Using shape for self-assembly

Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2012 Jun 28;370(1969):2824-47. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2011.0254.


A 1980 poem by Alan Mackay outlines his aspiration 'to see what all have seen but think what none have thought': a daunting task, which he accomplished not once, but several times. A 'truly myriadminded, manysided man-a veritable triacontahedron' in the words of his colleagues and friends, Alan Mackay pursued a lifelong interest in the problems of morphogenesis and form, a comprehension of which necessitated him crisscrossing the borders of the inanimate and animate world of soft and hard materials, through the integration of concepts and methods of chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology. In other words, he realized in his time a genuinely interdisciplinary approach to complex problems that still to this day remains beyond much of the academic community. Being invited to contribute a paper on the theme 'beyond crystals', we naturally wondered how Alan Mackay would think about the world of nanoscale self-assembly where so much depends on shape and form.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopolymers / chemistry*
  • Crystallization / methods*
  • Macromolecular Substances / chemistry*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Nanostructures / ultrastructure*


  • Biopolymers
  • Macromolecular Substances