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J D Bernal's x-ray diffraction camera, United Kingdom, 1928

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John Desmond Bernal (1901-71), an Irish physicist, used this X-ray diffraction camera at the Royal Institution in London. When X-rays are passed through crystals they scatter to create a pattern that can be used to determine the structures of molecules. Known today as X-ray crystallography, it was a crucial technique used to understand the structure of penicillin, DNA and insulin. Bernal was also interested in the social function of science and wrote widely on the history of science.

Object number:

1963-44

 

Glossary:

Glossary: x-ray crystallography

The method of using X-rays to discover the molecular structure of crystals. It relies on X-ray diffraction, which is the information gained by studying the pattern produced by the scattering of an X-ray beam as it hits the atomic structure of a crystal.

Glossary: x-ray diffraction camera

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