History of the American Crystallographic Association


Elizabeth Wood

Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ

William Parrish

Philips Laboratories, Irvington-on-Hudson, NY

Reprinted from Norelco Reporter4, 48, 1957


The need for a society dealing exclusively with crystallography was apparent in the U.S.A. for several years. Crystallographers presented papers at the Mineralogical Society of America, American Physical Society, American Chemical Society and other large national societies, but there was little opportunity to discuss papers of special crystallographic interest in a large meeting of mineralogists, physicists, or others. In the late thirties there were many informal discussions among crystallographers concerning the desirability of forming either a separate crystallographic society, or a new division of some existing society. At a Conference on X-ray Diffraction, sponsored by the Section of Physics and Chemistry of the New York Academy of Sciences, held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, January 10 and 11, 1941, the matter was discussed extensively by the crystallographers present. The National Research Council Committee on X-ray and Electron Diffraction was then asked to consider the matter.


Questionnaires were sent to U.S.A. and Canadian crystallographers asking them to vote on the questions of (a) advisability of forming a crystallographic society, and (b) selection of a name for the society. Eighty-seven were in favor and 27 were against the formation of a new society. The voting for the names resulted in the selection of "American Society for X-ray and Electron Diffraction" — the ASXRED. Other names considered were Structure Research Society, American Society for Structure Research, and American Society for Molecular and Crystal Structure Research. It is noteworthy that all these names placed emphasis on structureanalysis, and consequently another group of crystallographers who were interested in other phases of crystallography as well as structures soon formed a separate society, which will be described later.


Membership forms and ballots for the election of officers were mailed; 134 returned the completed forms by June 16. 1941, and were listed as charter members. The first officers were M. L. Huggins, president; B. E. Warren, vice-president; C. Tunell, secretary-treasurer. ASXRED became an affiliated society of the American Institute of Physics in 1941, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1942.


The first meeting of ASXRED was held at Gibson Island, Maryland, July 28 to August 4, 1941, and was attended by about 75, mostly charter members. This meeting was one of several research conferences sponsored by the Chemistry Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A complete list of meeting places is appended.


The Crystallographic Society was formally organized in 1945, and changed its name to Crystallographic Society of America in 1947. It had as its objective the promotion of all fields of crystallography rather than the emphasis on structure analysis adopted by ASXRED. The first officers were: M. J. Buerger, president; W. Parrish, secretary-treasurer. The first meeting was held at Smith College, March 21-23, 19146. Abstracts of papers presented at the meetings were published in American Mineralogist. The Society grew to about 250 members, about one-half the size of ASXRED.


As both Societies grew, the ASXRED listed an increasing number of non-structure papers at its meetings, and CSA an increasing number of structure papers. Since each Society had a large number of members who belonged to both Societies, many members thought that it would be desirable to amalgamate and form one really strong national crystallographic society. A great deal of time was spent working out the amalgamation. Several members of ASXRED and CSA were invited to a luncheon at the time of the First Congress of the International Union of Crystallography at Harvard, August 1948, to discuss the idea. A committee consisting of M. J. Buerger, Fankuchen. Pabst, Parrish and Wood met at MIT to discuss the problem in greater detail and preliminary plans were prepared for the councils of both Societies. In October 1948, J. D. H. Donnay, Fankuchen, Parrish, Patterson and Wood met and prepared the proposal for dissolution of the existing societies and formation of a single new society. This proposal was sent to the entire memberships of both Societies on November 30, 1948. The proposals for amalgamation were discussed at stormy business meetings of the ASXRED on December 17, 1948, and of CSA on April 8, 1949.


Ballots for voting on the proposal, a constitution and a questionnaire relating to meetings, publications, procedures, and a membership application form were distributed to the memberships on September 6, 1949. Of the combined memberships, 472 voted for and 40 against the proposal for a new Society. Two hundred and twenty-nine favored the name American Crystallographic Association and 157 voted for American Society for Crystallography and Diffraction Analysis.


