Representation and Misrepresentation in Biomolecular Science

David S. Goodsell



Biological molecules are too small for direct imaging, so synthetic images are used for study and presentation of molecular structure. Three basic types of images are widely used, using different fictional elements to display different aspects of the structure: bond diagrams represent each covalent bond as a single line; spacefilling diagrams represent each atom as a sphere; and ribbon diagrams are schematic representations of the molecular topology. The widespread, and nearly exclusive, use of these three types of diagrams has influenced the course of biomolecular research and the perception of molecules in the popular media.


biomolecular science; molecules; biology; bonding diagrams; popular media

Full Text:



BS Duncan & AJ Olson (1993) Approximation and characterization of molecular surfaces. Biopolymers 33, 219-229.

DS Goodsell (1991) Inside a living cell. Trends Biochem. Sci. 16, 203-206.

DS Goodsell & AJ Olson (1992) Molecular illustration in black and white. J. Mol. Graphics 10, 235-240.

P Kraulis (1991) MolScript: a program to produce both detailed and schematic plots of protein structures. J. Appl. Cryst. 24, 946-950.

AJ Olson & DS Goodsell (1992a) Macromolecular Graphics. Cun. Opinion Struct. Biol. 2, 193-201.

AJ Olson & DS Goodsell (1992b) Visualizing biological molecules. Sci. Am. 267(5), 76-81.

JS Richardson (1981) The anatomy and taxonomy of protein structure. Adv. Prot. Chem. 34, 167-339.

MF Sanner, AJ Olson & J-C Spehner (1996) Reduced surface: an efficient way to compute molecular surfaces. Biopolymers 38, 305-320.

C Upson, TJ Faulhaber, D Kamins, D Laidlaw, D Schlegel, J Vroom, R Gurwitz & A van Dam (1989) The Application Visualization System: a computational environment for scientific visualization. IEEE Comp. Graphics Appl. 9, 30-42.

JD Watson & FHC Crick (1953) Genetic implications of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid. Nature 171, 737-738.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2392-1196 (online)

Partnerzy platformy czasopism