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Crystallography from Haüy to Laue: controversies on the molecular and atomistic nature of solids

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The history of crystallography has been assessed in the context of the emergence and spread of the molecular theory. The present paper focuses on the 19th century, which saw the emancipation of crystallography as a science sui generis. Around 1800, Laplace's molecularism called the tune in the various sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, crystallography). In crystallography, two schools opposed each other: that of Weiss, in Berlin, and that of Haüy, in Paris. Symmetry proved essential. It will be shown how the lattice theory arose in an essentially molecular framework and how group theory imposed itself. The salt hydrates suggested the idea of (two or more) superimposed molecular lattices. Gradually it became clear that an ultimate lattice theory ought to be atomic. The experiments of Laue, Friedrich and Knipping confirmed that atomic basis.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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