On January 1, 1950, the ASXRED and CSA ceased to exist and ACA was born. Nearly 500 were listed as charter members of the ACA, and the first officers were I. Fankuchen, president; R. W. G. Wyckoff, vice-president: H. T. Evans, Jr., secretary and J. Karle, treasurer. The first meeting was held at The Pennsylvania State College, April 10-12, l950, and was a memorable occasion. Nearly a dozen distinguished crystallographers from Europe were present at a special conference called by Prof. Pepinsky on Computing Methods and the Phase Problem. They presented papers at the ACA meeting and the Pepinsky X-RAC computer was demonstrated. Thus the two societies were merged into a single vigorous new society which has continued to grow since its founding.


The problem of publishing crystallographic papers was discussed at many of the early meetings. The ASXRED considered the desirability of distributing reprints of its members' papers to the entire Society. The CSA made a study of the feasibility of beginning a new Journal of Crystallography to replace the Zeitschrift fur Kristallographie which was no longer available. None of these plans materialized and fortunately Acta Crystallographica appeared shortly after the war.


As a bibliographic service, the section on the Structure of Matter of the Bulletin Signalétique of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique is regularly distributed to all members, following the precedent of the bibliographic service initiated by the ASXRED. The ASXRED bibliography, being a voluntary effort by the members, was necessarily less complete and less frequently distributed than the bibliography of the CNRS.


The ASXRED published two Monographs, supported by industrial firms producing diffraction equipment. The first was "The Photography of the reciprocal Lattice" by M. J. Buerger, published in 1944; the second, "Fourier Transforms and Structure Factors" by Dorothy Wrinch, published in 1946. One CSA "Memoir" was published in September, 1949, by private funds loaned by some of the members. This was a translation of "On the Systems Formed by Points Regularly Distributed on a Plane or in Space" by A. Bravais, done by Amos J. Shaler. Continuing the ASXRED monograph series, the ACA published in 1953 Monograph No. 3 "Solution of the Phase Problem, I. The Centrosymmetric Crystal" by H. Hauptman and J. Karle.  The funds for its publication came from the Monograph Fund inherited from ASXRED.  The sale of all of these publications has now been placed in the hands of the Polycrystal Book Service, Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Brooklyn 2, N. Y.


It has been the policy of the ACA to support the publications efforts of the International Union of Crystallography rather than to initiate independent publication. This support took on very tangible form in 1954 when the members of ACA voluntarily assessed themselves three dollars per person annually in addition to the regular dues to aid the publications program of the Union, which was having financial difficulties. Approximately two thousand dollars annually was thus made available to the Union for publications, without restrictions. When the Union subsequently informed the ACA that this subsidy was no longer needed, the regulation requiring the extra assessment was repealed.


A newsletter concerning matters of general interest is sent to all ACA members at irregular intervals. From time to time the Association undertakes special publications considered to be of use to its members. For example, a "List of Compilation of Crystallographic Data," compiled by the Crystallographic Data Committee, was sent to the membership in 1953, and in 1956 there was distributed an "Index of Products and Suppliers for Crystallographic, X-ray Diffraction, Electron Diffraction and Associated Studies," compiled by the Apparatus and Standards Committee.


With the exception of the June 1955 meeting at Pasadena, California, and the 1947 meeting in Canada, all the meetings have been held in the eastern U.S., with an occasional meeting only as far west as Chicago. This lack of geographic spread in meeting places arises from tbe fact that the largest percentage of the members are concentrated in northeastern U.S.


Some comments on the change of character of the meetings seem appropriate. The present day meetings are attended by 200-300 people and a large number of short specialized papers are presented. Longer general papers by invited speakers are not frequent. This situation may be contrasted with the early meetings at Gibson Island, when the attendance was much smaller. Only a few invited long papers were scheduled. There was time for thorough discussion in which many of our more advanced crystallographers took part, thereby making it possible for the less advanced to learn a great deal about the theory and technique that were developing rapidly and not yet available in print. There is little doubt that these early inspiring meetings played an important role in the development of modern crystallography in the U.S.A.


Scientists from other societies who attend our meetings often comment on the friendliness and mutual helpfulness of crystallographers. This good spirit became a tradition in the earlier days when the Society was small, and it is hoped that it will he continued. Practical jokes were not ruled out. For example, the supplement to the program and abstracts of the 1953 meeting at University of Michigan contained many puzzling papers. Careful study showed the author, Regreub Nitram to be the mirror image of one Martin Buerger and the "emptiness function" in crystal structure analysis to be nothing more than one of the simple mathematical theorems of G. Willikers.


