Linus Carl Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1901.
Like many entrepreneurs as well as scientists, Pauling was curious. He was a voracious reader, thinker, and doer. In high school he constructed a chemical laboratory in his basement. He and his friend scrounged equipment from an abandoned smelter and later went into business. They performed butterfat readings for local dairy herds. Their prices were cheap and they were young. Dairymen were skeptical. The butterfat business failed.
Throughout his life, people were often skeptical of Pauling's ideas.
With friends, he then opened a photography laboratory and later worked at various odd jobs to put himself through Oregon Agricultural College until the college hired him to teach quantitative analysis, a course which he had just completed. While teaching "Chemistry for Home Economic Majors" he met his future wife, Ava. He graduated in 1922 with a degree in chemical engineering and continued his education at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He and Ava were married in 1923. In 1925 he received his PhD in physical chemistry and mathematical physics, summa cum laude.
Pauling took classes at OAC, but conducted his research at Caltech. He was a founder of the new science of quantum chemistry.
It is a wonderful feeling to understand something about the world that no one else has ever understood.
-- Linus Pauling
In 1926 Pauling was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 1927 he became an assistant professor at Caltech in theoretical chemistry. Over the next five years he published approximately fifty scientific papers and created what became known as Pauling's Rules. He combined mathematics and chemistry as he worked with quantum mechanical calculations on atoms and molecules.
I am happy to feel that I now have an understanding of at least the basic answers to the question "What is life?"
-- Linus Pauling
He introduced the concept of electronegativity and from that created the Pauling Electronegativity Scale (which considers the nature of bonds between atoms in molecules). He studied enzymes, DNA structure and later on the controversial health benefits of vitamin C. In 1954 he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry "for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances".
In 1963 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. He became the only person to be awarded two unshared Nobel Prizes. Pauling was one of the most influential chemists in history and one of the most important scientists of the 20th century. He died at the age of 93 in 1994.
Pauling has been called the "father of molecular biology." His ideas and passion concerning the molecular basis of disease and treatment are being carried on by researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute and others. The institute at Oregon State University, named in his honor, studies the role of micronutrients and phytochemicals in health and disease. Pauling's legacy is a better understanding of healthy living and aging.
Listen to this radio program on Linus Pauling and the Linus Pauling Institute
This progran features an interview with Balz Frei, Ph.D., Director of LPI and Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
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