Linus Pauling and The Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History Narrative  
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Preface
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Linus Pauling is the only person in history to win two unshared Nobel Prizes. This web resource celebrates the first of these, the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It offers students, teachers, scientists and interested members of the public access to an unusually rich, easily navigated documentary history of a central achievement in the history of science — an achievement that also ensured Linus Pauling’s reputation as the most influential chemist of the twentieth century.

The Prize was a long time coming. By 1954, Pauling had amassed an unprecedented string of achievements: He rebuilt chemistry on a new foundation of quantum physics; made seminal discoveries in x-ray crystallography, inorganic and organic chemistry, immunology, biochemistry and physical chemistry; earned a place as a founding father of molecular biology; become the youngest person ever elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; written roughly 300 scientific papers and three of the century's most influential chemistry books; and expanded the boundaries of his discipline from atomic physics to genetic medicine. He had been mentioned as a leading candidate for the Prize for more than two decades prior to 1954. Instead of winning, however, he watched as a procession of sometimes younger, often less significant chemists — including one of his students — picked up the chemistry Nobel.

By 1954 the Nobel Commitee finally awarded him the Prize "For research into the nature of the chemical bond . . . and its application to the elucidation of complex substances." Nobels are usually awarded for a single outstanding discovery. Pauling's, by contrast, was a lifetime achievement award.

"The nature of the chemical bond" was the broad field of research that Pauling had helped pioneer when he was a postgraduate fellow in 1926-27, then carried through to what he considered completion with publication of one of history’s most important scientific books, "The Nature of the Chemical Bond," in 1939.

This web resource focuses on those critical years, and the discoveries that moved chemistry into the twentieth century.

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Audio Clip  Audio: Pauling's Early Start in Chemistry. 1977. (2:08) Transcript and More Information

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Audio Clip  Audio: A Short Autobiography. 1977. (1:57) Transcript and More Information

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Video Clip  Video: Valence and Molecular Structure: Lecture 1, Part 1. 1957. (5:35) Transcript and More Information

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See Also: "The Development of the Concept of the Chemical Bond." January 17, 1983. 
See Also: "Linus Pauling, Crusading Scientist." 1977.  Clip: Lloyd Jeffress. (1:14)

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Group Photo of Chemistry Staff, California Institute of Technology. 1923.


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Pastel drawing of Hexamethylenetertramine. 1964.

"In 1931 when my papers on the nature of the chemical bond appeared, Professor Noyes, who was chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, said that I probably would get the Nobel Prize someday. Well, I thought, that's nice of the old guy to say that, but I'm a little skeptical myself. And as the years went by, I thought, I don't do the sort of work for which Nobel Prizes are given."

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