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 

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 lepapeite 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 2021 Etter Award recognized Julia V. Zaikina’s success in designing, synthesizing and characterizing the structure and properties of new ternary compounds of alkali halides. The video of her lecture, "How to discover new solids containing alkali metals: predictive screening, facile synthesis, and in situ studies” is now online. Her approach combines computational methods, high-temperature powder diffraction, and alkali metal hydrides as precursors.
The first oral treatment for COVID-19, the protease inhibitor Paxlovid  (Nirmatrelvir), was developed by Pfizer scientists in collaboration with crystallographers at APS (Advanced Photon Source), Argonne National Laboratory. The FDA has approved Paxlovid for emergency use. The structure of Paxlovid bound to the protease was determined at the IMCA-CAT beamline at the APS. The beamline is operated by the HWI (Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute). ACA members Lisa Keefe, Ann Mulichak, Erica Duguid and Jesse Yoder are mentioned as contributors. (See more articles on the Impact of Structural Science here.)  

The Protein Data Bank celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 with more than 170,000 molecular structures available online. Here is a video for general audiences describing the history of the PDB as well as the scientific techniques (X-ray crystallography, NMR, 3D electron microscopy) that enable us to visualize proteins and DNA in three dimensions. This video is a good introduction for students and non-scientists who want to understand why this database is such a valuable resource for structural biology — the PDB makes available crucial information for therapeutics and vaccines.

See also journal collections and articles celebrating the 50th anniversary with highlights from the past and a preview of the future in structural biology. Scroll down on this page to see other materials like playing cards designed by David Goodsell with a structural theme.

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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