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Crystallography Across the Sciences, a teaching tool?

[Crystallography across the sciences]The primary role of a teacher is to provide the student with the knowledge base upon which to develop his or her own initiatives. Students taking basic crystallography may have very different backgrounds and interests; solid state physics, material science, crystal chemistry, biochemistry, biology, etc. It is often difficult for these students to find adequate introductory literature to supplement a general course in crystallography. Crystallography Across the Sciences (IUCr-Chester, Munksgaard-Copenhagen, 1998) is very useful in this respect. The book form of a Special Issue in Acta Crystallographica (Vol A54 (1998), 687-955) with H. Schenk as Guest Editor contains 26 articles with a total of 51 authors. The book covers a broad range from fundamental diffraction physics to applications in biology, chemistry, physics and material science.

Six papers cover material of general interest to the crystallographic community while the remaining 20 review the state-of-the art in specific areas. Students in crystallography courses from the undergraduate to Ph.D.-level will find useful material in this book.

Two articles, 'Aspects of the of the History of the International Union of Crystallography' and 'The Teaching of Crystallography: a Historical Survey' includes material useful for any teacher who wants to give some perspectives on a crystallography course. Chapters entitled 'The Development, Status and Scientific Impact of Crystallographic Databases'; 'Data Languages and Dictionaries for Crystallography'; and 'Symmetry in Crystallography' can be directly used as course material once the student has had some experience of symmetry; the chapter on 'Diffraction Physics' is probably most useful in advanced courses.

The five chapters in the biology-biochemistry field cover structures ranging from simple salts to viruses, proteins involved in muscle contraction, time-resolved crystallography, membrane protein, and the ribosome. The six chapters concerning frontiers in the chemistry-materials science field cover phase transformations in smart materials, inclusion complexes, host-guest interactions, hydrogen bonding networks, real-time in situ chemical reactions, structure correlation, superconducting materials, and supramolecular structures.

Nine articles concerned with methods development are crystal growth, charge-density analysis, synchrotron, electron, and neutron crystallography, X-ray crystallography of surfaces and interfaces, X-ray optics, N-beam diffraction, and advances in powder diffraction analysis.

Crystallography Across the Sciences has been used as a teaching tool at the undergraduate and graduate level. In one course, each student selected an article for thorough study and presentation to their fellow students. This has proven to be a very rewarding and successful approach. I recommend the book as a teaching tool with a reasonable price.

Ake Oskarsson, Lund U., Sweden