Multi-Pole Approach to Structural Science

May 10 - 13, 2015

A very abbreviated history of macromolecular crystallography
Alexander Wlodawer

X-ray crystallography is just over 100 years old as a scientific discipline. Successful determination of the first macromolecular structures (of oxygen carrier proteins, myoglobin and hemoglobin) was first reported about 55 years ago. To celebrate the achievements of crystallographers, the United Nations declared the year 2014 to be “The International Year of Crystallography”. Whereas the celebrations are now over, progress in the field is not slowing down, and close to 100,000 crystal structures of proteins and nucleic acids are now available in the Protein Data Bank. I will discuss the most important, often iconic, achievements of crystallographers that led to major advances in our understanding of the structure and function of biological macromolecules. At least 42 scientists received Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, or Medicine for their contributions that included the use of X-rays or neutrons and crystallography, including 24 who made seminal discoveries in macromolecular sciences. I will spotlight mostly, but not only, on the recipients of this most prestigious scientific honor. Technical advances that made this success possible, such as the use of synchrotron radiation and the recent introduction of free electron lasers as X-ray sources, will also be discussed.