List of Physical Visualizations
and Related Artifacts
With tag “chemistry”

1862 – De Chancourtois’ Telluric Screw

The French geologist Alexandre-Émile Béguyer de Chancourtois was the first scientist to see the periodicity of elements when they were arranged in order of their atomic weights. Credited with being the original discoverer of the periodicity of elements and the originator of the three-dimensional method of element arrangement and representation. He drew the elements as a continuous spiral around a […]

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1865 – Hofmann’s Croquet Ball Models

August Wilhelm Hofmann was the first to introduce physical representations of molecules into lectures during his Friday Evening Discourses presentation "On the Combining Power of Atoms" at London's Royal Institution of Great Britain in . He introduced a colored set of four croquet balls to represent atoms (hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine and nitrogen), implanted with a fixed number of sticks corresponding to each atom's valence.  Thus we distinguish the chlorine atom as univalent, […]

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1866 – Dewar’s Brass Strip Models

Mechanical arrangement adapted to illustrate structure in the non-saturated hydrocarbons by the chemist James Dewar. The model is made of bars, clamped together so as to allow free motion. In order to make the combination look like an atom, a thin round disc of blackened brass can be placed under the central nut. At the ends of the arms are holes to connect […]

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1875 – Van’t Hoff’s Molecular Paper Models

Van’t Hoff disseminated his stereochemical ideas to leading chemists of the day by sending them 3-D paper models of tetrahedral molecules, like these now housed in the Leiden Museum. There might be some difficulty in following my reasoning. I felt this myself, and I have made use of cardboard figures to facilitate the representation. Not wanting to require too much of the reader I will […]

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1898 – Crookes’ Vis Generatrix

Model of Crookes’ "Vis Generatrix" made in 1898, built by his assistant, Gardiner. From: Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 63, 408. The vertical scale represents the atomic weight of the elements from H = 1 to Ur = 239. Missing elements are represented with a white circle. Similar elements appear underneath each other. With this model, Crookes was trying to visualize the hypothetical relationship between various elements in […]

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1940s – Stedman’s 3D Periodic Table

Dr. Don Stedman from the National Research Council Canada designed this 3-D periodic table in the 1940s. Stedman considered many factors and characteristics of the elements as he designed his models. While in this model all the usual groups of elements are found, changes from one group to another are also represented, and their origins are more easily understood. Stedman believed that his model gave […]

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1945 – Electron Density Map and Molecular Model of Penicillin

Electron density map and model of Penicillin created by Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin in 1945 based on her work on X-ray crystallography. The Penicillin molecule was the first molecule whose structure was derived entirely from X-ray data. Dorothy Hodgkin later received the Nobel price for applying the same technique to determine the structure of the B12 molecule. Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-94) was awarded the prestigious and exclusive […]

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1947 – Dorothy Hodgkin’s Electron Density Contours

Nobel prize winning crystallographer Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin created another physical visualization in the mid 1940's, showing part of the structure of penicillin. An original of this artifact is in the Oxford Museum of the History of Science. This technique recently inspired artist Angela Palmer for her glass portraits. Sources: Lachlan Michael and David Cranswicka (2008) Busting out of crystallography's Sisyphean prison: from pencil and paper to structure […]

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1953 – Watson and Crick’s 3D Model of DNA

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick suggested what is now accepted as the first correct double-helix model of DNA structure in the journal Nature. Their double-helix, molecular model of DNA was then based on a single X-ray diffraction image taken by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling in May 1952, as well as the information that the DNA bases are paired. Experimental evidence supporting the […]

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1957 – Proteine Visualizations

Left image: The very first physical model of a protein (myoglobin) built by crystallographer John Kendrew in 1957 using plasticine. The image is from a 1958 Nature article, for a more recent photo see here. In 1960 Kendrew completed a higher-resolution skeletal model known as the "forest of rods". The model was 2-meter wide, made of brass, and supported with 2,500 vertical rods, making it […]

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1970 – Byron’s Bender

In the early 1970's, crystallographer Byron Rubin invented a tool that bends wires to make proteins models. The tool was popular until the 1990s. Byron Rubin became an artist who builds large-scale molecular sculptures. Eric Martz and Eric Francoeur explain how such physical models yielded important scientific insights: An example illustrating the importance of models from Byron's Bender occurred at a scientific meeting in the mid 1970's. At this time, less than two […]

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1995 – San Diego TeleManufacturing Facility

In 1995, Mike Bailey from the San Diego Supercomputer Center created the SDSC TeleManufacturing Facility to help scientists visualize their data in physical form. In 1997, the facility produced one of the first digitally-fabricated molecular models using laminated object manufacturing. The biochemists involved in the project got insights that they were not able to get from the on-screen 3D models, and concluded that: modern physical models are important tools that significantly […]

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2004 – Scripps’ Molecule Models

Since 2004 the Molecular Graphics Laboratory at the Scripps Research Institute has been making heavy use of 3D-printed full-color physical molecule models, some of which are articulated (left image), flexible (middle image), and even self-assembling (right image, see video). They also publish augmented reality systems that use those physical models. Also see our entry 1995 – SDSC TeleManufacturing Facility. Sources: Web Page: http://mgl.scripps.edu/projects/tangible_models Tommy Toy (2011) How Arthur […]

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2005 – Molecular Jewellery

Raven Hanna got her PhD in biochemistry in 2000, and five years later, she became an artist and started to create jewelry based on molecular structures in order to communicate science through art. Image above: endorphine necklace. Sources: Raven Hanna www.madewithmolecules.com (see 2005 version) Leigh Krietsch Boerner (2010) Profile: Molecular Jewelry Design

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2010 – Quipu of the Periodic Table

As a result of bringing together each pair of periods in a single function or binod, the author has found a new regular on the subject, which has been defined as a new quantum number, since the number of orders or regulations binod growth elements in the table, under the appearance of pairs of new types of quantum structures or periods whose organization responds […]

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