel made significant contributions to what he called the mesomorphic states of matter (nematic and smectic phases, such as exist in liquid crystals) that exist between the amorphous and crystalline states. The Law that bears his name (the 11 centrosymmetries that can be determined by X-rays) was worked out in 1913 (i.e. soon after the discovery of X-ray diffraction) and stemmed from his early work in the symmetries of Bravais lattices.
Walter Friedrich 1883–1968
Walter Friedrich was born in Magdeburg in Germany. His introduction to X-rays commenced at a remarkably early stage in his life: whilst still a schoolboy at the Stephaneum Gymnasium in Aschersleben he took X-ray radiographs for the local hospital, using apparatus that had been given to him by his father. He studied physics, first at Geneva and then in Röntgen’s Institute of Experimental Physics in Munich, obtaining his PhD degree in 1911. It was as Sommerfeld’s assistant that he carried out, with Paul Knipping, the first successful X-ray diffraction photographs in April 1912. Sommerfeld was reluctant to let Friedrich carry out an experiment that he did not think would work. However, urged on by Laue and with the assistance of Paul Knipping, the experiments were carried out in a cellar in Sommerfeld’s Institute while Sommerfeld was away. The first attempts were unsuccessful since the photographic plates were placed either parallel to the primary beam or behind the crystal. The first successful experiments (using a crystal of copper sulphate pentahydrate) showed a clear, albeit blurry, pattern of spots; then using a crystal of zinc blende orientated with a <100> direction along the primary beam, a clear pattern was observed (see the front of this book, p. xvi). Further experiments followed with the crystal in different orientations. On seeing these results Sommerfeld ‘had a complete turnaround’ and thence gave Friedrich and Knipping all the help they needed. (There is an uncanny resemblance here to W.L. Bragg’s early discouragement of Francis Crick and then, realizing that another laboratory may win the race to DNA, giving Watson and Crick all his support.)
These experiments were to be Friedrich’s only excursion into X-ray diffraction: in 1914 he joined the University Clinic in Freiburg and worked on problems of radiation therapy and the prevention of radiation injuries. In 1922 he was appointed Professor of Medical Physics in Berlin and laid the foundations of radium therapy and dosimetry. After the Second World War he became a senior figure in science in the German Democratic Republic, first as Rector of the Humbolt University in Berlin (1949–1951) and then as President of the Academy of Sciences.
(p.421) Richard Buckminster Fuller 1895–1983
Richard Buckminster Fuller was born in Milton, Massachusetts, into a patrician New England family—his great-great-great grandfather was the Massachusetts delegate at the Federal Constitutional Assembly that created the USA. He broke from family tradition by failing to graduate from Harvard and was packed off to work in a cotton mill in Canada. In 1917 he enlisted with the United States Navy which first provided him with experience of engineering design and organization. The death of his young daughter from influenza in 1922 was a turning-point in his life; he developed an obsession with the role of damp and bad housing on public health and founded a company to develop his ‘Stockade Building System’—a method of cheaply building walls from cement and wood shavings. However, the company collapsed in 1927. Thereafter followed a strange and crucial period of his life, ‘the year of silence’ when he refused to speak to anyone, not excepting his wife, but consumed books and articles on mathematics, science, engineering and architecture with a compulsive and almost destructive inner energy. It was a time when the inventiveness of his mind took root—an inventiveness subsequently expressed in a welter of ideas, proposals and projections throughout the rest of his life which it is difficult, if not impossible, to assess. Certainly he was far ahead of his time in his advocacy of a ‘world design science’ to avoid ecological catastrophe and the invention of the geodesic dome was a major engineering design achievement; however these must be set against so much else of his work and ideas which now seem merely fanciful and which he would tirelessly express in presentations and lectures of up to four hours at a stretch!
The initial outcome of the year of silence was ‘4-D’ (meaning four-dimensional thinking) in time as well as space. It was the first of many terms or words coined by Buckminster Fuller to express ideas or concepts for which the English language was then deficient; the most well-known of which are Synergy, or Dymaxion, the latter a word not invented by Buckminster Fuller himself but by the public relations department of a Chicago department store (the ‘spin doctors’ of the time) and made up of the words he most frequently used—‘dynamic’, ‘maximum’ and ‘ion’. It was Buckminster Fuller’s favourite adjective which he applied to light-weight, easily erectable houses, towers (stacks of Dymaxion houses) and, most famous of all, the Dymaxion car of 1933–4, a hoped-for breakthrough in automobile design which would lift the industry out of the depression.
The geodesic dome was largely the outcome of Buckminster Fuller’s work with the Design Class of Black Mountain Art School, North Carolina, from 1948. The Patent was applied for in 1951 and granted in 1954; it represented the last turning-point in his life from failed entrepreneur to visionary designer. The basic structural design has been applied to simple tent-like structures to radomes and, following the success of the dome covering the Ford Motor Company’s building in Dearborn, Michigan, has become an accepted architectural form. The use of his name to describe the newly-discovered carbon structures was made after his death.
(p.422) René-Just Haüy 1743–1822
The son of a poor weaver, Haüy received a classical and theological education at the College de Navarre in Paris and was ordained in 1770. His Essai d’une théorie sur la structure des cristaux of 1784 laid the foundation for the mathematical theory of crystal structure. In 1793 he proposed that there were six ‘primary forms’—a parallelpiped, rhombic dodecahedron, hexagonal dipyramid, right hexagonal prism, octahedron and tetrahedron. In the Traité de Minéralogie of 1801 these were further divided, which led to the notion of ‘molécules intégrantes’. Haüy survived the Revolution and was made Honorary Canon of Notre Dame in 1802.
Carl Heinrich Hermann 1898–1961
Formal structure theory, following the derivation of the 230 space groups by Fedorov, Schönflies and Barlow, remained dormant even in the early years of crystal structure analysis by X-rays, largely because of the inconvenient and difficult notation then used. Hermann’s great contribution (carried out initially independently of Mauguin) was to simplify the notation for the symmetry elements and space groups, making the theory much more accessible. Hermann was also instrumental in the preparation of the Struk-terberichte (Structure Reports) from 1925 to 1937. He was a member of the Society of Friends and after the Second World War (during which he was jailed for listening to BBC broadcasts) he was appointed Professor of Crystallography at Marburg, a post he held until his death.
Norman Fordyce McKerron Henry 1909–83
N. F. M. Henry was born at Grangemouth, Stirlingshire and was brought up in Aberdeen where his father was a master at the Grammar School. He read geography at Aberdeen University and in 1934 entered the newly founded Department of Mineralogy and Petrology at Cambridge University and St. John’s College which was to become, to a great extent, the focus of his life.
Henry’s research interests lay in the fields of X-ray crystallography and reflected light microscopy and, although he published few papers, the two books The Interpretation of X-ray Diffraction Photographs and the Microscopic Study of Opaque Minerals which he co-authored have been instrumental in the wide dissemination of these subjects. Indeed, he and his colleagues introduced the subject of crystallography to a greater number of students than at any other university. As a teacher Henry presented an image of formality and dryness, but even undergraduates could recognize the humour and generosity that lay underneath. He conducted tutorials two at a time, passing from group to group (with perhaps time for a cigarette in between), setting problems and expecting the solutions to be ready at the next visitation: a simple and most effective technique.
Henry played a major role in the work of the International Union of Crystallography where his knowledge of European languages and cultures did much to establish an atmosphere of goodwill and collaboration. He edited (with Kathleen Lonsdale) the first (p.423) volume of the International Tables for X-ray Crystallography, a task entirely fitted to his rigorous standards and painstaking scholarship.
In 1960 he was elected a Fellow of St. John’s College, was made Steward (1961–9) in recognition of his knowledge of food and wine and was elected Praelector or ‘college-father’ in 1971 where again his support and concern for his younger colleagues found full expression.
Johann Friedrich Christian Hessel 1796–1872
Hessel was born and educated at Nuremberg but spent most of his professional life as Professor of Mineralogy and Mining Technology at Marburg. He was the first to show (in 1830) that only two-, three-, four- and six-fold axes of symmetry can occur in crystals and that considerations of symmetry lead to the thirty-two crystal classes. However, his work was unrecognized by his contemporaries and remained so until long after his death.
Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin 1910–1994
Dorothy Crowfoot was born in Cairo, the daughter of expatriate parents of the British Educational Service in Egypt and the Sudan. At the outbreak of the First World War, she and her younger sisters were evacuated to England, first to Nettleham in Lincolnshire, their mother’s childhood home, and then to Beccles in Norfolk. There she attended a PNEU (Parents’ National Educational Union) class held in the Rectory in which she first encountered chemistry and by the age of 10 had set up her own attic laboratory using chemicals freely purchased (before the days of ‘Health and Safety’) from the local chemist. Her passion for chemistry, which was to continue unabated in her life, was further encouraged at the progressive Sir John Leman School (where, with her friend, Norah Pusey, she was allowed to attend the boys’ chemistry classes) and by her reading Sir William Bragg’s book Concerning the Nature of Things.
In 1928 she was admitted to Somerville College, Oxford to read for a degree in chemistry and in the final (Honours) year opted to carry out a research project under the supervision of Marcus (‘Tiny’) Powell, the leading crystallographer at Oxford at the time. In 1932 Dorothy graduated with First Class Honours in Chemistry—the first woman to do so—a remarkable achievement considering the restrictions then endured by university women. (The prestigious Alembic Club (for chemists) neither admitted women to membership, nor even allowed them to attend its meetings.)
