How were scientists able to produce these accurate structural diagrams long before scientists were able to capture images of the actual molecules?

Reference: Scientists capture first images of molecules before and after reaction

  • $\begingroup$ It should be noted that those molecules are being resolved at low resolution (we see 7 units in a molecule with 40 atoms) -- so much of the molecular structure is still being inferred the old-fashioned way. $\endgroup$
    – adam.r
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ Technically, this is a duplicate of another question, but the answers to that question only address chemical composition rather than structure...so I wouldn't say this is a true duplicate. Anyway, the first step to determining structure is to determine composition, so this other question provides part of the answer: chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/771/… $\endgroup$
    – adam.r
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 3:59

1 Answer 1


They ran chemical reactions on the molecule and identified the fragments. Then like a jigsaw puzzle, using additional information derived from other chemical reactions, they pieced the molecule back together. Some Nobel prizes were awarded for such structure determinations.


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