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 

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 oral interview with Bill Duax, former CEO of ACA 1986-2019, begins with highlights of his early life growing up in Illinois in a family of beekeepers. His research at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI) emphasized the structure of steroids and patterns of steroid interactions with receptors. Over more than 30 years he oversaw the substantial changes in our professional organization while conducting research at HWI. He closes with a summary of his current activities. Altogether, a fascinating insight into the achievements and personality of one who has made a huge contribution to the ACA.


Elizabeth (Betty) Wood is described by Margaret Schott in her video lecture at the Morven Museum & Garden as a “Renaissance woman.” She was the first woman scientist at Bell Labs. Trained as a geologist, she collaborated with Bell scientists in the study of quartz crystals and other piezoelectric materials. She was president of the ACA in 1957. She authored several books, including Crystals and Light: An Introduction to Optical Crystallography, and Science from Your Airplane Window.


Rosalind Franklin is famous for Photograph 51, the diffraction pattern that showed the double helical geometry of DNA. But did you know that Franklin also did ground-breaking work with carbon and viruses? The six videos from the outstanding ACA session “Tribute to Rosalind Franklin 101 years on: her pivotal research on coal, DNA and viruses” give a comprehensive summary of Franklin’s career in all three areas.


The Canadian crystallographer Yvon Le Page developed the program MISSYM, which identifies the symmetry of a structure model, enabling the correct solution of complex mineral structures. The mineral lepageite is named in his honor.



Curious about the background to the first ever diffraction photograph of a crystal, produced by Walter Friedrich and Paul Knipping? (Spoiler: They didn’t really think it would work.) Here is a brief history and then an interview with Friedrich himself.


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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