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Early Days of X-ray Crystallography$
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André Authier

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199659845

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199659845.001.0001

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1912: The Discovery Of X‐Ray Diffraction and the Birth of X‐Ray Analysis

1912: The Discovery Of X‐Ray Diffraction and the Birth of X‐Ray Analysis

(p.83) 6 1912: The Discovery Of X‐Ray Diffraction and the Birth of X‐Ray Analysis
Early Days of X-ray Crystallography

André Authier

Oxford University Press

This chapter tells the story of the discovery of X-ray diffraction and of its immediate aftermath. The scene is set in Munich, with the institutes of Groth, Röntgen, and Sommerfeld. The story starts with Ewald’s thesis. Ewald’s answer to a question by Laue sparked Laue’s intuition: crystals are three-dimensional gratings that should diffract X-rays whose short wavelengths are of the same order as interatomic distances. The experiment was made by Friedrich and Knipping against the will of Sommerfeld. Although based on false premises, it was successful, and Laue’s partially incorrect interpretation led to the geometrical theory of X-ray diffraction. The way the news reached W. H. Bragg is recounted, as well as his first reactions and his exchange of letters with Laue. The discovery spurred the introduction of the reciprocal lattice by Ewald and the interpretation of Laue’s experiment by W. H. Bragg’s son, Lawrence (Bragg’s law). The chapter ends with a discussion of the controversy between Forman and Ewald as to the way the history of the discovery was told by its discoverers.

Keywords:   Bragg, Bragg’s law, discovery of X-ray diffraction, Ewald, Friedrich, Knipping, Laue diagrams, Laue, Sommerfeld

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