Crystallography timeline

Explore the history of one of the greatest innovations of the twentieth century.


Explore the history of crystallography

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    physics, crystallography

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Crystallography at the Ri

In 1912-13, following early work by Max von Laue, William Henry Bragg, with his son Lawrence, worked out how to determine the structure of crystals using X-ray diffraction patterns in 1912-13. The pair were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 and Lawrence Bragg remains the youngest ever winner. 

William Henry Bragg took over the Directorship of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory (DFRL) at the Ri in 1923, upon the death of James Dewar. Dewar had refused to retire and by the time he died the laboratory had almost ceased to function. This left effectively a blank canvas for Bragg to work with and he used the opportunity to build up the world's leading X-ray crystallography laboratory, modernising both the structure of the team and the laboratories themselves.

At the Ri he built up a formidable team of crystallographers who went on to make significant contributions to the subject in their own right and to teach others.  

Bragg's students included Kathleen Lonsdale, Dorothy Hodgkin and J.D. Bernal. Lonsdale's work was particularly significant to the Ri as in 1925 she determined the structure of Benzene, a century after Michael Faraday had identified it as a substance.

Watch: Celebrating Crystallography

Watch: The Humble Braggs

The Crystallography Collection

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