Bernal's alarm clock x-ray diffraction camera, c 1940s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
John Desmond Bernal (1901-1971) founded the science of molecular biology and pioneered X-ray crystallography. He did important work on the structure of water while Professor of Physics at the University of London. During WWII he was involved in unsuccessful attempts to create artificial icebergs to act as aircraft carriers. A lifelong communist, Bernal was interested in the application of Marxist philosophy to science. He published 'The Social Function of Science' (1939) and 'The Origin of Life' (1967). Known to his friends as 'Sage', Bernal was very influential in both political and scientific circles.