Welcome to the History Portal of the American Crystallographic Association 

LINK: Meet Structural Scientists LINK: ACA Beginnings LINK: Videos/Audios

LINK: Nobel Prize Winners LINK: Impact of Structural Science LINK: Crystallography in the Americas

Click on Meet Structural Scientists to see the People List. Over 100 crystallographers and structural scientists are featured. 


Latest Additions 


In his Bau Award Lecture Arthur J. Schultz summarizes the history of neutron diffraction at Argonne National Laboratory, beginning with disassembling and moving the original graphite blocks from the first nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago. He describes the development of sources and detectors for single-crystal neutron diffraction, beginning with the proof of principle experiment in 1979. The applications have been very interesting, including Jahn-Teller switching in Tutton salts, organic superconductors, ferroelectrics, transition metal hydrides, and transition metal-hydrogen interactions.


Probably you are award of the series “Molecule of the Month” by David Goodsell, featured on the RCSB-PDB website since 2000. In his 2022 Fankuchen Award lecture, “Art as a Tool for Structural Biology” he emphasizes the importance of visualization in structural science, for understanding, for communication, and for education and outreach. His long-term research work has been to develop a realistic model of a living cell, including the molecules present in greatest abundance in a way that enables researchers and students to see the structures that make life possible.


Joel L. Bernstein’s Living History is now online. He was born in Brooklyn and spent the most of his career in NJ. From 1962-1980 he worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories as a crystallographer. Together, he and Sidney Abrahams designed and built one of the first automatic diffractometers for automated X-ray data collection. (See the historically valuable video contrasting precession camera data collection with the automated instrument here.) Later Joel worked in marketing for several telephone companies. Finally, as an independent consultant his specialty was telecommunications for international companies.  


Joel Bernstein was born in Cleveland but most of his career was at the Department of Chemistry, Ben-Gurian University. There he studied structure-property relationships in organic conducting materials, hydrogen-bonding patterns, crystal engineering, and polymorphism. His book Polymorphism in Molecular Crystals (2002) is a classic in the field. His career is summarized in his obituary, now online.



Carroll K. Johnson received the 1997 Martin Buerger Award from the ACA for his work on thermal ellipsoid analysis and his well-known computer program ORTEP (Oak Ridge Thermal-Ellipsoid Plot Program). ORTEP enabled crystallographers to display a crystal structure in three dimensions and to show the extent of thermal vibration of the atoms. A beautiful video remembering his career and his lively personality is now online here.



John Westbrook’s work as a data specialist has benefitted crystallography in important ways. He was instrumental in designing mmCIF, a specification for bimolecular X-ray data submissions so that the records are uniform and readable. The dictionary he developed was used first for the Nucleic Acid Database and now forms the basis for the database at the Protein Data Bank. John's recent work extended the dictionary to encompass NMR, cryo-electron microscopy, and XFEL. Through his efforts users of the PDB have access to a wealth of structural experimental data. His obituary is now online here.


Videos of the 2021 Transactions of the ACA are now online. The two days of excellent presentations celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Protein Data Bank and included both laboratory and computational research achievements related to the PDB. As part of the Symposium, the Plenary Lecture was given by Frances H. Arnold, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry. She described her ground-breaking mutation experiments to direct the evolution of proteins in vitro to catalyze new reactions.


The ACA History Project showcases and preserves the history of crystallography, X-ray diffraction, and structural science through online access, articles in ACA RefleXions quarterly magazine, and videos to our YouTube channel. 

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