Design

Apophytlate

1951 (drawn)

Crystal Design Project

Height: 29.9 cm, Width: 22.3 cm

CIRC.78J-1968 PDP

Design for the 1951 Crystal Design Project for the Festival of Britain

Design in blue ink on blue paper of a pattern based upon a cell structure diagram

Sir William Henry Bragg and his son William were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915 for the invention of X-ray crystallography. This new science enabled the first drawings of the arrangement of atoms within molecules. It was particularly developed as one of the most significant and exciting branches of science during the late 1940s and put Britain at the cutting edge of international research. In 1946 Dr Helen Megaw, a Crystallographer (Crystallography – a study of the structure of matter) suggested that the patterns made by X-ray crystallography could be used as a fresh source of inspiration for wallpaper and fabric designers. The patterns were considered particularly appropriate for use in textile design because of their repetitive symmetry and natural beauty. The Festival of Britain held in 1951 provided new opportunities for textile design and manufacture. This diagram of Apophyllite, previously the name for one particular mineral redefined in 1978 to describe a group of similar minerals, is one of a group of crystal structure drawings that inspired textiles made by the Festival Pattern Group for the event. The idea of patterns inspired by science was perfect for the theme of the Festival which had been planned as a ‘combined exhibition of science, technology and industrial design’.

Apophytlate is presumably apophyllite (also seen spelled apophylate), which refers to a specific group of phyllosilicates, a class of minerals that also includes the micas. Originally, the group name referred to a specific mineral, but was redefined in 1978 to stand for a class of minerals of similar chemical makeup that comprise a solid solution series, and includes the members fluorapophyllite, hydroxyapophyllite, and natroapophyllite. The name apophyllite is derived from the Greek apophylliso, meaning "it flakes off," a reference to this class's tendency flake apart when heated, due to water loss. These minerals are typically found as secondary minerals in basalt. Though relatively unfamiliar to the general public, apophyllites are fairly prevalent around the world, with specimens coming from some of the worlds most well-known mineral localities. These localities include: Poona, India; the Harz Mountains of Germany, Mont Saint-Hilaire in Canada, and Kongsberg, Norway, with other locations in Scotland, Ireland, Brazil, Japan, and throughout the United States. X-ray crystallography involved projecting a narrow beam of X-rays on to crystalline material. Photographs were then taken of the diffracted X-rays, and the resulting lines or spots were used to plot ‘maps’ indicating the relationships between atoms. For the first time ever it enabled scientist to work out the structure of atoms within molecules. Britain was a world leader in the field of crystallography and during the post war period this was one of the most significant and stimulating branches of science.

Given by the Council of Industrial Design

Location: Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case MD, shelf 29

View this object on the V&A website