Dorothy’s project left her in no doubt that it was in the field of X-ray crystallography that she wished to work: a wish fulfilled when, following a recommendation by one of her examiners, she joined J.D. Bernal’s group soon after graduation. There she took up the structures of the sterols and together with Bernal showed that crystals of the enzyme pepsin only gave clear X-ray reflections when photographed in the ‘wet’ condition. She recalls ‘my years in Cambridge were rich with new discoveries’. Then came the offer of a two year research fellowship at her old college—possibly leading to a full fellowship. Bernal, magnanimous as ever, urged her to accept—not only were ‘jobs’ (p.424) in crystallography far and few between, but at Oxford she would be able to establish herself as an independent scientist.
At Oxford, Dorothy’s laboratory consisted of wholly inadequate accommodation in the ‘Abbot’s Kitchen’ of the University Museum that she occupied for much of her working life. (Many years later she upbraided a student who wanted to work in the United States ‘because of the better facilities’ by pointing out that good research was not dependent on ‘good facilities’.)
In 1934, Robert Robinson, Professor of Organic Chemistry, presented her with crystals of the protein insulin that had been prepared by Boots Pure Drug Company. It was the beginning of a life-long search to determine its structure. Dorothy pioneered the technique of isomorphous replacement (comparing Zn- and Cd-bearing crystals) and was the first to fully exploit the Patterson technique—but at this time, before the advent of computers, the structure proved to be intractable. And so she turned to other structures. Her first major success was her analysis, together with her first research student, Harry Carlisle, of the structure of cholesterol iodide. It was, in 1943, the first complete three-dimensional analysis of a complex organic molecule. This led to her work on penicillin—a project of international importance—the structure of which, in collaboration with Charles Bunn of the Imperial Chemical Laboratory at Northwich was completed in 1945. The model with she made, showing the three-dimensional electron density map built up in sheets of Perspex, is preserved in the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford.
Then in 1948 she began to study the structure of vitamin B12, a molecule intermediate in size between penicillin and a protein. And apart from its medical importance she was encouraged by the fact that the crystals prepared by the Glaxo Laboratory naturally contained the heavy Co atom. The solution of the structure of vitamin B12 in 1955 (which Lawrence Bragg described as ‘breaking the sound barrier’) was very much a team effort involving colleagues at Oxford, UCLA, and in particular, access to the computing facilities at UCLA.
It was her analysis of the structures of penicillin and vitamin B12 that led to a succession of awards and honours—election to the Royal Society in 1947, the Royal Medal in 1956, the Copley Medal in 1976, the (unshared) Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964 and the award of the Order of Merit in 1965—the second woman after Florence Nightingale to be so honoured. But, as David Sayre, a colleague and pioneer of direct methods records, Dorothy was acutely disappointed that she was not the first to solve the structure of a protein. Indeed, she returned to insulin in 1966 and continued to elucidate its structure, at an ever increasing resolution, until a few years before her death.
Dorothy Hodgkin’s single minded determination as a scientist contrasts strongly with her gentle, reticent personality. Her students and colleagues were drawn into her relaxed, perhaps bohemian home lifestyle, with her husband Thomas Hodgkin whom she married in 1937, and her three children. Inevitably, as an ambassador for British Science, she was drawn into international science and peace movements—she opposed the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons and was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1987. But she probably failed to recognize the darker aspects of those political systems that sought her recognition.
(p.425) In summary, it may be said that Dorothy Hodgkins’ work represents the supreme embodiment of that stage of crystal structure determination between the trial and error methods of such as the Braggs and Bernal and the computer-based direct methods of later generations.
Robert Hooke 1635–1703
Hooke attracted the attention of Robert Boyle at Oxford and it was through his mechanical skill that he made a success of Boyle’s air pump. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society and held the post of ‘Curator of Experiments’ from 1662 until the end of his life. It was in this capacity that Hooke was solicited by the Council of the Royal Society to prosecute his microscopical observations in order to publish them and was also charged to bring in at every meeting one microscopical observation at least. Hooke more then fulfilled this onerous obligation and, in doing so, caused the great capability of the microscope to be realized in England. The fruit of his work, Micrographia, or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses, with Observations and Inquiries Thereupon, was printed in 1665. In his book the word ‘cell’, so important in biology, was first applied to describe the porous structure of cork.
Albert Wallace Hull 1880–1966
Albert W. Hull was born in Connecticut and studied Classics at Yale University. However, he became increasingly interested in physics and after a period teaching modern languages, returned to Yale and completed, as it were, his educational transition by the award of a doctorate in 1909. After a further period of teaching (this time physics), he joined the General Electric Research Laboratory at Schenectady where he discovered (independently of Debye and Scherrer) the powder diffraction technique. Hull’s later achievements were in the fields of electronics (principally the invention of the Thyratron) and what is now called materials (principally the development of metal–glass vacuum seals). He was elected President of the American Physical Society in 1942.
Arthur Hutchinson 1866–1937
Hutchinson was born in London, the only child of parents from (what is now) Cumbria. He attended Clifton College in Bristol from which he won a scholarship to Christ’s College, Cambridge and achieved first class in both parts of the Natural Sciences Tripos (1886 and 1888). From there he carried out research at the University of Würtzburg under Emil Fischer and W.K. Röntgen and was awarded the PhD degree in 1891. On his return to Cambridge he was made a Fellow of Pembroke College and in 1895 was appointed Demonstrator in Mineralogy. Then, for no less than 28 years, he taught, single-handedly, the whole of mineralogy in the Natural Sciences Tripos and was only appointed Professor in 1927 following the long moribund professorship of W.J. Lewis. In 1928 he was elected Master of Pembroke College, a post that he held until shortly before his death.
(p.426) Hutchinson made few contributions to research (he identified the mineral stokesite) but his greatest contribution to science was the inspiration and support that he gave to younger colleagues. He provided W.L. Bragg with the crystals that the Braggs used in their earliest X-ray experiments (including a particularly fine specimen of diamond) despite strict orders from Lewis that no mineral should leave the collection at Cambridge. W.L. Bragg recalled,
I shall never forget Hutchinson’s kindness in organizing a black market in minerals for a callow young student. I got all my first specimens and all my advice from him and I am afraid that Professor Lewis never discovered the source of my supply.
Hutchinson’s teaching in crystallography inspired both W.T. Astbury and J.D. Bernal and both owe the beginnings of their subsequent careers to letters of recommendation from Hutchinson to W.H. Bragg at the Royal Institution.
Christiaan Huygens 1629–95
Huygens was born in The Hague, studied at the University of Leiden and Breda and became one of the founding members of the French Academy of Sciences. He made important contributions to dynamics and showed that a pendulum which describes a cycloid (rather than the arc of a circle) is exactly isochronous and succeeded in inventing and constructing a pendulum clock based on this principle. He also made major contributions to observational astronomy and was the first to describe Saturn’s rings correctly.
Huygens’ greatest achievement was his development of the wave theory of light described in his Traite de Lumiere (1690). The notion of action at a distance was abhorrent to him; in his view space is pervaded by particles (the ether), light being the effect of the disturbance of the particles—that of one particle being transmitted to the next and so on. The net effect is a wave spreading out from the point of origin, each point in the wavefront being the source of secondary wavelets. Huygens was thereby able to explain refraction and reflection and to predict (correctly) that the velocity of light decreased in passing from a rarer to a denser medium—whereas Newton’s corpuscular theory required the denser medium to attract the corpuscles of light and therefore increase its velocity. However, because the waves were conceived as being longitudinal, rather than transverse, he could not satisfactorily explain double refraction.
The problem of double refraction constituted one of Newton’s objections to the wave theory of Huygens for ‘Pressions and Motions’, as he says in Opticks, ‘propagated from a shining body through a uniform medium must on all sides be alike’, whereas experiment had shown that the ‘Rays of Light have different properties in their different sides’—a clear presentiment of the idea of polarization. The other, even more serious objection, was that without the concept of interference, Huygens’ wave theory could not explain the most obvious character of a light beam, namely rectilinear propagation. It was not until the work of Fresnel and Young at the beginning of the nineteenth century that the wave theory of light was finally established.
(p.427) Johannes Kepler 1571–1630
The turmoil of Kepler’s life is in strong contrast to his belief in the existence of a mathematical harmony underlying the Universe, the search for which was the guiding inspiration of his life’s work. He was born in Würtemburg in Germany and in 1594 was appointed teacher of mathematics at the seminary at Gratz. Here he encountered the work of Nicolaus Copernicus and published his first book (Mysterium Cosmographicum, 1596), in which he tried to show that the orbits of the planets were determined by the nestling, one within the other, of Plato’s five regular solids—cube, tetrahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron and octahedron. Forced, as a Lutheran, to leave Gratz, he joined Tycho Brahe in Prague under the patronage of the emperor Rudolph II, a fruitful but uneasy collaboration. Here Kepler discovered the first two of the three laws of planetary motion which were to be of such importance to Newton, wrote a major work on optics, discovered the second new star visible to the naked eye since antiquity and prepared his astronomical tables, against a background of the social unrest of the Thirty Years’ War and continual lack of financial support from the emperor.
