, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 72-81

The myth of myths; comments on P. Forman's paper on “the discovery of the diffraction of X-rays in crystals”

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In the paper here commented upon, its author discusses the various versions of the discovery of X-ray diffraction under the aspect of the formation and embellishment of myths of origin of the clan formed by crystallographers. To that effect, he endeavours to show that most details of the traditional descriptions of motives and obstacles encountered in the planning of the Laue-Friedrich-Knipping experiment are fictitious and fabricated for the purpose of giving the clan a separate identity. This interpretation by the author is possible only because he fails to appreciate the vagueness of the physical information confronting Laue before the experiment. To make his interpretation plausible, the author repeatedly aggrandizes statements taken from the literature, especially from Laue's Nobel Lecture and from the Festschrift for the semicentennial of the discovery. These unjustified accents, needed in support of his main thesis, show that his scheme is pre-conceived, artificial, and unnecessary.
The author's numerical correction of the writer's slip in “50 Years” regarding the magnitude of the thermal amplitude in a crystal is gratefully acknowledged.
Communicated by S. G. Brush