Knitting Needles, Balls of Yarn and the First Molecular Model

Recently, while reading a knitting blog I discovered that 2011 is, apparently, the International Year of Chemistry. In 1883 a Scottish chemist created the first “ball-and-stick” model of a molecule using knitting needles and balls of yarn. This initial ball-and-stick molecule represents the structure of sodium chloride and is constructed of knitting needles, representing the bonds, and alternating balls of blue and red yarn, representing the atoms of sodium and chloride. It’s being displayed as part of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 activities.

The chemist who created this model was Alexander Crum Brown, distinguished chemistry and professor at the University of Edinburgh, and one of his particular interests was the arrangements of atoms in molecules and the depiction of these structures. Continue reading