In 1611 civil war broke out in Prague, the emperor was forced to abdicate and Kepler’s young son and wife died. He moved to Linz, remarried in 1613, and had to face his mother’s trial for witchcraft in Würtemburg. At Linz he published Harmonices Mundi (1619) which contains his third law.
On completion of the astronomical (Rudolphine) tables, Kepler moved to Sagan in Silesia under the patronage of Imperial General Wallenstein. He died of a fever at Ratisbon in the unsuccessful quest of 12 000 florins owed to him by the emperor.
Seishi Kikuchi 1902–1974
Seishi Kikuchi’s mother, Tatsu, and father, Dairoku, were both from distinguished families of scholars in Japan. Dairoku (1855–1917), a member of the Mitsukuri family, was particularly eminent during the Meiji period (the period of modernization in Japan) and became President of both Tokyo and Kyoto Imperial Universities and Minister of Education. More particularly, he was educated in England at University College School and St John’s College, Cambridge from which he graduated in the Mathematical Tripos in 1877—the first Japanese to do so.
Kikuchi’s home environment was a particularly happy one; he attended the First High School in Tokyo and entered the Physics Department of the University of Tokyo in 1923—his interest in physics being almost certainly inspired by his elder brother, Taiji, who had graduated in physics and who went on to study radioactivity under Ernest Rutherford at the Cavendish Laboratory. Taiji’s promising career was tragically cut short when he died in Cambridge ‘of an infectious disease’—an enormous shock to the Kikuchi family.
On graduating, Kikuchi commenced research in radioactivity, continuing his beloved brother’s footsteps. His first paper, published in 1927, reached Rutherford, who, to Kikuchi’s delight, wrote to commend this contribution to science from the younger brother of his former pupil.
(p.428) Then the direction of his research materials changed. The papers by de Broglie and Schrödinger on the wave nature of electrons, and the early experiments of Davisson and Germer in the United States, made him anxious to carry out electron diffraction experiments of his own. In this he was strongly supported by Shoji Nishikawa and in 1928 entered Nishikawa’s laboratory in the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research to embark on this new project. After some false starts, and possibly influenced by G.P. Thomson’s work on thin polycrystalline metal thin films, Kikuchi, aided by Nishikawa and I. Sumoto was able to prepare thin (0.1 μ m) flakes of (muscovite) mica that yielded the very first single crystal electron diffraction ‘spot’ patterns. Sumoto recalls that in the first experiment Kikuchi was so impatient to see the faint emerging pattern that he removed the plate from the fixer before it was properly fixed and washed away the emulsion in the heat of the dark-room lamp! Thicker specimens showed the characteristic dark and light lines that Kikuchi called the P-pattern because the lines occurred in Pairs. All this work was published in six papers in 1928.
Following this success, Kikuchi left Japan to study quantum mechanics in Germany, first in Max Born’s Institute in Göttingen and then Werner Heisenberg’s Institute in Leipzig, returning to Japan in 1931 to marry Taeko Kawada. In 1932 he received the Meldenhall Prize from the Imperial Academy and in 1934 was appointed Professor of Physics at Osaka University that he established as an active centre for nuclear physics. The work of the Laboratory was severely curtailed during and immediately after the Second World War. However, in order to help re-establish the Laboratory, in 1950 he went to the United States, first to Cornell University and then to the Radiation Laboratory in the University of California, Berkeley, returning to Osaka in 1952, where he presided over the construction of a new cyclotron that was completed in 1955. Then he became successively Director of the Institute for Nuclear Study, University of Tokyo and (in 1959) the third Director of the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. His last public position was as President of the Tokyo Science University (1966–1970).
Kikuchi was a man of wide abilities and versatile tastes: he was skilled as a golfer, as a pianist and as a cultivator of roses (an enthusiasm shared with W.L. Bragg). He retained a generous and broad-minded spirit throughout his life.
Alexander Isaakovich Kitaigorodskii 1914–1985
Kitaigorodskii was born in Moscow into a professional family background: his father was a distinguished chemical engineer and one of the creators of devitrified glasses. In his early education at home Kitaigorodskii became fluent in French (the then polite language of the Russian aristocracy and professional classes) and learnt German and some English. He also became a skilled, indeed prize-winning dancer. In short, his childhood seems to have been little affected by the political and social turmoil of the times.
On leaving secondary school at the age of sixteen he worked in the laboratory of a metallurgical (steelmaking) plant in the Urals and there found both the time and opportunity to acquire a knowledge of physics and mathematics at sufficient depth not only to allow him to enter the Physics Department of Moscow University directly into the third year but also contribute to the teaching of students. His biographers assert that he (p.429) achieved this knowledge ‘completely by himself’,3 but it is difficult to believe that he had no teacher nor mentor to encourage him. One thinks of the near-parallel case of Harry Brearley, the discoverer of stainless steel, working in the laboratory of the Sheffield steelmaking firm of Thomas Firth and Sons and becoming a skilled analyst through the encouragement of the Head of the Laboratory.
On graduating in 1935, Kitaigorodskii commenced research on the X-ray diffraction of amino acids in the Biophysics Division of the Institute of Experimental Medicine, gaining his PhD degree in 1939. During the second world war he was Head of the Physics Department of an armaments plant in the City of Ufa in the Urals. In 1944 he returned to Moscow to work in the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
In these years Kitaigorodskii developed his ideas concerning the packing arrangements of organic molecules in crystals, the first fruit of which was the subject of his DSc thesis Arrangement of molecules in crystals of organic compounds which he defended in the Institute of Physical Problems. This famous Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences has a remarkable history. Its founder was Peter Kapitza, a Soviet citizen who had yet been long resident in England (and hence eligible for election as a Fellow of the Royal Society) and who in 1930 had been appointed as Head of the Royal Society’s Mond Laboratory at Cambridge. On a visit to his home country in 1934, Kapitza was ‘detained’ by the Authorities, but in order that his work could continue, the equipment at Cambridge was purchased by the Soviet Government to equip the new and prestigious Institute. From 1946 (the year of Kitaigorodskii’s DSc thesis) until 1955, Kapitza was under house arrest for refusing to take part in nuclear weapons development.
In 1954, Kitaigorodskii moved to the Institute of Organoelement Compounds where he remained until his death although he was never elected to a University professorship.
Kitaigorodskii’s work on the geometry of the packing of organic molecules and his elucidation of the space groups for closest, limitingly and permissible close packing became widely recognized through the English translation of his book Organic Chemical Crystallography (1961). It is in his later book Molecular Crystals and Molecules (1973) that the limitations of the geometrical approach became apparent: Kitaigorodskii assumed that molecules were rigid objects, undeformed by crystal forces and that variations in bond lengths were spurious. This of course is not the case, but at the time such variations were within the experimental error of the equipment then available to him.
Towards the end of his life, Kitaigorodskii was allowed to travel abroad and amazed his hosts not only by his science but by his convivial and outgoing nature—his dancing skills developed into water-skiing and ice-skating! But despite being awarded the D. I. Mendeleev (1949) and E. S. Fedorov (1967) prizes of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, he was never himself elected an Academician—doubtless a consequence of his irreverent attitude even to the Academy itself. Of his life’s work he should have the last word. Not long before his death he was asked which of his achievements in science (p.430) he considered the most important. ‘I’ve shown’, he replied ‘that a molecule is a body. One can take it, one can hit with it—it has mass, volume, hardness. I followed the ideas of Democritus.’
Paul Knipping 1883–1935
Paul Knipping, the son of a doctor, was born in Neuwied-on-Rhine. He studied physics first at Heidelberg and then, like his exact contemporary, Walter Friedrich, in Röntgen’s Institute of Experimental Physics in Munich. Having just completed his PhD degree in 1912 he volunteered to assist Friedrich in carrying out the ‘Laue’ X-ray diffraction experiments in April 1912. Thereafter their careers diverged: after working at the Siemens Laboratories in Berlin and military service in World War 1 he transferred to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute für Physikalische und Elektrochemie in Berlin to work with Fritz Haber. In 1929 he proposed an Institute for X-ray Physics and Techniques at the Technical University in Darmstadt (inaugurated in 1933) and continued there as Professor until his untimely death as a result of a motorcycle accident.
Max von Laue 1879–1960
Max Laue (the title ‘von’ appears after his father was raised to the hereditary nobility in 1914) was born in Pfaffendorf near Koblenz. He was educated at the University of Berlin and, as a pupil of Max Planck, obtained his doctorate in 1903 for a thesis on the interference of light between plane parallel plates.
In 1909 he became Privatdozent in the Institute for Theoretical Physics in the University of Munich under Arnold Sommerfeld. He was an early ‘convert’ to Einstein’s special theory of relativity and wrote the first monograph on the subject.
Laue’s intuition (that the regular arrangement of atoms in a crystal might give rise to an interference effect if the waves travelling through were of a wavelength of the same order as the atom or ‘resonator’ spacing) almost certainly stems from a meeting with P.P. Ewald in January 1912. Ewald was completing his doctorate thesis and wished to discuss some of his conclusions with Laue. Laue encountered strong disbelief amongst his colleagues of a significant outcome of such a diffraction experiment on the grounds that the thermal vibration of the atoms would obscure any diffraction maxima. However, he persevered, and with the assistance of Walter Friedrich (an assistant of Sommerfeld) and Paul Knipping (who had just finished his thesis under Röntgen), the famous experiment on a copper sulphate crystal which ‘happened to be in the laboratory’ was carried out.
