Letter from the President

[Yuji Ohashi]Letter from the President

One of the most important objectives of the IUCr is to promote international cooperation in crystallography. In order to accomplish this objective, cooperation between the IUCr and its Regional Associates (ACA, AsCA and ECA) is essential. To facilitate this cooperation activities of all three Regional Associates are regularly featured in the IUCr News.

This year also marks the 60th Anniversary of the IUCr. In Japan, people celebrate the 60th anniversary of their birth because it has long been believed that at that point one cycle of life has been completed and another cycle is about to begin. It is important to look back on the past 60 years to see what we can learn to help us for the next 60 years.

The first General Assembly (GA) and Congress of the IUCr was held at Harvard University (USA) from July 28-August 3, 1948, three years after the end of World War II. Only 310 crystallographers were in attendance and four adhering bodies were accepted: the UK, the USA, Canada and Norway. Prof. Max von Laue and Sir Lawrence Bragg, the founders of modern crystallography, were elected Honorary President and President, respectively. The following six Commissions were established: Acta Crystallographica, Structure Reports, International Tables, Crystallographic Data, Crystallographic Apparatus, and Nomenclature. Although 83 papers were presented at the Congress, many were given by the session chairs since the authors were unable to attend. For example, six papers by Japanese crystallographers were presented but none were able to attend the Congress.

Since the second GA and Congress held in Stockholm, the numbers of adhering bodies and participants has gradually increased, as shown in Figure 1, such that at the Florence Congress (2005) there were 40 adhering bodies and 2800 scientific participants. The participants came from 62 countries and more than 2000 papers were presented. After the passage of 60 years the IUCr Congress has grown to be one of the largest International Scientific Conferences.

In order to look back over the past 60 years and to look forward to the next 60 years, the Executive Committee has planned three projects:

(1) publication of recent topics of crystallography in a special issue of Acta A

(2) a ceremony in Osaka celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the IUCr

(3) a photographic collection and exhibition at Osaka

For the first project; twenty-four articles covering a variety of crystallographic fields have been published in the first issue of Acta Cryst. A in 2008. Former IUCr President Henk Schenk served as editor for this special edition.

The ceremony celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the IUCr will be held on August 23, just before the opening ceremony. All living Past Presidents [Jerome Karle (1981-1984), Theo Hahn (1984-1987), Andre Authier (1990-1993), Philip Coppens (1993-1996), Ted Baker (1996-1999), Henk Schenk (1999-2002) and Bill Duax (2002-2005)] have been invited and all have accepted, except for Jerome Karle who will be unable to attend for reasons of health. Ted Baker will present a talk entitled “Crystallography and the World around Us” at the ceremony. Four of the other former Presidents will give talks to high-school and undergraduate students and the general public in evening sessions during the Congress. We expect that these lectures will have a favourable influence upon young people in Japan. The titles of their lectures are as follow: “2500 Years of Symmetry in Sciences, Art and Music” (Theo Hahn), “History of X-ray Diffraction: looking deeper and deeper into the structure of matter” (Andre Authier), “What Crystallography Can Tell Us about Molecules in the Test Tube and in Life” (Philip Coppens), and “X-raying a Crystal to See Atoms and Molecules, Solutions and Results“ (Henk Schenk).

[Chart of adhering bodies]Figure 1
The third project will be an exhibit of photographs celebrating the 60-year-old IUCr. Immediate IUCr Past President Bill Duax, in collaboration with Chris Gilmore, Gernot Heger and Syd Hall are arranging a photographic collection highlighting IUCr Congresses from Bordeaux (1990) to Florence (2005), in addition to Paris (1954), ACA meetings from Philadelphia (1988) to Salt Lake City (2007), ECM meetings from Moscow (1989) to Marrakech (2007), and AsCA Meetings from Singapore (1992) to Taipei (2007). The Executive Committee has asked Bill Duax to copy many of these photographs onto a CD, which will be given to all participants of the Osaka Congress. Duax will also give a talk entitled “A History of the IUCr” at a luncheon seminar.

I personally think that a very good wind has been blowing over crystallography during these 60 years, especially in the latter 30 years. This is because most 20th century scientists believed that understanding the molecular structure of materials could help explain their functions and characteristics. X-ray and neutron diffraction and electron microscopy have proven to be powerful methods to obtain these molecular structures. The development of high-speed computers and the advent of synchrotron radiation have also given a boost to the progress of crystallography and in the 21st century it will be possible not only to study the static structure of molecules but also their dynamic structure to provide even deeper insights into their functions or characteristics. Crystallography, and its associated methods, will answer many challenging questions in the next 60 years. I am pleased to have been part of the first 60 years of the IUCr and look forward to contributing what I can to the next 60.

Yuji Ohashi
yohashi@spring8.or.jp