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Linus Pauling

1901 - 1994

Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling is the only person in history to have won two unshared Nobel Prizes (Chemistry 1954, Peace 1962). He is considered one of the greatest scientists and humanitarians ever, and his fields of activity were widespread.

  • Nationality
  • American

  • Subject
  • Chemistry, Biochemistry

  • Fields
  • Quantum chemistry, molecular biology, orthomolecular medicine

  • Distinctions
  • Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1954.

    Nobel Peace Prize, 1962.

    Ranked by New Scientist in 2000 as the 16th greatest scientist of all time.

  • Publications
  • Pauling published over 1200 papers and books. Only two-thirds of these were on science.

    Paper on the concept of hybridization of atomic orbitals, which analyzed the tetravalency of the carbon atom, 1931.

    Close-Packed Spheron Model of the atomic nucleus, 1952, Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    No more war!, 1958, in which he called for an end to the testing of nuclear weapons and to war itself.

    How to Live Longer and Feel Better, in which Pauling advocates large doses of Vitamin C.

  • Laws
  • Pauling's Rules (quantum mechanics of molecular structure)

    Pauling Electronegativy Scale (predicting the nature of bonds between atoms and molecules)

  • Theories
  • Application of quantum mechanics to molecular structures.

    Introduced the concept of electronegativity (1932).

    Electronegativity and quantum mechanics applied to ionic and covalent bonding, aromatic hydrocarbons, and resonance (superposition of structures).

    Proposed the structure of DNA as a triple helix, leading to the discovery of the helix structure of proteins.

    Affects of abnormal proteins on human health, and pioneering the field of molecular genetics.

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • X-ray crystallography

    Gas phase electron diffraction

    Mathematical and experimental investigations of inorganic molecular structure, haemoglobin, protein structure, amino acids, peptides.

    Established that sickle cell anaemia was a molecular disease.

In the 1920s, Pauling was studying quantum mechanics, and travelled to Europe on a Guggenheim Fellowship, where he met and study under Niels Bohr (Copenhagen) and Erwin Schrödinger (Zurich), and Arnold Sommerfield (Germany).

He was the first to adapt these physics ideas to chemistry, effectively creating the field of quantum chemistry, which he applied to studying molecular structures. Pauling was close to discovering the structure of DNA from his work on protein helixes.

Pauling worked on military projects during WW2, but went on to be involved in anti-war and anti-nuclear movements as a prominent peace activist. He joined Albert Einstein's Emergency Meeting of Atomic Scientists, with the mission to warn the public of the dangers of nuclear weapon development. He signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto in 1955, and supported the Mainau Declaration of July 15, 1955, signed by 52 Nobel laureates.

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