Carolina Henriette MacGillavry

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Carolina Henriette Mac Gillavry (January 22, 1904 in Amsterdam – May 9, 1993 in Amsterdam) was a Dutch chemist and crystallographer. She is known for her discoveries on the use of diffraction in crystallography.


Mac Gillavry was born the second of six children in an intellectual family (her father was a brain surgeon, her mother a teacher). In 1921 she began a study in chemistry at the University of Amsterdam, where she became interested in the (then) new field of quantum mechanics. In 1932 she finished her studies and became the assistant of chemist A. Smits. She became a friend of J. H. Bijvoet, who interested her in crystallography which led to her 1937 PhD thesis on the subject. She then became assistant of A. E. van Arkel at Leiden, but Bijvoet asked her to come back to the Amsterdam crystallography laboratory that same year. Together with Bijvoet she did research in electromagnetic diffraction and its use in crystallography. She also did research in inorganic chemistry.

After World War II, Mac Gillavry was one of the developers of direct methods, an innovative calculus that could be used in crystallography. The method uses the Harker–Kasper inequality, that was first published in 1948 by crystallographers D. Harker and J. S. Kasper. Due to her work on Harker Kasper inequalities, she became an international authority on the subject. In 1948 she worked with R. Pepinsky in Auburn, Alabama, for a year. The Dutch company Philips also got interested in her work on the chemistry of solids. In 1950 she became the first woman to be appointed to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[1] In the same year she became a professor at the University of Amsterdam.

In the English speaking world Mac Gillavry became most famous for her book Symmetry aspects of M. C. Escher's periodic drawings on the works of M. C. Escher. The book was instrumental in drawing international attention to the artist as well. Mac Gillavry married the oto-rhino-laryngologist J. H. Nieuwenhuijsen in 1968. She retired in 1972.


  1. ^ "Carolina Henriëtte MacGillavry (1904 - 1993)" (in Dutch). Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 

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