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. 1.4, p. 40   | 1 | 2 |

Section 1.4.2. Brief comments on Gazing into the crystal ball (M. G. Rossmann)

E. Arnold,a* M. G. Rossmann,b D. M. Himmel,a J. C. H. Spencec and S. Sunb

aBiomolecular Crystallography Laboratory, CABM & Rutgers University, 679 Hoes Lane, Piscataway, NJ 08854–5638, USA,bDepartment of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907–1392, USA, and cDepartment of Physics, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, 85287, USA
Correspondence e-mail:

1.4.2. Brief comments on Gazing into the crystal ball (M. G. Rossmann)

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Eddy Arnold and I had planned to write a joint commentary about our vision of the future of macromolecular crystallography. However, when Eddy produced the first draft of `Perspectives for the future', I was fascinated by his wide vision. I felt it more appropriate and far more interesting to make my own brief comments, stimulated by Eddy's observations.

When I was a graduate student in Scotland in the 1950s, physics departments were called departments of `Natural Philosophy'. Clearly, the original hope had been that some aspects of science were all encompassing and gave insight to every aspect of observations of natural phenomena. However, in the twentieth century, with rapidly increasing technological advances, it appeared to be more and more difficult for any one person to study all of science. Disciplines were progressively subdivided. Learning became increasingly specialized. International Tables were created, and updated, for the use of a highly specialized and small community of crystallographic experts.

As I read Eddy's draft article, I became fascinated by the wide impact he envisioned for crystallography in the next few decades. Indeed, the lay person, reading his article, would barely be aware that this was an article anticipating the future impact of crystallography. The average reader would think that the topic was the total impact of science on our civilization. Thus, to my delight, I saw that crystallography might now be a catalyst for the reunification of fragmented science into a coherent whole. I therefore hope that these new Tables commissioned by the International Union of Crystallography may turn out to be a significant help to further the trend implied in Eddy's article.

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