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IUCr Glasgow - remarkable in every way

The 18th Congress of the International Union of Crystallography in Glasgow, Scotland was the largest and most successful ever. Over 2,650 crystallographers spent nine days sharing the latest information on crystallographic theory, methods, techniques, software, hardware, instrumentation, application, data storage, retrieval, and analysis. Eight full days with six (and sometimes seven) concurrent sessions (often with standing room only) were required to do justice to the remarkable scope of the field and the extraordinary advances and productivity in all areas including crystal growth, synchrotron radiation, area detectors, ab initio powder diffraction analysis, in situ reactions of materials and biological molecules, automatic phase determination, high resolution (0.8Å and better) protein structure determination, and data mining for design of everything from rational drugs to smart materials.

At the jubilant opening ceremony, the Ewald Prize was awarded to G.N. Ramachandran for his early, enduring, and critically important contribution to the field of structural biology. M. Vijayan accepted the award on behalf of Dr. Ramachandran. Following the award, a musical program and slide show introduced the audience to the grandeur of the Scottish landscape and stirring beauty of traditional Scottish music and dance. There followed a copious feast of magnificent food in the best “tradition of Scottish hospitality” that continued throughout the entire 10 days of the meeting.

The official delegates to the congress from 37 countries spent three evening sessions attending to official Union business, the most important being reviewing the fiscal reports that show the Union to be in good health, charting future plans to insure stability and expanded activities, electing a new president, and new members of the Executive Committee and commissions and selecting a site for the 20th Congress to be held in 2005.

[executive committee 1999-2001]The Executive Committee for 1999-2001, Vice President M. Tanaka, President H. Schenk, and Secretary/Treasurer Sine Larsen (seated). M.A. Carrondo, Z. Zhang, T. Baker, H. Fuess, J.C.A. Boyens, Malcolm Cooper, L.A. Aslanov, and W.L. Duax (standing).
For the first time in memory, two candidates were proposed for the office of President. Hartmut Fuess and Henk Schenk graciously agreed to stand for election. The union will continue to enjoy the leadership and service of both candidates since Hartmut will continue to fulfill the last half of his six year term and Henk (who would other wise have left the committee) was elected to a three year term as President. M. Tanaka of Japan will serve as Vice President of the Executive Committee for the next triennium and Sine Larsen (Denmark) will continue as General Secretary and Treasurer. M.A. Carrondo (Portugal), W.L. Duax (USA), and Z. Zhang (China), were elected from a field of 6 candidates to join L.A. Aslanov (Russia), J.C.A. Boeyens (South Africa), and H. Fuess (Germany) as ordinary members of the Committee.

Very persuasive bids to host the IUCr Congress in 2005 were presented by delegations from Japan and Italy. The secret ballot in favor of holding the meeting in Florence, Italy startled many delegates who assumed that by 2005 a shift in meeting site to the Asian crystallographic community was essential to the international spirit of the Union.

The members of the Commissions of the Union organized sessions to attend to the vitally important activities of the union, setting standards, devising experiments to establish measures of accuracy and precision, planning future meetings and activities, and charting the course of the IUCr’s many publications.

Reports from the chairs of the 32 plenary lectures, 97 microsymposia, and 12 commission meetings are now being filed. These reports can be viewed on the IUCr website. If reports of particular interest to you have not yet been filed, you may want to let the session chair know that you are very interested in seeing his or her report. Session titles and e-mail addresses of all chairs can be found in the meeting report file.

The Glasgow Convention Center provided a superb venue for the largest exhibition of crystallographic equipment, software, and supplies ever held. The exhibits, the poster sessions, and vendors of food and drink were assembled around an Internet Café that kept the delegates in touch with activities on the homefront while they caught up on research around the world.

A splendid evening session in honor of J. Monteath-Robertson that chronicled the growth and development of crystallography at the U. of Glasgow was preceded by a buffet of marvelous Indian food.

At the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, wineglasses in hand, the delegates viewed masterpieces, sampled splendid hors d’oeuvres, and listened to classical music provided by string soloists and ensembles. In addition to traditional masterpieces, archeological artifacts, and suits of armor, a special exhibit of whimsical African ceremonial coffins intrigued the delegates.

The highlight of the social program was the Gala Ceilidh, an evening of traditional 'fayre', food, drink, conversation, music, dancing and song. The food was excellent and endless and the delegates (many of whom had rented kilts for the occasion) threw themselves into the dancing with wild abandon. The organizers had arranged a Scottish dance practice for the night before the Ceilidh and on the farewell evening an advanced course in modern Scottish rock dancing featuring a bagpipe and drum ensemble named Mac Umbra brought the house down.

The extraordinary pace of crystallographic research, the unlimited potential for new structural information arising from genome analysis, combinational chemistry, crystal engineering, and material design, guarantee that the science at the 19th Congress in Israel is 2002 will be even more extraordinary than in Glasgow, but it is unlikely that any future meeting can match Glasgow when it comes to the social program.