Laue recalls in his Autobiography the very time and place when the idea for a mathematical explanation of the spots in the photograph taken by Friedrich and Knipping came to him: ‘I was plunged in deep thought as I walked home along Leopold-strasse just after Friedrich showed me this picture. Not far from my own apartment at Bismarckstrasse 22, just in front of the house at Siegfriedstrasse 10, the idea for a mathematical explanation of the phenomena came to me . . . . I had to re-formulate Schwerd’s theory of diffraction by an optical grating so that it would be valid, if iterated, also for a cross-grating. I needed only to write down the same equation for (p.431) a third time, corresponding to the triple periodicity of the space lattice, in order to explain the new discovery.’
The new discovery, and Laue’s analysis (in terms of a three-dimensional diffraction grating), which Einstein referred to as one of the most beautiful in physics, led to the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1914. But unlike the Braggs, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1915, Laue did not pursue crystal structure determination since his main interests lay towards the ‘great general principles’ of Physics.
In 1919 Laue returned to the University of Berlin to be near his mentor, Max Planck, and in 1921 was elected a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. He protested against the Nazi Party’s persecution of Einstein: at his opening address on 18 September 1933 to the Physics Congress held in Würtzburg he drew the parallel between Galileo, champion of the Copernican World View, and Einstein, the founder of relativity theory; just as Galileo had won out against the church’s prohibition so also would Einstein win out against the proscriptions of National Socialism. However, Laue was unable to stem the tide of Nazi infiltration into German Science; he was increasingly ‘sidelined’, his advice and judgement were no longer asked for and in 1943 he took early retirement from teaching and moved away from Berlin to Württemberg-Hohenzollern. After the war he was briefly interned in England and until his death took a major role in the rebuilding of German science and its institutions.
Kathleen Lonsdale 1903–71
Kathleen Yardley was born in Newbridge, S. Ireland, the youngest in a family of ten children. In 1908 the Yardley family moved to England in view of the unsettled state in Ireland. As a schoolgirl Kathleen showed her remarkable aptitude for physics and mathematics; at the age of 16 she won a scholarship to Bedford College for Women and in 1922 came top of the class list, as a result of which the examiner, W. H. Bragg, offered her a place in his research team first at University College and then at the Royal Institution—a team which then consisted of some of the brightest stars in X-ray crystallography. In 1927 she married Thomas Lonsdale and moved with him to Leeds when he took up a post in the Textile Department. It was a short but formative period in her life: she proved that the benzene molecule was planar, established her position as a leading X-ray crystallographer and also showed that it was possible to combine the roles of a scientist and a wife and mother. Her recollections of Leeds—the food bargains which could be obtained (and can still be obtained today) in the closing-time auctions at the Leeds market—are evocative. In 1929 she returned to London as W. H. Bragg’s research assistant and remained with him at the Royal Institution until his death in 1942. Her early upbringing was strict Baptist, but by degrees she became a member of the Society of Friends, a vegetarian and a pacifist. These latter ideals led to her imprisonment for a short time in 1943 in Holloway Prison which was another positive formative influence in her life.
Kathleen Lonsdale (and Marjory Stephenson) were the first women to be elected Fellows of the Royal Society (22 March 1945). It was only subsequently that she was appointed to a university post, and became involved in teaching, first as Reader (1946) (p.432) and then as Head (1949) of the Department of Crystallography at University College, London. However, perhaps her most enduring achievement was her leading role in the preparation of the International Tables for X-ray Crystallography as General Editor 1948–63 and as joint editor (with N. F. M. Henry) of the first volume, published in 1952.
To the end of her life her social conscience and concern for what is now called women’s liberation was unwavering. She wrote in 1957 the Penguin Special Is Peace Possible? and in 1971 the broadsheet ‘Women Scientists—Why so Few?’
Charles Mauguin 1878–58
Mauguin’s early career expectation was that of a teacher in a teacher’s training college, but he quickly developed an interest in mathematics and natural philosophy and commenced his scientific work in the field of organic chemistry. His interest in crystallography probably stems from a course of lectures given by Pierre Curie which he attended in 1905. Mauguin was one of a small group of crystallographers who, in 1933, undertook the publication of the International Tables, and it is his symbolism of the 230 space groups (worked out in collaboration with C. H. Hermann) which is now in almost universal use.
Helen Dick Megaw (1907–2002)
Helen Megaw was born in Dublin in 1907 into a distinguished and well-connected Northern Irish family—her father was a Leading Ulster politician. The family moved to Belfast in 1921 just before the partition of Ireland, but Helen continued her education in England—at Roedean School in Brighton. It was here that her interest in science, and crystallography in particular, was stimulated by her reading the Braggs’ book X-ray and Crystal Structure.
She briefly returned to Northern Ireland to study at the Queen’s University, Belfast, but in 1926 returned to England with a scholarship to read natural sciences at Girton College, Cambridge (then an all-female college). By a happy chance one of her chosen subjects was mineralogy and she achieved a first class in Part I of the Tripos examination. But in Part II (physics) she failed to achieve a first class. This was the second happy chance because it effectively debarred her from beginning research in the Cavendish Laboratory; instead she went to see Arthur Hutchinson of the Department of Mineralogy (who many years previously had provided the Braggs with crystals) and through his good offices began research with J.D. Bernal. Her subject was the structure of ice and Megaw identified the ‘oscillating’ hydrogen bonding between oxygen atoms. For this work ‘Megaw Island’ in the Antarctic was named after her.
But in 1934, the year she was awarded her PhD, the country was in a state of depression and jobs in research were virtually non-existent. So, from 1935 to 1943 she taught physics at high-flying girls’ schools in Bedford and Bradford.
However, in 1943 she joined Philips Research Laboratories at Mitcham and by another happy chance began to study the structure of barium titanate (samples of which had been sent to Philips from the USA by mistake). This was the beginning of her life’s (p.433) work on the perovskite structures which she continued briefly with Bernal at Birkbeck College (1945) and finally at the Cavendish Laboratory and Girton College (1946 until her retirement in 1972).
In 2000, at the age of 93, Helen Megaw received an Honorary Degree of the Queen’s University.
William Hallowes Miller 1801–80
Miller was educated in St. John’s College, Cambridge, where, in 1829, he became a Fellow. In 1839 he published A Treatise on Crystallography, in which he made the fundamental assertion that crystallographic reference axes should be parallel to possible crystal edges. His system of indexing was based on a ‘parametral’ plane making intercepts a, b and c on such axes [i.e. (111)]; a plane making intercepts , and was assigned the (integral) indices (hkl). Although the algebraic advantages of this system were immediately apparent to his contemporaries (and were quickly adopted), their full significance was not fully appreciated until Bragg’s and Ewald’s interpretation of X-ray diffraction.
Franz Ernst Neumann 1798–1895
Neumann was born in Joachimsthal (now Jáchymov in the Czech Republic) and was brought up by his grandparents (his mother, a divorced Countess, being unable to marry his father who was from a lower social class). He showed an early aptitude for mathematics and attended the Berlin Gymnasium after which, at the age of 16, he volunteered to serve in the Prussian Army. He was wounded in the Battle of Ligny (the forerunner to Waterloo) in 1815.
Neumann’s contributions to mineralogy and crystallography, which represent a relatively small part of his life’s work, arose through his collaboration with his friend and mentor C. S. Weiss. He introduced and developed the stereographic projection in the study of crystals and extended Weiss’ work on zones in publications of 1823 and 1830. He was appointed curator of the Mineral Cabinet at the University of Berlin in 1823.
Although throughout his long life Neumann made many original contributions to optics, heat and electrodynamics (for which he was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in 1887), he was chiefly remembered by his contemporaries as an inspiring teacher. He was also a firm Prussian patriot and supported Bismarck’s policy for the unification of Germany.
Isaac Newton 1642–1727
‘Nature was to him an open book, whose letters he could read without effort.’
A. Einstein. Foreword to Newton’s Opticks
Isaac Newton was born, a premature and posthumous child, at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. He was educated at the King’s School, Grantham, and was admitted (p.434) to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1661. It is while he was an undergraduate that he seems to have made his first acquaintance with optics; he read the works of Kepler and Descartes and from about 1663 was involved in the construction and performance of telescopes and the observation of lunar crowns and haloes. In the summer of 1665 he went home to Woolsthorpe Manor to escape the plague and remained there until April 1667, except for a three-month visit to Cambridge from March 1666. It was during this time that Newton says of himself ‘I was in the prime of my age for invention and minded Mathematicks and Philosophy more than at any time since.’ These two years of intellectual achievement—the formulation of the binomial theorem and the differential and integral calculus, the theory of colours and of universal gravitational attraction—together with the two years (1685–86) during which he composed the Principia, have never been surpassed.
Newton’s first paper to the Royal Society (published in 1672), in which he showed that ordinary white light is a mixture of rays of every variety of colour, received such a hostile reception from Robert Hooke that it made Newton cautious of publishing his work; the Principia or the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy itself was not published until 1687 and then largely due to the encouragement of Edmund Halley. It immediately brought to Newton enormous prestige, a place in society and public affairs but thereafter little more science.
