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Birkbeck College Research Laboratory

Nature volume 162, page 211 (07 August 1948) | Download Citation



BY the aid of a gift from the Nuffield Foundation, Birkbeck College (University of London) has been enabled to equip and staff two houses in Torrington Square, London, W.C.I, as a Biomolecular Research Laboratory under the direction of Prof. J. D. Bernal. The main work of the Laboratory will be the application of physical methods, particularly X-ray analysis, to the understanding of the structures and reactions of molecules in biological systems. X-ray methods are being used in two ways, namely, the study of the mutual relations in space of virus molecules in solution and in solid phases by low-angle diffraction ; and the investigation of the internal structure of the molecules themselves by high-angle diffraction. In addition to the study of molecules directly connected with proteins, others of more general biological interest are also being examined by modern X-ray analytical methods, as well as other structures chosen to develop methods of X-ray crystal analysis. To make the fullest use of existing techniques and to develop further experimental and theoretical toqls for this purpose, two sections devoted to electronics and computation respectively have been added to the Laboratory. The design has already been completed of an electronic computing machine of such speed that complete analysis of complex structures by the method of ‘steepest descents' can be carried out in a reasonable time. Another section of the Laboratory is working on the fundamental structure of the active constituents of Portland cement, and the nature of their reaction with water ; this investigation is being financed by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The Work is not so isolated from the main interests of the Laboratory as may at first sight appear ; for already it has been found that the properties of hydrated cements are closely related to those of many biological gels and are strongly influenced by the same long-range forces. Part of the two houses now taken over by Birkbeck College to provide for these investigations is being devoted to chemical research under Prof. W. Wardlaw and will also furnish facilities for chemical Work in connexion with the biomolecular studies.

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