Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Compliments from Lord Kelvin

Telling if a molecule is right-handed or left-handed is a venerable problem, but traditional approaches cannot touch the subtlest cases. As so often, technical innovation has provided the way forward.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Chiral archetype.
Figure 2: Determination of the absolute configuration of (R)-[2H1,2H2,2H3]-neopentane.


  1. Haesler, J., Schindelholz, I., Riguet, E., Bochet, C. G. & Hug, W. Nature 446, 526–529 (2007).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Lord Kelvin Baltimore Lectures (Clay, London, 1904).

  3. Eliel, E. L. & Wilen, S. H. Stereochemistry of Organic Compounds (Wiley, New York, 1994).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Barron, L. D. Molecular Light Scattering and Optical Activity 2nd edn (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. Bijvoet, J. M. et al. Nature 168, 271–272 (1951).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Barron, L. D., Bogaard, M. P. & Buckingham, A. D. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 95, 603–605 (1973).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Holzwarth, G. et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 96, 251–252 (1974).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Hug, W. & Haesler, J. Int. J. Quantum Chem. 104, 695–715 (2005).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Stephens, P. J. & Devlin, F. J. Chirality 12, 172–179 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Barron, L. D. Curr. Opin. Struct. Biol. 16, 638–643 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Barron, L. Compliments from Lord Kelvin. Nature 446, 505–506 (2007).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing