Tables for
Volume F
Crystallography of biological macromolecules
Edited by E. Arnold, D. M. Himmel and M. G. Rossmann

International Tables for Crystallography (2012). Vol. F, ch. 1.2, p. 5   | 1 | 2 |

Section 1.2.1. Introduction

M. G. Rossmanna*

aDepartment of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907–1392, USA
Correspondence e-mail:

1.2.1. Introduction

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Crystallography ranks with astronomy as one of the oldest sciences. Crystals, in the form of precious stones and common minerals, have attractive properties on account of their symmetry and their refractive and reflective properties, which result in the undefinable quality called beauty. Natural philosophers have long pondered the unusual properties seen in the discontinuous surface morphologies of crystals. Hooke (1665[link]) and Huygens (1690[link]) came close to grasping the way repeating objects create discrete crystal faces with reproducible interfacial angles. The symmetry of mineral crystals was explored systematically in the 18th and 19th centuries by measuring the angles between crystal faces, leading to the classification into symmetry systems from triclinic to cubic and the construction of symmetry tables (Schoenflies, 1891[link]; Hilton, 1903[link]; Astbury et al., 1935[link]) – the predecessors of today's International Tables.


Astbury, W. T., Mauguin, C., Hermann, C., Niggli, P., Brandenberger, E. & Lonsdale-Yardley, K. (1935). Space groups. In Internationale Tabellen zur Bestimmung von Kristallstrukturen, edited by C. Hermann, Vol. 1, pp. 84–87. Berlin: Begrüder Borntraeger.
Hilton, H. (1903). Mathematical Crystallography and the Theory of Groups of Movements. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hooke, R. (1665). Micrographia, p. 85. London: Royal Society.
Huygens, C. (1690). Traité de la lumière. Leiden. (English translation by S. P. Thompson, 1912. London: Macmillan and Co.)
Schoenflies, A. M. (1891). Krystallsysteme und Krystallstruktur. Leipzig: Druck und Verlag von B. G. Teubner.

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