Some Themes in Chemical Crystallography Pertinent to the Indian Contribution

Gautam R Desiraju


It is particularly appropriate that the Journal of the Indian
Institute of Science is bringing out a commemorative issue to mark the International Year of Crystallography 2014 (IYCr2014). India has had a strong crystallographic tradition, and the earliest work in what may be described as structural crystallography from this country is the work of K. Banerjee on the determination of the crystal structure of naphthalene in 1930.1 The Indian Institute of Science itself has played no small part in establishing and sustaining the subject of crystallography in this country. A large number of papers in this special issue are written by authors who have either have been trained in the Institute or who have some kind of professional association with this organization. In this article I will try to capture some unique features that characterize the intersection of the crystallographic and the chemical domains, mostly as they pertain to the Indian contribution to this subject. Crystallography is of course is as old as chemistry itself, and some would say it is even older. The relationships between chemistry and crystallography go back to much before the discovery of diffraction of X-rays by crystals.2 The discovery of polymorphism by Mitscherlisch in 1822,3 Haüy’s formulation of the molecule integrante,4 and the work of Fedorov5 and Groth6 on the identification of crystals from their morphology alone, are well known examples of such relationships. A very early article by Tutton speaks of “crystallo-chemical analysis”.7 In this article, I shall, however, be dealing with the interplay of chemistry and crystallography only in the post diffraction era, that is, after 1912. Much had been written and said about chemical crystallography, and even within the context of the present special issue, there is a review of chemical crystallography in India including some futuristic trends. This topic was also reviewed by Nangia in a special publication brought out by Indian Academy of Sciences in 2009,9 and by Desiraju in a special publication10 brought out by the Indian National Science Academy in 2010. A rather detailed account of crystallography in India appeared in 2007 in the newsletter of the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) in which chemical crystallography was detailed.11 Since all these publications are fairly recent there is little need for me to attempt a comprehensive coverage of chemical crystallography in India in this short review.

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