History of Visualization of Biological Macromolecules
October 2, 2011 10:24 PM   Subscribe

"In my time, we displayed macromolecules in 3D using an oscilloscope!" is hard to beat...
posted by Skeptic at 2:10 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

RasMol, but no Grasp? Tsk.
posted by Cuppatea at 4:22 AM on October 3, 2011

Cool link! Great to see the evolution of something that is essential for understanding how the big structures work and interact.

RasMol, but no Grasp? Tsk.

Here's a challenge for you: I used software in the mid nineties that ran on a Silicon Graphics (Origin?) machine to visualize molecules. It was slow as hell when you switched from stick models to fully rendered "spheres". Any idea what software that may have been? I don't recognize any of the names in the link. I was thinking ChemCad, but that appears to be a process technology tool.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 4:44 AM on October 3, 2011

Nevermind, this seems to be the stuff I was trying to remember.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 4:47 AM on October 3, 2011

You know, my old lab has a collection of this kind of ancient scientific software. Still in the binders full of floppies and everything, would it be valuable to anyone?
posted by Blasdelb at 6:19 AM on October 3, 2011

and then here I am today aligning 10 macromolecules in pyMol for my thesis, then running a raytrace on them just to make a pretty picture.
posted by Canageek at 6:22 AM on October 3, 2011

If anyone sends you macromolecules you weren't expecting, be careful opening them. They auto-execute and may be viruses.
posted by DU at 6:37 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by Sublimity at 9:26 AM on October 3, 2011

Blasdelb, don't throw it out!! I kid you not! If you're really looking for a home for it, I have a friend who got some find of his placed in a Museum of Obsolete Technology in NJ. I mean a real bricks-and-mortar museum, not, like, my apartment. If there is stuff for the older Macs in there, I will take it myself (evil laugh). Message me if you like.

Absolutely don't miss this account from Cyrus Levinthal a few layers down. And the blinking cystines here. They (the cystines) would have put the fear of God in me in 1993, never mind 1971.
posted by skbw at 10:49 AM on October 3, 2011

Sorry, link not working. The blinkage is on Sequence 3 here.
posted by skbw at 10:51 AM on October 3, 2011

A little harder to research, but still cool, would be the very first mass-market molecular model kits. A friend who went to college in the mid-60s reports that (of course) they existed then, but they certainly weren't the standard for students in, say, organic I. (He ended up in pathology, where everything is 2D and 1mm thick.)
posted by skbw at 10:54 AM on October 3, 2011

Thanks SKBW! I'm the one who created the early molecular graphics page, eons ago it seems. Great to see appear now out the blue (or onto the blue) That was part of my work on molecular representation while a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. I was able to contact people who had been postdocs in Cyrus Levinthal's lab at MIT in the mid-1960s (Martin Zwick, Bob Langridge Ed Meyer and C. David Barry, in particular). I'm still very grateful to them. Not only had they kept all sort of material (documents, photos, films) but they were actually willing to send it all to me. I'm out of this field now, but I made sure the most important material ended up in proper archival sites (the MIT archives in particular).

Another video, showing the structure of myoglobin is availble is available on Youtube.

For those who'd like a bit more background, you can read my short article in Endeavour, "Cyrus Levinthal, the Kluge and the origins of interactive molecular graphics".
posted by bluefrog at 11:04 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bluefrog, your museum has aged EXTREMELY well, as a museum should.
posted by skbw at 11:12 AM on October 3, 2011

And as for the Youtube myoglobin video--you really CAN'T do better than an opening credit:

posted by skbw at 11:15 AM on October 3, 2011

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