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Letter from Linus Pauling to A.A. Noyes. November 22, 1926.
Pauling writes to update Noyes on his travel experiences, research and scholarly interactions while in Europe on a Guggenheim Fellowship. Pauling also discusses revisions made to his ion-attraction paper, noting that Noyes' assistance proved to be a great help.



November 22, 1926

Dear Dr. Noyes:

We were greatly pleased to receive your letter; but were sorry to learn that you had been worried over the delay in writing, for it was not a matter of sufficient importance to warrant its troubling you.

The amount of thought and effort that you have devoted to my ion-attraction paper has taught me a valuable lesson, for I shall attempt in the future to show in my work as much as possible of the care which characterizes yours. There is a difficulty at the point where I introduce this correction; even though Zwicky does not see it. The point is, however, a different one, and my treatment is rather physical and intuitive than mathematical and rigorous; so it is not surprising that Dr. Bateman probably did not understand it. Dr. Tolman has expressed the justified criticism that I have changed the physical picture underlying the mathematical treatment in order to introduce this correction, so that I am using the results of two idealizations. This is exactly the reason that has led me now to believe that probably the paper should not be published; for although I still think that my correction is partially justified by the (very complicated) arguments which I have given to support it, I am at present unable to satisfactorily combat Dr. Tolman’s argument, and I have come to believe that even though I believe it to be correct, it should not be published as long as I am unable to defend it against significant adverse criticism. I believe that I have a good physical sense, which enabled me to introduce this criticism; but I have learned that errors may be made with the cooperation of the physical sense, and so there is a possibility (which seems slight to me) that my second order correction may be inexact, or even in great error. I had not intended that my calculations be actually applied in the interpretation of experimental data, for I think them not sufficiently accurate; but rather to illustrate the limitations of the Debye theory and its extensions (introduction of variation of dielectric constant, etc). for my discussion shows (to me at east) that all of the refined applications of the theory are unjustified.

I do not think the first correction alone is worth publication. I shall not, of course, publish the paper so long as I can not convince you of its value. It is probable that on my return to Pasadena I should never be able to prove to Dr. Tolman and Zwicky that my treatment in its present form is justified. Accordingly I wish you to keep the manuscript, and not to spend on it any more of your valuable time. Possibly I shall be able some day to present a satisfactorily discussion of the problem, or to put my present treatment into a justifiable form, possibly in which my approximations with their physical (or intuitive) substantiation are given a more mathematical form, so that their justification and applicability can be more clearly seen (by the mathematicians). I have progressed considerably since that work was done (in the second year of my scientific incarnation), and probably now I would not make the effort to further complicate a complicated field. Since I shall now not be able to thank you in print, I take this occasion to express my appreciation of your continued assistance and advice in this matter.

We were most glad to learn of the Travel-Prize candidates, and to know that we can hope to see perhaps four of them here. I enjoyed very much my year with these boys.

I’m sorry Kirkpatrick didn’t finish K=N:(NO2)6, for I’d like to know the explanation of the anomalies. But I can hardly expect everyone to be interested I the problems which interest me.

My plans for the summer are unsettled; perhaps it will be worth while to visit both Copenhagen and Zurich, for reasonably long periods, with shorter stays in other places. Professor Victor Henri has just been here, delivering two lectures on his study of molecules such as H2CO with band spectral methods. He is going to America in February for about two months, and expects to go to Berkeley (after four weeks at MIT), which is not far from Pasadena. He has a peculiar voice, which makes him sound as though he had a bad cold. We met him in Zurich in June, also.

Professor KT Compton spent a week here; he is a fine man. He and his wife brought their two children along- my respect for my wife’s good sense has been steadily rising, for I argued strongly against leaving the baby. He ordered twenty-five models from Selmayr, who is kept busy now. I shall have about fifty forty made for Gates, unless you write that is too many; they will average about $2.50 apiece, I think, with 33% duty, and about 20% shipping costs. The models are not nearly so large as the others we have, and they are beautifully and accurately made.

I thank you for the advice regarding foreign publication. I’m enclosing proof sheets of a paper I sent to the Zeitschrift für Physik, because of its similarity to Wentzel’s paper, a mistake in which it corrects. This paper received, so far as I know, the usual treatment- thus I submitted it myself to the editor, under my own name, but mentioning Professor Sommerfeld. It is now less than a month, and it will appear in the next issue of the journal. I think that there is something to be said for fast publication; it is at least pleasing to the author.

I am now working on the prediction of the physical properties of atoms and monatomic ions. I intend sending this paper to the Physical Review.

This semester I am devoting my time mainly to research. Further than that, I attend Sommerfeld’s lectures two hours a week, in which he is presenting the new wave mechanics systematically, and two seminars. I have not thought it worth while to hear Sommerfelds lectures on mechanics, nor Fajaus rather elementary atomic structure lectures (for chemists) and seminars. There is now one other American with Professor Sommerfeld, an experimental physicist from Columbia.

I have just decided that I may have been using j instead of j+1 in my equations, and I must look to see.

Most sincerely,

Linus Pauling

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