Books Reviewed Sept 1999

There were 3 books reviewed in this issue, and some news:

  1. Direct Phasing in Crystallography: Fundamentals and Applications
  2. News of books
  3. Group theoretical methods and Applications to molecules and crystals
  4. I wish I'd made you angry earlier

Book Review (1) - "Direct Phasing in Crystallography"

Title: Direct Phasing in Crystallography: Fundamentals and Applications
Author: Carmelo Giacovazzo
Publisher: Oxford University Press, November 1998
(International Union of Crystallography Monograph No 8)
ISBN 0-19-850072-6 Hardback £75, 765 pages, 8 halftones, 226 line drawings.

This monograph is a very extensive book on Direct Methods (DM) for solving crystal structures and its applications to Structural Crystallography. It is a major enterprise of Carmelo Giacovazzo and I am very glad he did the job and the IUCr Book Series Committee decided to accept it for the IUCr monograph series.

There are three parts: fundamentals, different applications and their basics, and recent results of DM in macromolecular problems. Among other topics included are: Wilson statistics, structure invariants and semi-invariants, triplets, joint probability distributions, quartets, quintets, one and two phase semi-invariants, neutron data, powder data, macromolecular data, integration of macromolecular and direct methods, and maximum entropy techniques. The monograph ends with more general appendices including one on useful mathematical techniques, followed by 32 pages of references and a 3-page index. The index is too short: I think a more extensive index would have been appropriate for this impressive volume and would also have made it more useful as a reference manual. Similarly, the list of references should have been a reference and a name index, so that all the relevant pages in the monograph could be found easily starting from a reference.

As may be expected, knowing the author's scientific work, his approach to DM is firmly rooted in mathematics. Readers that do not share this mathematical interest, or lack the required level in mathematics, may find some difficulties in mastering the whole of this book. The author seems well aware of this, so to retain the line of reasoning in each chapter more specialized (mathematical) topics are dealt with in appendices. Nevertheless, many readers will find this book to be a useful theoretical guide while practising or undergoing local teaching in this field, when becoming familiar with solving crystal structures by standard packages or even when studying more complicated problems.

As a matter of course, there is criticism as well. Long ago I used to finance part of my study by writing about sporting events for local newspapers; I always compared my articles with those written by others in competing newspapers. We seldom presented the same view on the same event. This is also true of the present book; it is Carmelo Giacovazzo's view on direct methods and as such primarily written on the basis of his own experience and that of the Italian group around him, though with much attention to all other developments in the field. I will illustrate this with a few examples. In the first 4 sections of chapter 3 the Cochran distribution for estimating triplet phase sums theoretically is introduced. Although the triplet relation was implicitly present in earlier DM work, Cochran first examined the relation explicitly in 1955. In this book the first reference to Cochran (1955) does not occur until 6 pages from the beginning of the section. Another example
I would have presented differently is the quartet-story because right from the beginning the negative quartet was apparent and published; I had solved the first structure with the negative quartet criterion by the summer of 1973.

Then, at some place the author referred to a nice little article of Niek van der Putten, myself and George Tsoucaris about the extension of data beyond the limiting sphere, which never got real applications as such. However, another co-worker, Jouk Jansen, applied this idea of estimating intensities by using quartets to assign intensities to individual reflections from completely overlapping peaks in powder diagrams. Rietveld-like procedures are not applicable to this sort of problem and thus Direct Methods reveal additional information. This was a very promising application of the original idea and as such certainly suited for inclusion in chapter 13 of the present monograph.

Another obvious omission is a reference to the first successful determination of a non-centrosymmetric structure which was a landmark in DM history (Isabella L.Karle and Jerry Karle (1963), Acta Cryst. 16, 969). A final example is in the introduction to chapter 6, where a competing theory is mentioned, ('the nested neighborhood principle' of Herbert Hauptman) without describing the differences and similarities between these theories, whereas in my opinion the two theories are not all that different. These are a few examples, it is not difficult to find more, and I am only one of the other scientists active in the same field.

However, despite this criticism, Carmelo Giacovazzo did a great job in putting so much energy in such an extensive overview of a highly interesting subject which after all these years is still one of the hottest irons in the fire of crystallography.

H. Schenk,
University of Amsterdam, July 1999

paperback editions, a volume for Ramachandran, help wanted

Paperback editions
The Cambridge University Press announced the publication in July 1999 of a corrected paperback edition of 'Polyhedra' (reviewed in September 97) ISBN 0-521-66405-5
UK price £22.95. More details available on the author's web site:

2. Granta Press have recently announced the publication of a corrected paperback edition of 'Dorothy Hodgkin: a life' (reviewed in December 1998) published in August 1999 Price under £10
3. The Indian Academy of Sciences plan to publish a book later this year.

"Perspectives in Structural Biology. A volume in honour of G.N.Ramachandran"

edited by M.Vijayan, N.Yathindra, A.S.Kolaskar.

It is intended to be a window on modern structural biology and a showcase of Indian effort in this area, with articles contributed by leading scientists, including two Nobel Laureates.

Distributors Orient Longman, price $35.00 ISBN 81 7371 254 9 PB 760pp 180 x 240 mm email [email protected]

4. Brenda Maddox, a science writer and biographer, is preparing a book on the life of Rosalind Franklin. Please contact her by email ( [email protected] ) if you had any contact with Rosalind.

