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Letter to the Editor

CrysAC and C.P. Snow

In his article introducing the new Commission on Crystallography in Art and Cultural Heritage (CrysAC), linking crystallography and artistic expression (IUCr N/L 16, No3, pp5-6, 2008), Cele Abad-Zapatero refers to the English novelist C.P. Snow. It is just half a century since Snow introduced the phrase 'The Two Cultures', referring to the apparent divide between literary intellectuals and scientists.

Snow conducted research at Cambridge, in the 1930s and became a great friend of J.D. Bernal. Following war time work as a scientist, Snow became a senior official in the Civil Service. His experience in the corridors of power formed the background to his novels, including The Search (1934) in which the narrator begins his research in X-ray crystal-structure analysis. The model for the brilliant scientist 'Constantine' is clearly J.D. Bernal. Constantine was an amorous eccentric with big hair and an immense classical knowledge who envisaged an international team of biologists, chemists and physicists tackling proteins at a dedicated institute. Snow is quoted, together with an extract from Bernal's 1937 paper on architecture and science in the entertaining and scholarly book In our own image: personal symmetry in discovery by Istvan and Magdolina Hargittai (Kluer, 1999). In this book, black and white images by graphic artist Istvan Orosz accompany personal stories of outstanding scientists (predominantly crystallographers) who made the main conceptual advances in our perception of the aesthetic intellectual area of symmetry.

Derry W. Jones