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Nature Milestones in Crystallography, a collaborative effort between Nature, Nature Materials, Nature Nanotechnology and Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, is the eleventh supplement in the series and is timed to coincide with the celebration of the 2014 International Year of Crystallography. Exactly 100 years ago, Max von Laue received the Nobel Prize in Physics “for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals”. Since that discovery, crystallography has become an essential tool of investigation throughout the sciences, largely because it provides conclusive information on molecular structure down to the atomic level.