In 2013 it will be 100 years since the pioneering work undertaken by William Henry Bragg and his son, William Lawrence Bragg, which underpins the discipline of X-ray crystallography, and for which they were jointly awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915. By formulating the relationship between a crystal’s atomic structure and its X-ray diffraction pattern they provided a tool which has revolutionised our understanding of the structure of matter ranging from minerals, pharmaceutical materials, and catalysts to DNA, proteins and viruses.
William H. Bragg held the Chair of Physics at Leeds University from 1909. Lawrence studied at Trinity College Cambridge for an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences, graduating in 1912. It was in 1912 that Max von Laue and co-workers discovered that when X-rays were shone through a crystal of copper sulphate, the crystal acted like a grating and produced a diffraction pattern that could be measured on photographic film.
After discussing von Laue’s work with his father, Lawrence Bragg derived a formula which provides an elegant and powerful description of diffraction from crystalline materials and presented his findings at the November 1912 meeting of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. The work was published in the proceedings of the society in 1913.
The Braggs used the formula (known today as Bragg’s law) to determine the very first crystal structures from their diffraction patterns (including sodium chloride, zinc sulphide and diamond). Lawrence Bragg was only 25 when he was awared the Nobel prize, making him the youngest ever Laureate.
This online copy of the 1915 textbook X rays and Crystal Structure by W.H. and W.L. Bragg, reveals the excitement and rapid pace of developments in X-ray Crystallography theory and instrumentation in the first few years following its discovery.
A number of organisations, including the BCA, are marking the centenary of the discovery of Bragg’s law with a variety of events around the UK and elsewhere. The aim of these pages is to collate the details of various activities and to present them in a single location. Although the events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by the BCA, we hope that you find the information useful and through attending might discover more about this important crystallographic milestone.
Similarly, if you are planning events that you feel might be included on these pages then please email us the details for consideration.