Book Review (2) - "Group theoretical methods and Applications"

Title: 'Group Theoretical methods and Applications to Molecules and Crystals'
Shoon K.Kim ISBN 0-521-64062 8 Hardback 492 pages
Cambridge University Press, June 1999 £95 (US $150)

This is a fairly standard book about Group Theory and Representation Theory. Although the discussion starts from scratch, this is not a book for undergraduates and should be considered as a text for post-graduates or as a reference book. The main difficulty with group theory is its abstract mathematical nature with little or no immediate relevance to science: Lots of concepts are defined and used to investigate small point groups but there are usually no `real' applications. The nice thing about this book is that the group theory is actually employed on some real physical examples such as Buckminsterfullerene, C60.
The less appealing aspect to this book is its incomprehensibility. Although the information has been fairly carefully prepared, with only a few typographical errors, a novice would not be able to generate the detailed understanding of group theory and its applications as outlined. An elementary mathematical text would be required initially, which would provide the concepts uncluttered with their applications, then this book could be used as a reminder of these concepts together with some detailed and complicated applications of the ideas.

The initial two chapters are particularly difficult. They purport to introduce vector-space ideas for use in representation theory, but in fact are being used as a vehicle for some of the author's research ideas, so-called involutional transformations and intertwining matrices}, which he feels should have a central place in the field! Although these quantities are undoubtedly of use in various areas of mathematical physics, it is bizarre to put them in the first two chapters which are introducing basic fundamental concepts like a vector-space. Once this foible has been passed, however, the book settles down to an excellent discussion of basic group theory and how it is used and abused in science. The main thrust of the book is more towards physics than chemistry, which is unusual since applications to molecules are so much simpler and easier to understand, but this makes the book quite charming in a way The sections on Dirac operators, Bucky-balls and Symmetry-adapted Linear combinations of atomic orbitals, I personally found quite interesting.

One of the main themes of the book is to provide a complete, but elementary, derivation of the 230 space-groups. Although in principle this has been done, sadly the theory is not elementary and any reader expecting to be led to a simple understanding of: irreducible representations, character tables, crystallographic notation, Lie groups and the general class of space-groups, is going to have to work very hard indeed to generate even a cursory understanding. This book does have many positive features: the desire to make physical applications a central part of the development, the attempt to derive the space-groups from first principles and the inclusion of quantities central to quantum-mechanics as the basic building blocks. Sadly, the book has equally many negative features. The notation is quite confusing, the level of sophistication is high and the compatibility with other sources of reference is dubious. The central place for the author's personal foibles and the intertwining of elementary with sophisticated ideas make the book difficult to read and highly non-trivial to use. In conclusion, this is an interesting and basically sound book with a nice slant, but it is difficult to read and would best be used as an additional source of reference in conjunct ion with other material.

Martin Long, University of Birmingham

Book Review (3) - "I wish I'd made you angry earlier"

Title:'I wish I'd made you angry earlier: Essays on Science and Scientists'
Author: Max Perutz
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 22 April 1999 reprinted in the UK for sale outside USA from the 1st edition published 1998 by Cold Spring Harbour Press
ISBN 0-19-850531-0 Hardback £19.99 354 pages 10 pages of photographs

This delightful collection of essays was written by Max Perutz over a period of some thirty years. They are collected into four sections: 'Ploughshares into Swords', 'How to make Discoveries', 'Rights and Wrongs' and 'More about Discoveries'. The essays in the first three sections were written mainly for journals presupposing no scientific knowledge, those in the last section are aimed at scientists. Some are book reviews, others obituaries, (Linus Pauling, Dorothy Hodgkin), most deal with some aspect of science or the lives of scientists, including 'How W.L.Bragg invented X-ray diffraction' which was first published by the International Union of Crystallography. His 'Commonplace Book' is printed at the end; it is a collection of wise sayings he has encountered and jotted down for future reference and presented here for others to enjoy. For example, "Everything is always decided for reasons other than the real merits of the case" said by Maynard Keynes about Lloyd George's government. My own experience shows this to be true and no doubt many BCA members will have similar memories.

Max Perutz needs little introduction to readers of this newsletter; born in Austria, he came to Cambridge in 1936 to work for his PhD which he gained in early 1940, shortly before being interned as an 'Enemy Alien', the title of the essay which describes his subsequent adventures, including two voyages across the Atlantic with hazardous German U boats. His English friends had been horrified when he was interned and finally succeeded in persuading the British Government to release him and allow him to use his scientific skills on wartime projects, such as 'Habakkuk', a scheme to strengthen ice sufficiently to enable icebergs to be used as floating landing strips to allow airplanes to cross the Atlantic more easily. He was well qualified to do this having done some work on the structure of glacial ice in his native land. His later research was on the structure of haemoglobin which led to his receiving a Nobel prize in 1972 with John Kendrew. He was formerly the Chairman and is now a member of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

These essays describe the life and work of many famous scientists during the past 100 years from Pasteur to Pauling. The author was at the MRC during the time of the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA. He recalls this in 'How the Secret of Life was Discovered'. Photographs of both Watson and Crick are to be found in the 'Photo Gallery' together with those of many other scientists, mainly biologists, but including others such as Fermi, Hahn, Meitner and Sakharov all of whom are the subjects of essays in this book. 'Friend or Foe of Mankind' is a review of a biography of Fritz Haber, a German chemist who gained fame by discovering how to synthesise ammonia from air and infamy by introducing 'poison gas' in the first World War. There are many other stories. This book is very easy to read and liberally sprinkled with amusing anecdotes; I was fascinated to learn how W.L.Bragg came to have a species of cuttlefish named after him.

Kate Crennell

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