The Opticks was not published until 1704, a year after the death of Robert Hooke, Newton’s most pertinacious antagonist. Further editions came out in 1717, 1721 and 1730, the last being ‘corrected by the Author’s own hand’. In this great work Newton states that his ‘design in this book is not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypothesis but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments’. However, there are many comments suggestive of a deeper penetration into the nature of light than exact knowledge could then achieve, including the notion of interference, for in attempting to explain the colours of thin films Newton describes the passage of light as being made up of ‘alternate fits of easy Reflection and easy Transmission’.
The greatest interest in the Opticks lies in the Queries, in which Newton speculates on the nature of light. The question form may have been used to allay criticism that he was departing from his dictum ‘hypotheses non fingo’ (I frame no hypotheses), but all are couched in the negative ‘Do not Bodies act upon Light at a distance?’ A negatively phrased question suggests or implies a positive answer; ‘do not bodies act upon light at a distance?’ Is not Newton implying that the answer must be in the affirmative?
Shoji Nishikawa 1884–1952
Nishikawa was born in Hachioji near Tokyo where his father was a prosperous and well-established merchant of silk textiles. However, he was brought up and educated in Tokyo itself, entering the Faculty of Science at Tokyo University and completing the undergraduate degree course in Physics in 1910. As a young man he was shy and modest (personal characteristics which were to remain with him for most of his life), but of his scientific ability there was no doubt. It was therefore a natural progression for (p.435) him to continue at the University as a postgraduate student where he commenced a research project in the area of radioactivity. His change of direction into the area of X-ray crystallography arose from a visit, either by chance, or perhaps in view of his scientific insight, to the laboratory of Torahiko Terada in 1913. Terada, like the Braggs in England, on hearing the news of the discovery of X-ray diffraction by Laue, Friedrich and Knipping, immediately began experiments on single crystals of rock-salt and other minerals. His unique contribution at the time was to visually record the movements, as the crystal was rotated, of the diffraction spots on a fluorescent screen which he interpreted (like W. L. Bragg) as arising from reflections from the crystal planes. There can be little doubt that he arrived at this conclusion independently since it appears unlikely, given the problems of communication with Japan, that he would have known of W. L Bragg’s November 1912 Cambridge Philosophical Society paper in which the Bragg law in the embryonic form was first announced (θ being the complement of the θ angle subsequently used). In the event Nishikawa, encouraged by Terada, commenced X-ray diffraction studies, principally on fibrous materials, asbestos and gypsum, and published the earliest X-ray fibre patterns. This work was extended to lamellar materials, talc and mica, thin sheets of rolled and annealed metals and finely-powdered materials, rock-salt, quartz and corundum. Again, independently of W. L. Bragg, he determined the crystal structure of spinel in 1915.
In 1917 the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research of the University of Tokyo was established, one of the first acts of which was to send Nishikawa first to join R. W. G. Wykoff at Cornell University and then, after the end of the war, to join W. H. Bragg at University College, London. On his return to Tokyo in 1920 he organized, and led, the Nishikawa Laboratory, the work of which was seriously interrupted by an earthquake in 1923.
In 1924 Nishikawa married Kiku Ayai, was appointed Professor of Physics and gave largely inaudible (but otherwise excellent) lectures to undergraduates. As with Terada it might be said that he suffered from the then lack of communication from abroad; he was forced to abandon his nearly completed structural analysis on aragonite and α-quartz on finding that W. L. Bragg (1924) and W. H. Bragg and R. E. Gibbs (1925), respectively, had already solved these structures. However, following the discovery of electron diffraction in 1927 by G. P. Thomson and A. Reid in England and Davisson and Germer in the USA, he was instrumental in his guidance to his pupil, Seishi Kikuchi, in the discovery of what are now known as Kikuchi lines. Nishikawa’s last statesmanlike act, long after his retirement, was to secure for Japan membership of the International Union of Crystallography.
Louis Pasteur 1822–95
Pasteur is perhaps best remembered for his work in microbiology and immunology and, in particular, the practical applications—the discovery of vaccines, the treatments for rabies and anthrax, silkworm disease, etc. His work in crystallography was confined to the early years of his scientific career. Beginning in about 1847 (shortly after completing his dissertation in physics), he began a series of investigations into the relations between (p.436) optical activity, crystalline structure and chemical composition in organic compounds. His guiding principle was that optical activity was somehow associated with life; that whereas enantiomorphic crystals or molecules produced in the laboratory, or of mineral origin, occurred in equal quantities of left- and right-handed forms, those of organic origin—from plants or animals—were always of one form. The origin of life it seemed was bound up with an original asymmetric chemical synthesis. Hence Pasteur believed that molecular asymmetry was an essential characteristic of the chemistry (and biology) of life.
Pasteur’s demonstration that the optically inactive (or racemic) paratartaric acid was composed of equal amounts of two optically active forms of opposite senses was made on crystals of sodium-ammonium paratartrate. In using these, and in separating out the two forms, he was perhaps fortunate, as in no other compounds is the relationship between crystal structure and molecular asymmetry so straightforward; also, the distinctive ‘hemihedral’ crystalline forms of these compounds occur only under certain conditions of crystallization. From this he was led to study asparagine and its derivatives (aspartic acid and the aspartates, malic acid and the malates).
Arthur Lindo Patterson 1902–1966
Patterson was born in Nelson, New Zealand (also the birthplace of Ernest Rutherford). His family emigrated to Canada and he spent his boyhood partly in Montreal and partly in England where he ‘received a very sound education at Tonbridge School’. On his return to Canada he enrolled for a physics degree at McGill University (still ‘haunted’ by Rutherford who had left McGill in 1907)—but in 1923 became a casualty of the British/Colonial ‘one-shot’ degree classification system—he was placed in the second class (BSc Honours). How (he later recalled) ‘might I live this down’. But the system works (or worked) both ways: Patterson’s evident ability, and personal recommendations, led in 1924 to the award of a two-year McGill Travelling Fellowship. He was accepted to work under W.H. Bragg in the Davy–Faraday Laboratory at the Royal Institution where he made his own X-ray apparatus—the DC current interrupters for which ‘wailed like banshees on the lab roof’ (and occasionally blew up)—and worked on space groups with, among others, William Astbury and Kathleen Yardley. He then spent a year, under a Canadian National Research Council Fellowship, at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Berlin where the excitement of each week was the Physical Colloquium with Laue as Chairman and Planck, Einstein, and Nernst sitting on the front row! He worked on the determination of the particle size in cellulose by X-ray diffraction techniques and on the theory of particle size broadening. But more important, here began his ‘obsession with the notion that something had to be learned about structural analysis from Fourier theory’.
In 1927, Patterson returned to McGill to complete his PhD and then took a succession of research posts in the United States, in particular the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he met the mathematician, Norbert Weiner and through whose influence was born in 1934 the Patterson function—which Patterson himself modestly referred to as the ‘F2 series’. It was and still is, a most important tool in crystal structure (p.437) determination, although its full practical implementation in summing the Fourier series took many years of development.
From 1936 to 1949 Patterson joined the faculty at Bryn Mawr Women’s College in Philadelphia—an Institution remarkable for its tradition that the faculty, and not the administration, governed its research and teaching programmes. Finally he left Bryn Mawr in 1949 to start an X-ray structure analysis group at the Institute of Cancer Research in Philadelphia.
Lindo Patterson was remembered by his contemporaries as a man who ‘possessed the rare combination of a keen mind, a lively humour, and a gentle disposition’. His sudden death from a brain haemorrhage was a great loss to the wider crystallographic community.
Linus Carl Pauling 1901–1994
Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon, USA. His childhood, following the death of his father, was a difficult one, but he was encouraged by an early school teacher, Pauline Geballe, who recognized his clearly emerging scientific abilities. Years afterwards, as the recipient of two Nobel prizes, he revisited, at a school reunion, his old teacher who had been such an influence on him.
After graduating from Oregon Agricultural College with high honours, Pauling enrolled not in one of the well-established ‘Ivy League’ Universities of the USA but in the fledgling California Institute of Technology at Pasadena: ‘Caltech’ was to be Pauling’s Alma Mater for another forty years. His advisor was Roscoe Dickinson who had introduced X-ray diffraction techniques from England and Pauling determined the structures of microcline and labradorite, gaining his PhD degree in 1925. Thence the nature of the chemical bond dominated his interest: he realized early on that the newly emerging field of quantum mechanics was relevant to the problems with which he was concerned. From 1926 Pauling made extended visits to Europe to make contact with the leading figures of European science: Arnold Sommerfeld in Munich, Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and W.L. Bragg in Manchester. It was during this time that he developed his ‘rules’ for the solution of crystal structures, first enunciated in a paper of 1928 and which were eventually to be encapsulated in his great book The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals, which was first published in 1939. Pauling’s presentation of his rules, as solely the fruit of his own chemical insight, was the source of friction with W.L. Bragg whose analyses of the structures of minerals, silicates in particular, involved, in effect, an application of the first three rules and whose work and contribution received scant acknowledgement. It was not the only such occasion: Pauling’s undoubted brilliance (and perhaps his own feeling of superiority and/or lack of recognition of the contributions of others) led to difficult relations with many of his fellow scientists.
In 1932, armed with the first of a series of large grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Pauling abandoned the analysis of inorganic compounds and entered the field of biology and medicine—a major phase in his life’s work that was ultimately to lead to the ‘α-helix’ model for the structure of proteins. Pauling’s initial work was on haemoglobin and led, from 1936, to his long collaboration with Robert Corey.
