A to Z of Leeds: A powerful scientific tool

We all know Leeds is a great city, right?

Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 6:00 am
An aerial view of the University's Leeds Parkinson Building in May 1952.
An aerial view of the University's Leeds Parkinson Building in May 1952.

There are many reasons for this bold claim, from the people who've called this place home, to the history of the region, the developments underway and the talent and creativity we see on a daily basis. Here, we go through the alphabet to give you some reasons to be proud.

X IS FOR X-CHRYSTALLOGRAPHY

Now bare with us.

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The keys to structural analysis were first cut by William Bragg (1862-1942), professor of physics at the University of Leeds, and his 23-year-old son Lawrence (1890-1971) when they discovered in a series of experiments in 1912-14 that by firing x-rays through crystals and plotting the emerging patterns on photographic plates, they could see for the first time structure of materials at an atomic level.

It is no overstatement to say that x-ray crystallography was one of the most powerful scientific tools of the 20th Century, allowing scientists to peer into the structure of materials.

Nobel prize winner Max Perutz summed up the significance of the father and son team, saying: “Why water boils at 100 degrees and methane at -161 degrees, why blood is red and grass is green, why diamond is hard and wax is soft, why graphite writes on paper and silk is strong, why glaciers flow and iron gets hard when you hammer it, how muscles contract, how sunlight makes plants grow and how living organisms have been able to evolve into ever more complex forms... the answers to all these problems have come from structural analysis.”

MORE A TO Z OF LEEDS:

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Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890. We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.

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Thank you

Laura Collins