Appended to this article is a list of presidents of the ASXRED, the CSA and the ACA. The constitution of ACA requires that no president shall serve more than one full term and that former presidents of ASXRED and CSA who served a full term shall be ineligible for election.

The ACA has no permanent headquarters and no regular publication. Its files are transferred from one secretary to the next and the organization for whom they work usually gladly assumes many of the secretarial expenses.











M. L. Huggins



I. Fankuchen


B. E. Warren



R. W. G. Wyckoff


M. J. Buerger



P. P. Ewald


L. H. Germer



L. O. Brockway


W. H. Zachariasen

M. J. Buerger*        


E. W. Hughes


D. Harker

M. J. Buerger


W. N. Lipscomb


C. S. Barrett

J. W. Gruner


J. D. H. Donnay


A. L. Patterson

A. Pabst




P. Debye

A. Pabst



*Served less than full term.




Meetings, 1941-1956



1941    July 28-August 4        Gibson Island, Maryland

            December 30-31          Joint meeting with Mineralogical Society of America, Boston, Mass.


1942    July 27-August 31     Gibson Island, Maryland


1943    January 23                 Joint meeting with American Physical Society, Columbia Univ., New York, N. Y.

            June 7-11                   Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.


1944    August 21-25              Gibson Island, Maryland


1945    October 1-4                Lake Geneva, Wisconsin[i]


1946    June 10-14                 Lake George, N. Y.

            December 5-7              Joint meeting with Electron Microscope Soc., Pittsburgh, Pa.


1947    June 23-26                 Ste. Marguerite, Quebec, Canada[ii]


1948    March 31-April 3       Joint meeting with. C.S.A. at Yale Univ., New Haven, Conn.[iii]

            December 16-18          Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio[iv]


1949    June 23-25                 Cornell Univ., Ithaca, N. Y.

            December 1-3              Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa.





1946    March 21-23               Smith College, Northampton. Mass. See AmMineral31, 508 (1946)


1947    March 19-21               U.S. Naval Academy Postgraduate School, Annapolis, Md. See Am. Mineral.32, 684 (1947)


1948    March 31-April 3       Joint meeting with ASXRED at Yale Univ., New Haven, Conn. See Am. Mineral. 33, 749 (1948)


1949    April 7-9                    Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.[v] See Am. Mineral35, 122 (l950)





1950    April 10-12                Penn. State College, State College, Pa.[vi]

            August 21-26              New Hampton, N. H.[vii]


1951    February 15-17           National Bureau of Standards, Washington, D. C.[viii]

            October 24-26             Hotels Sherman and Morrison, Chicago, Ill.


1952    June 16-20                 Camp Tamiment, Tamiment, Pa.[ix]


1953    June 22-26                 Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.


1954    April 5-9                    Harvard Univ., Cambridge, Mass.

            November 3-5             Joint meeting with Pittsburgh Diffraction Conference, Pittsburgh, Pa.


1955    April 11-13                Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, Brooklyn, N. Y.[x]

            June 27-July 2            California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.


1956    June 10-15                 French Lick, Indiana[xi]


1957    Fall                             Joint meeting to be held with Pittsburgh Diffraction Conference, Pittsburgh, Pa.



[i] Symposium on apparatus, experimental techniques and gadgets.

[ii] Symposium on Geiger counters in X-ray diffraction apparatus (design, chemical analysis, applications to metals and intensity measurements).

[iii] Symposium on organic structures (computational methods and organic structure determination).

[iv] Symposium on identification of materials by crystallographic means.

[v] Symposium on twinning.

[vi] Computer and phase determination conference.

[vii] Full day program of invited papers on solid state physics.

[viii] Symposium on structure methods. Fiftieth anniversary of the founding of National Bureau of Standards.

[ix] Three symposia: proteins, small angle scattering, twinning and related topics.

[x] Invited long papers on X-ray analytical technique. Centenary of Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

[xi] Symposium marking the l0th anniversary of neutron diffraction