(p.438) During the war years 1940–1945, Pauling virtually abandoned scientific work and became involved with political and social issues which initially stemmed from his outrage at the treatment of Japanese-American citizens and the vilification of his doctor—an outspoken communist whose treatment in 1941 for a serious illness certainly saved Pauling’s life. After the war, Pauling became a strong supporter of the Peace Movement, an advocate of rapprochement with the Soviet Union and an opposer of nuclear weapons, activities which during the McCarthy era stigmatized him as a security risk and which led to the withdrawal of his passport in 1952.
The story of Pauling’s discovery of the α-helix protein structure is a curious one. He recalls that during a visit to Oxford as a visiting Professor in 1948 he was laid up in bed with a bad cold. Sick of reading detective stories he drew pictures of amino-acid molecules on pieces of paper, folding the papers in such a way as to achieve the correct bond angles and then fitting them together to form a helix—a helix with the unexpected property that the successive turns of the helix did not correspond with an integral number of amino acid residues. On his return to Caltech he set a senior fellow, Herman Branson, with the problem of finding possible helical structures and Branson, largely independently, came up with two solutions—the α and γ helices. The discovery of the α-helix was formally announced at a congress in Stockholm in 1951. It did not go down well at first with the English scientists—Astbury, Perutz and Bragg—because it contravened their innate feeling that the turns of the helix should correspond with an integral number of amino acid residues.
In 1952, W. T. Astbury organized a Discussion Meeting on the Structure of Proteins at the Royal Society, to which of course Pauling was invited as a principal speaker. But without a passport, he was unable to attend and a colleague, Edward Hughes, had to deputize on his behalf.
The great opus of Pauling’s scientific work was recognized with the award of his first Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954. His second Nobel Prize, for Peace, was announced on 10th October 1963, the same day as the announcement of the (partial) Test Ban Treaty for which Pauling had campaigned so hard.
William Jackson Pope 1870–1939
Pope’s major scientific work was in the field of organic chemistry. He was educated at Finsbury Technical College and the City and Guilds of London Institute in Kensington; in 1908 he was appointed Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge at the early age of 38. His crystallographic work extends over the period 1906–10 when, in collaboration with W. Barlow, he developed models of crystal structures based on the close-packing of ions or atoms of different sizes—models which were to prove so valuable to the Braggs in their analyses of crystal structures.
Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de L’Isle 1736–90
Rome de L’Isle, the son of a cavalry officer, was born in Gray in France. In 1756 he joined the Royal Corps of Artillery and Engineering and travelled to Pondicherry in (p.439) the French East Indies. When Pondicherry was seized by the English in 1761 he was taken prisoner and transported to China where he remained until 1764 when he returned to France. He first studied mineralogy and in 1767 he was asked to prepare a catalogue of a collection of mineral ‘curiosities’. In doing so he followed the method of Linnaeus (the great Swedish botanist) in emphasising the importance of crystalline form in minera-logical description. In 1772 he published Essai de cristallographie and in 1783 his major work Cristallographie. Here he identified 450 ‘crystalline forms’ and characterized the cube, regular octahedron, parallelepiped, rhomboidal octahedron and dodecahedron. In the course of measuring the angles between the faces of terracotta (clay) crystal models using a contact goniometer, he recognized the constancy of interfacial angles.
Rome de L’ Isles’ great contribution, through his experimental work, was to establish crystallography as the firm basis for the study of minerals although he did not follow (and was critical of) Hauy’s notion of ‘molecules integrantes’.
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen 1845–1923
Röntgen was born in Lennep, a small town near Remscheid in the Rhine province of Germany. His father was a prosperous cloth merchant and both parents came from established Lutheran Rhineland families. When Röntgen was aged three, the family moved to Appeldoorn in Holland. During his boyhood Röntgen showed no special aptitudes and his education was interrupted as a result of being expelled from school for refusing to name a fellow pupil who had been involved in some misdemeanour. He entered Utrecht Technical School (rather than University) in 1862 and then went on to study mechanical engineering at Zurich Polytechnic, gaining the PhD degree in 1869.
By this time Röntgen’s academic ability, and moreover his outstanding practical experimental skills, were evident. In 1871 he became assistant to Professor August Kundt in the University of Würtzburg and moved with him to Strasbourg before being himself appointed in 1879 to the Chair of Physics at the University of Giessen—a post he held until 1888 despite the offer of Chairs at the prestigious Universities of Jena and Utrecht. However, in 1889 he returned to Würtzburg as Professor of Physics: perhaps the atmosphere of that old Bavarian town suited his own reticent personality—for Röntgen shunned all public engagements. He worked almost entirely alone in the laboratory such that there should be no disturbance to his concentration and developed acute powers of observation which undoubtedly led to his discovery of X-rays on 8th November 1895.
Röntgen was experimenting with discharge (cathode ray) tubes and the action of the rays in generating fluorescence in crystals and luminescence in gases—hardly a ‘hot topic’ since such tubes had been developed by William Crookes some twenty years earlier. Röntgen had enclosed the tube in a light-tight cardboard box and noticed that every time the induction coil discharged through the tube, a crystal of barium platinocyanide, lying on a nearby table, gave a flash of fluorescence. Röntgen, ever cautious, did not immediately announce his discovery, but in a feverish bout of work found that the rays (which, not knowing their nature, he called X-rays), originated from where the (p.440) cathode rays fell on the glass walls of the tube; that they were neither refracted, reflected nor diffracted (from optical gratings), were more heavily absorbed by denser elements and blackened photographic plates. On 22nd December he took the famous radiograph of his wife’s hand and on 28th December communicated his observations to the Physical and Medical Society of Würtzburg which he followed up by sending friends and colleagues reprints of his paper as New Year gifts. On 5th January 1896 the news of these amazing rays which could reveal the living skeleton broke around the World and on 15th January, Röntgen received a Royal Summons from the young Kaiser Wilhelm II to demonstrate his discovery at the Royal Palace in Berlin (a summons which, of course, he could not refuse), following which he was immediately awarded the Prussian Order of the Crown, Second Class. Further honours followed. In 1896, jointly with Lenard, he was awarded the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society and in 1901 the first Nobel Prize for Physics; at the presentation ceremony Röntgen declined to give the expected lecture.
Röntgen’s discovery is an example of serendipity in science as well as a testament to his observational and experimental skills. For X-rays were being generated long before 1895. As early as 1879 Crookes complained of fogged photographic plates and Goodspeed and Jennings in Philadelphia in 1890 noted a ‘peculiar’ blackening of photographic plates after a demonstration with a Crookes discharge tube. Finally, we should record that Röntgen’s other great achievement was to detect and measure the (very weak) magnetic effects, predicted by Maxwell’s theory, when a dielectric is moved between charged condenser plates.
Alexei Vasilievich Shubnikov 1887–1970
Shubnikov’s childhood in Moscow was one of great poverty, a family of six children being raised by his mother following the early death of his father. In 1906 Shubnikov attended a ‘popular’ course in crystallography given by G.V. Wulff and following his enrolment in 1908 at the State University, became Wulff’s devoted pupil and assistant. At this time the seeds of the Russian Revolution were already being sown: in 1911 Wulff, Shubnikov and many of the academic staff resigned in protest against the reactionary policy of the Minister (of Education) Lev A. Kasso and transferred to the Shaniavskii People’s University from which Shubnikov graduated in 1912. He was seriously wounded in 1914 and spent the remaining war years on non-combat duty as a chemist, working during his free time on geometrical crystallography and corresponding with Fedorov. In 1918 he returned to the People’s University as Wulff’s assistant but the political circumstances of the time—the isolation from Western Europe and the almost complete lack of equipment—made it impossible to do any serious research work. However, by 1927 the situation had eased and Shubnikov was ‘sent’ to Germany and Norway to gain first hand experience of X-ray analysis and where he met many of the leading figures of German science. He recalls asking Laue to show him the laboratory where he (Laue) investigated crystal structures and being amazed to find that Laue did not have a laboratory at all!
In 1925 Wulff died and Shubnikov took up a position in the Mineralogical Museum of the Soviet Academy of Science in Leningrad where he set up an X-ray diffraction (p.441) facility and also studied piezoelectricity in quartz, work which entailed the full use of his great experimental skills. This work was severely interrupted in 1934 when the government transferred the Academy to Moscow and again in 1941 when the crystallography laboratory was evacuated to the Urals. It was during this time that Shubnikov developed the idea of ‘antisymmetry’ (surely an unsatisfactory and potentially misleading word) which rather means the unification of opposite concepts – plus and minus, black and white, etc., initially an abstract field of crystallography which has later found wide application in the study of magnetic and other properties of crystals.
John William Strutt, third Baron Rayleigh 1842–1919
Like his near contemporary the geologist and microscopist Henry Clifton Sorby, Lord Rayleigh (as he became when he succeeded to his father’s title in 1873) had the leisure and financial resources to devote his life to science. His early life was dogged by ill health; in 1865 he graduated in mathematics at Cambridge and remained there until 1872 when he went to Egypt for a period of convalescence. It was not, however, a period of idleness; he wrote his classic book The Theory of Sound on a houseboat on the Nile.
On his return to England he built his own private laboratory and carried out most of his work there except for a short period (1879–1884) when he was Cavendish Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge.
