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Letter from the President

Science for all nations

In the world of the 21st century, critical issues related to science and technology (S&T) confront every nation. How can we prevent global and regional environmental damage? What is the best way to introduce benefi cial new technologies, thwart acts of terrorism, or respond quickly to the rapid spread of new diseases? Today, no nation that wants to shape informed policies and take effective action on such issues can afford to be without its own independent capacity in S&T.

Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Science, Vol. 303, 13 February 2004
[Bill Duax]
As members of the International Union of Crystallography, we have the means to assist the UN in its efforts to empower all nations to develop powerful independent programs in science and technology. X-ray crystallography is arguably the most powerful of all technologies vital to the infrastructure of science everywhere.

This issue of the Newsletter features a cover story on crystallography in Italy that was organized by Davide Viterbo and Paola Spadon. When we conceived of articles such as this one and asked members of the Executive Committee of the IUCr to prepare the first of them for publication, we did not have a clear picture of what might emerge. I was very pleased and impressed with the overview of Latin American Crystallography organized by Iris Torriani (Vol. 11, No. 3). I am equally impressed with the picture that Davide, Paola, and their colleagues have provided of the history and current activities in the field of crystallography in Italy. The material reminds us of how powerful the technique of diffraction (X-ray, neutron, and electron) is to understanding the structure of matter of all kinds. The information so carefully gathered, organized and presented is potentially very useful. Dozens of web sites are listed as part of summaries of specific areas of crystallographic analysis, including crystal growth, material science, chemical, mineralogy, and biocrystallography. Anyone interested in expert advice or potential collaboration in any of these areas can take advantage of the information presented here.

It is especially fitting that we should have the wonderful overview of crystallography in Italy as we look forward to the XXth Congress, which will take place in Florence, Italy in August 2005. The activities of Italian crystallographers in almost all areas of crystallography bodes well for the program being so carefully crafted by Carlo Mealli with representation from all committees of the Union who are gathering input from throughout the crystallographic community.

It would be very nice to have an IUCr Newsletter cover story on each of the 40 countries in our Union. Leonid Aslanov has gathered material from numerous laboratories in Russia for the next issue. Gernot Heger has told me of his plans for an issue on Crystallography in Germany and I will be writing to the members of the National Committees of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden asking them to work together to produce a special issue on Crystallography in Scandinavia. The nature of the articles written for each issue will be different because of the difference in the size, history, and interest of the member countries. It is precisely those differences that give our community its strength and vitality.

It is important that we share information, respect differences, and work together for a more tolerant, harmonious, and equitable future. We must take Kofi Annan’s advice seriously to help each nation develop its independent capacity in science and technology.

Bill Duax