I’m in Australia because I’ve been invited to talk to Crystal26 – the 26th Biennial Conference of the Society of Crystallographers in Australia and New Zealand. Crystallographers from ANZ have made enormous contributions and when I studied in Oxford tha lab was full of them – Guy and Eleanor Doson, Ted Maslen, Ken Watson, Clive Nockolds, Ted Baker, and many others. I owe a personal debt to their influence.
The best known crystallographer of all – W.H.Bragg – was from Australia; WP gives:
In 1885 Bragg was appointed “Elder Professor of Pure and Applied Mathematics, who shall also give instruction in Physics” at the University of Adelaide in Australia and started work there early in 1886. At that time he had limited knowledge of physics, most of which was in the form of applied mathematics he had learnt at Trinity. There were only about a hundred students doing full courses at Adelaide of whom scarcely more than a handful belonged to the science school. As a result Bragg was able to develop his knowledge of physics in his early years, spending a year at Cavendish Laboratory taking the equivalent of an undergraduate course. It was not until he was past 40 that he began to do research work of note. At the meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Dunedin in 1904, Bragg, as president of his section, delivered an address on “Some Recent Advances in the Theory of the Ionization of Gases”
This success late in life and isolated from the mainstream should be an encouragement to us all.
Crystallography has a family feel unlike many other disciplines – it’s possible to go into a lab and start talking with a common knowledge of the physics, the equipment, the history, the people. The oral tradition is strong and the sense of commitment to the community. I am proud and humbled to be part of this.
I have chosen as my topic “The Crystallographic Semantic Web”. This is a new title, but not a new topic – 10 years ago I talked on “The globalization of crystallographic kowledge”. But the technology has come a long way since then and we are no really approaching the time when knowledge will be spread across the world without technical and political barriers.
As always I do not know what I shall say in detail until I get there and talk with people. One thing I shall certainly stress is the vision of the creators of CIF – the Crystallographic Information File which even when conceived nearly 20 years ago was essentially an ontology – though the word was not used then. We now have the technology and in the last few weeks Nico Adams and I have been able to turn the CIF dictionaries into an OWL-based ontology. It’s an excellent microcosm for displaying the ideas.
I will probably blog my talk before I give it. I don’t know if there is a conference tag but I shall assume CRYSTAL26 here. I wonder how strong the community is on Twitter?