Rayleigh’s main contributions to science were in optics and acoustics; his work on the scattering of light by small particles led to the explanation of the blue colour of the sky and his work on the density of gases led to the discovery of argon.
Paul Hermann Scherrer 1890–1969
Scherrer was born at St. Gall, Switzerland. During his education his interests moved away from commercial topics towards natural history, first to botany and then to mathematics and physics. In 1913 he entered the University of Göttingen and became a member of Debye’s research group. The stimulus for the investigation of polycrystalline specimens appears to have come from Debye although the construction of the cylindrical camera was due to Scherrer. With it, Debye and Scherrer took the first X-ray powder photographs (of lithium fluoride) in 1915. A very similar method was devised in 1917 by Albert W. Hull at the General Electric Laboratories, USA.
In later years Scherrer was active in the foundation of the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN). He was also prolific teacher and brought to his lectures a considerable element of showmanship.
Arthur Schönflies 1853–1928
Schönflies was born in Landsberg an der Warte, now in Poland. He studied mathematics at Berlin and became successively high school teacher, Associate Professor of Mathematics (at Göttingen), Professor (at Königsberg) and Rector at the University at Frankfurt. He extended the work of Sohncke on periodic discrete groups by taking into (p.442) consideration rotation–reflection and inversion axes of symmetry, adding another 165 to Sohncke’s sixty-five groups. The work was completed in his book Kristall-systeme und Kristallstruktur, published in Leipsig in 1891, a few months after Fedorov’s paper.
William Bradford Shockley 1910–89
William Shockley was born in London to American parents and moved to California (with them) in 1913. He was educated at the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, after war service with the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Warfare Operations Research Group, became a supervisor in the semiconductor research group at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York. There, in 1947, together with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, he discovered the principle of the point contact transistor and then went on to develop the junction transistor. This may be said to be the starting point of the electronic transformation of the latter part of the twentieth century, which was recognized by the award of the Nobel prize for Physics, jointly with Bardeen and Brattain, in 1956.
Shockley then left ‘Bell Labs’ to set up the Shockley Semiconductor Corporation in California and from 1963 became Professor of Engineering at Stanford University.
The latter part of his life was clouded by controversy because of his uncompromisingly held views on dysgenics, i.e. retrogressive evolution through the excessive reproduction of the genetically disadvantaged, and for which, as one example of his increasing isolation, the University of Leeds refused to confirm his nomination for an Honorary Doctorate.
Leonhard Sohncke 1842–97
Sohncke was born in Halle, Germany, where his father was Professor of Mathematics at the University. Like his father he followed an academic career, being appointed to a succession of professorships in physics, firstly at Halle and at the end of his career at the Technische Hochschule in Munich. Sohncke considered the possible arrays of points which have identical environments but not necessarily in the same orientation (as in the definition of Bravais lattices), and arrived at sixty-five of the possible 230 space groups. He published his findings in 1867, while he was professor of Physics at the Technische Hochschule in Karlsruhe, and used cigar-box models by way of illustrations.
Nicolaus Steno (Niels Stensen) 1638–86
Stensen (Steno being the Latinized form of his name) was born in Copenhagen where his father, a goldsmith, kept a shop close to the famous Round Tower. He studied medicine at the University of Copenhagen and carried out anatomical researches in Florence, ultimately being appointed Royal Anatomist in Denmark in 1672.
Stensen combined his medical and anatomical career with an interest in minerals, metals, the refraction of light, telescopes and microscopes which presumably stemmed both from boyhood associations in his father’s shop and also from his later travels in (p.443) Italy where he became acquainted with the works of Kepler and Galileo. He published in Florence in 1669 the Prodromum (i.e. an advance notice) to a treatise on solid bodies naturally enclosed in other solids—a work in which he outlined the principles of geology. This was translated into English by Henry Oldenberg, Secretary of the Royal Society, and re-published in London in 1671. In this work Stensen shows that crystals grow by external deposition on faces already laid down and not (as was then supposed by analogy with plants) by the absorption of fluids and the deposition of material from within. The Law of the Constancy of Interfacial Angles, for which he is best known, is illustrated in just one figure and stated in two sentences. In the latter part of his life Stensen’s strongly held religious beliefs led him to renounce scientific research.
Gustav Heinrich Johann Apollon Tammann 1861–1938
Tammann can be regarded as a pioneer physical metallurgist in the light of his work in metallography and the study of solid-state chemical reactions. He was born in Yamburg (now Kingisepp) in Russia and, after a career as a lecturer at Charlottenburg and Leipzig, was chosen to head the newly formed Institute at Göttingen in 1903. It was here that he began his studies on metallic compounds, the crystal structures and mechanical properties of metals and alloys, and the general problems of the mechanisms of plastic deformation and work hardening in terms of crystallographic slip and crystalline rearrangements. He continued to work on these problems until shortly before his death, applying his ideas at the same time to the flow of ice.
Georgy Fedoseevich Voronoi 1868–1908
Voronoi was born in Zhuravka, Russia, into an academic family—his father was Superintendent (a sort of Government Inspector) of the Gymnasiums in towns in Southern Ukraine. His mathematical ability was apparent from an early age; he attended the Gymnasium at Priluka, graduated in mathematics in the University of St. Petersburg in 1889 and was appointed Professor of Pure Mathematics in the University of Warsaw at the early age of 26. Voronoi’s main interests were in the Theory of Numbers, for which he planned a series of memoirs—a series cut short by his early death. It was in the second of these that he established the possible methods of filling n-dimensional Euclidean space with identical non-intersecting convex polyhedra (Voronoi polyhedra or parallelepipeds), all of which possessed contiguous boundaries—an analysis which extended the work of his near contemporary, Fedorov.
James Dewey Watson 1928–
James Watson was born and brought up in Chicago’s south side, the son of parents who, although poor, managed to retain their middle class status throughout the years of the depression. But they loved learning ‘my family had no money but lots of books’, which Watson devoured from an early age, especially science ones ‘full of facts’. His other keen interest was bird-watching with his father, which might have ultimately led to a (p.444) career as an ornithologist. Despite the family circumstances Watson was fortunate in his schooling: from the ages of 5–13 he attended the Horace Mann Grammar School, and then the South Shore High School. During these years the makings of an infant prodigy became evident; in 1942 he was a contestant on a popular radio show called ‘The Quiz Kids’—but only survived three broadcasts on account of his lack of knowledge of Shakespeare and the Old Testament.
At the age of 15, under the enlightened early admissions policy of the President, Robert Hutchins, he enrolled in the University of Chicago to read Zoology. He was, perhaps, not the ideal student: he studiously distained from taking any notes in class and avoided social contacts with his fellow students.
However, in 1945 he came across Erwin Schrödinger’s book ‘What is Life?’ —which inspired him and which, by a remarkable collusion of events, was also inspiring his future joint Nobel Prize winners on the other side of the Atlantic. A final year course in physiological genetics was further instrumental in leading him away from ornithology to genetics and, after graduation in 1947, the award of a scholarship at the University of Indiana at Bloomington. He wasted no time; following a course on viruses given by Salvador Luria, he boldly offered himself as a research student and, despite his inexperience, Luria accepted him to work on bacteriophages. It was a turning point in Watson’s career: membership of Luria’s ‘phage group’ brought him into contact with leading geneticists, most notably Max Delbrück, a refugee from Germany who had studied at Niels Bohr’s laboratory in Copenhagen. Delbrück’s biological work was, in a large part, the inspiration that lay at the root of ‘What is Life?’
Following the PhD in 1950, Watson was awarded a National Research Council grant to study biochemistry in the laboratory of Herman Kalckar in Copenhagen. This move was not a success but did provide him with the opportunity of attending, an International Meeting in Naples at which Maurice Wilkins presented his first X-ray diffraction photographs of DNA. This to Watson was a revelation; clearly X-ray diffraction studies were the way forward. Wilkins’ laboratory was the obvious place to go, but Wilkins shied away. Undeterred, Watson was able, with the backing of Luria and John Kendrew, to transfer his scholarship to Cambridge to work with Francis Crick. Crick and Watson complemented each other extraordinarily well and it was their close collaboration that led to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA in 1953. Thereafter, except for a short period in Cambridge in 1955–1956, their careers diverged. Following a short period as Senior Research Fellow at Caltech, Watson was appointed to the Faculty of the Biology Department at Harvard. To say that he was unpopular, with his tradition-bound colleagues, would be an understatement: he is said to have ‘radiated contempt in all directions’. But set against this must be his achievement in the publication (1965) of The Molecular Biology of the Gene.
Then in 1968 comes the last major epoch in Watson’s career: his appointment as Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), his marriage and the publication of The Double Helix. The reception of this book has been told elsewhere but what is remarkable and what gives the book its great appeal, is that it reads as the story of a young man describing near-contemporary events and not as the recollection of events some 15 years in the past.
(p.445) As Director, and subsequently President, of CSHL, Watson was enormously successful in transforming a minor laboratory into one of world-class significance. He was, of course, crowned with honours—the National Medal for Science, the Copley Medal of the Royal Society and (in 2002) an Honorary KBE from the Queen. But his later years were marred (as with William Shockley) by his views on eugenics, enforcing both his retirement and (in 2007) the cancellation of a UK tour to publicize his book Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science.
