O mitach w nauce na kanwie „oryginalnej aparatury Lauego”


  • Kamil F. Dziubek Europejskie Laboratorium Spektroskopii Nieliniowej LENS, Sesto Fiorentino (Florencja), Włochy
  • Mariusz Jaskólski Instytut Chemii Bioorganicznej PAN i Wydział Chemii, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
  • Andrzej B. Więckowski Wydział Fizyki i Astronomii, Uniwersytet Zielonogórski, Zielona Góra i Instytut Fizyki Molekularnej PAN, Poznań

Słowa kluczowe:

X-rays, X-ray diffraction on crystals, Laue experiment, Max von Laue, Walter Friedrich, Paul Knipping, Deutsches Museum München


The iconic discovery in 1912 of X-ray diffraction by crystals has revolutionized physics, chemistry, biology, and ultimately also life sciences, by providing a powerful method for structural characterization of drugs and drug targets used in molecular medicine. The first X-ray diffraction was recorded by an assistant (Walter Friedrich) and PhD student (Paul Knipping) under the instruction of a theoretician Max (later von) Laue, who two years later was the sole recipient of a Nobel Prize (with the award ceremony in 1920) awarded for this discovery. The experimental setup, now on display in Deutsches Museum München, is labeled “the original Laue apparatus”, which is doubly incorrect: Laue himself never experimented with it, and it has a number of reconstructed parts due to loss, or even theft in the Museum itself. Also, the “first X-ray diffraction photograph” is enshrouded in a mist of ambiguity. Laue’s Nobel medal was deliberately dissolved in aqua regia to evade identification and confiscation by the Nazis. A replica was minted but it has been lost without a trace. The distorted (embellished) account of this fundamental discovery makes one wonder: is it acceptable to repeat narrations about scientific achievements with some departure from the historical truth? We answer “reluctantly yes”, with the caveat that all possible effort should be expended to rectify the picture. And this article is trying to achieve exactly this, with respect to one discovery in physics.