Wilhelm Eduard Weber 1804–91
Weber was Professor of Physics at Göttingen from 1831 for most of his professional life and worked in collaboration with Gauss on magnetic phenomena. His main achievements were the introduction of a logical system of units for electricity, related to the fundamental units of mass, length and time and also the connection between electromagnetic phenomena and the velocity of light—a connection which was later thoroughly worked out by Maxwell. Weber was also one of the ‘Göttingen Seven’ who, in 1837, lost their university posts because of their opposition to the autocracy of King Ernst August of Hanover.
Christian Samuel Weiss 1780–1856
After studying medicine at Leipzig, Weiss switched to chemistry and physics, becoming Professor of Physics there in 1808. In 1810 he was appointed Professor of Physics at the newly established and prestigious University of Berlin, a post which he held until his death. Weiss developed the idea of crystal axes, from which he was able to distinguish crystal systems by the ways in which crystal faces were related to such axes. He also formulated the concept of a zone: originally conceived as a direction of prominent crystal growth, the term was defined as a collection of crystal faces parallel to a line—the zone axis; from this concept the zone law was derived.
Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins 1916–2004
Wilkins was born in Pongaroa, New Zealand where his father, a doctor, hoped that the opportunities for the practice of preventive medicine would be so much greater than in his native Dublin. These hopes were not fulfilled and the family returned first to Dublin, then to London and finally settled in Birmingham. Here, in 1929, Wilkins enrolled at the prestigious King Edward’s High School: at home he set up his own workshop, made model aeroplanes and telescopes and his favourite reading matter was ‘The Modern Boy’. In 1935 he won a place at St John’s College, Cambridge, to read physics but graduated with ‘only’ a lower second class degree, which destroyed his expectations for ‘a cloistered college existence’. Perhaps it was a piece of good luck: his tutor, Mark Oliphant, was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham and suggested that Wilkins should join John Randall (later to be the inventor, with Henry Boot, of the cavity magnetron) to carry out research on the luminescence of solids. Thus began (p.446) Wilkins’ lifelong but uneasy association with Randall: they were men of opposed but curiously complementary temperaments. On gaining his PhD, Wilkins joined Oliphant’s atomic physics ‘bomb’ team that included Rudolf Peierls and Otto Frisch, both refugees from Nazi Germany. In 1944 Wilkins moved to Berkeley to take part in the Manhattan project: it was an episode in his career, following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which Wilkins always felt uncomfortable about. However, it was after reading Erwin Schrödinger’s book What is Life? that Wilkins decided that his future lay in the biological and genetic applications of physics: Schrödinger’s notion that a gene was of the nature of an aperiodic crystal attracted him enormously. In fact What is Life? made the same profound impression upon him as his exact contemporary, Francis Crick.
In 1945 Randall was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of St Andrews and invited Wilkins to join him there. But St Andrews could not contain a man of Randall’s ambition and D’Arcy Wentworth Thomson, the most distinguished Professor there, author of On Growth and Form, had little to contribute to the subject of genetics. In 1946 Randall was appointed Head of the Department of Physics at Kings College, London and subsequently Director of the Medical Research Council’s Biophysics Research Unit with Wilkins as his deputy. In both respects Randall was enormously successful; both he and Wilkins built up a strong research team, including a large proportion of women researchers. Wilkins developed polarized light microscope techniques to study DNA but only took up X-ray diffraction studies following the gift of a phial of carefully prepared DNA from Rudolf Signer in Berne. Together with a research student, Raymond Gosling, he obtained sharp diffraction patterns of DNA in the moist state and it was as a result of their initial success that led Randall to appoint Rosalind Franklin to continue the work, with Gosling, on the Signer material. The ensuing unhappy relationship between Franklin and Wilkins; has been the subject of innumerable books and articles: Wilkins’ own biography The Third Man of the Double Helix, published the year before his death, is largely an apologia for this episode in his life.
Following the publication of the historic papers ‘Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids’ in Nature (25 April 1953) and Franklin’s move to Birkbeck College, Wilkins continued to refine the ‘Watson–Crick’ model of DNA and confirmed the essential correctness. Thereafter, his life took on a more tranquil existence: the bouts of depression that had suffered in his student and later days no longer returned, in 1959 he married again, became a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and, as a Nobel Laureate, in 1969, became first President of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science.
Georg (Yuri Viktorovich) Wulff 1863–1925
Georg Wulff (the name he used in his German-language publications) was born in Nezhin in the Ukraine. He published his first papers (on the morphology and physical properties of crystals) in 1883 and 1884 whilst still a student at Warsaw University. In 1907 he was appointed Professor of Crystallography at Moscow University, a post which he held until his death. He proposed what has become known as the Wulff net (p.447) (the stereographic projection of a sphere orientated with the polar ‘north-south’ axis in the plane of projection rather than perpendicular to it) in 1909.
Wulff’s contribution to X-ray crystallography was his demonstration of the geometrical equivalence of Laue’s diffraction and W. L. Bragg’s reflection interpretation of X-ray diffraction. The equation which he derived in 19134 is equivalent to that which W. L. Bragg presented in the previous year;5 in both cases the equation is expressed in the form where ). On this basis some writers link Wulff’s name with Bragg’s—the Bragg-Wulff equation. However, the present form of the equation was first given in a later joint paper by W. H. and W. L. Bragg6 and it was of course the Braggs who made the first great leap forward in crystal structure analysis.
Ralph Walter Graystone Wyckoff 1897–1994
Ralph Wyckoff had a restless career: during his long life he was employed in no less than eleven laboratories in the United States (including periods of unemployment in between). He was born in Geneva in New York State into a family of Dutch migrants who had first arrived in America in 1634. At school, although left-handed, he was forced to write with his right hand, but rather than making him autistic he became ambidextrous that, he recalls, was a great advantage in experimental work. He attended Hobart College and in graduating moved to Cornell University in the hope of fulfilling his boyhood dream of becoming an astronomer. But jobs in astronomy were far and few between. Happily, he came under the influence of Shoji Nishikawa who was then spending two years in the Physics Department and began research in X-ray diffraction, gaining his PhD in 1919. In strong contrast to British crystallographers (who studied single crystals), Wyckoff largely made use of the Laue and powder diffraction techniques. In 1922 he published The Analytical Expression of the Theory of Space Groups—a prelude to the description of the 230 space groups in the International Tables for X-ray Crystallography. Thence, his interests moved towards medical research. At the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research he developed a vaccine against typhus fever and pioneered electron microscope techniques for imaging the influenza virus, work that first led (in 1946) to an appointment at the Institute for Health in Bethesda and then as Scientific Attaché to the American Embassy in London. Wyckoff felt very much ‘at home’ in Europe and found, on his return to Bethesda, that his irregular working habits conflicted with the demands of the bureaucracy there. He resigned in 1960 and ended his career as Professor of Physics at the University of Arizona.
Thomas Young 1773–1829
Young was an infant prodigy who could read at the age of 2 and at the age of 14 knew Latin, Greek, French and Italian, and had begun to study several ancient languages—Hebrew, Chaldean, Syriac and the like—linguistic knowledge that he put to use in his (p.448) contribution to the translation of the text of the Rosetta stone. Young intended to take up a medical career and commenced his education in 1793 at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, moving from there to Edinburgh, Göttingen and Cambridge. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society as early as 1794 for his explanation on how the ciliary muscles of the eye change the shape (and focal length) of the lens.
Young’s great contribution to science was his revival in 1800–04 of Huygens’ wave theory of light, to which he added the concept of interference to explain rectilinear propagation and the diffraction phenomena at single or double slits or pinholes and in which he was closely shadowed by the work of Fresnel in France. In England Young was strongly attacked because he questioned the hegemony of Newton, but his work quickly won acceptance in the USA and Europe. Young was also first to suggest (in a letter to François Arago in 1816) that light might be propagated as a transverse wave, thus accounting for polarization and meeting the main objection of Newton. Regrettably, Young did not live to witness Foucault’s demonstration, in 1850, that the speed of light was less in water than in air—the crucial experiment which distinguished between the corpuscular and wave theories.
Young was also active in many other fields. His name comes down to us through his work on the elastic behaviour of solids as the constant of proportionality (E) in Hooke’s law, called Young’s (or latterly Young) modulus.
(1) In 2013 The University of Leeds co-sponsored a plaque at ‘Whin Brow’, the house in Cloughton where the Braggs’ collaboration began. It was unveiled by Mr Charles Bragg, great grandson of WHB and reads ‘At this house in August 1912, W.H. Bragg, Professor of Physics in the University of Leeds and his son, W.L. Bragg, later Sir William and Sir Lawrence, first discussed M. Laue’s discovery of X-ray diffraction. The Braggs’ collaboration led to the joint award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 and the new science of X-ray crystallography’.
(2) The Bragg Notebook: A Commentary and Interpretation. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/library/spcoll/bragg-notebook/ Written by Christopher Hammond; edited by Diana Joyce, Jane Saunders and Catherine Robson; website designed and developed by Matt Taylor and Tom Grahame.
(3) Yu. T. Struchkov and E. I. Fedin (1993) Alexander Kitaigorodsky his life and scientific activity, Acta Chimica Hungarica 130 (2), 159.
(4) Phys. Zeitschrift (15 Mar. 1913) Vol. 14, p. 217.
(5) Proc. Cam. Phil. Soc. (11 Nov. 1912) Vol. 17, pp. 43–57.
(6) Proc. Roy. Soc. A (17 April 1913) Vol. 88, pp. 428–438.