Linus Pauling and The Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History Narrative  
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Wave Functions
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Today we have computers to run mathematical equations as complex as the wave functions Pauling was trying to solve in 1928. In precomputer days it was almost impossible. Like every theoretician working to apply wave mechanics to complex systems, Pauling was forced to find shortcuts, to make assumptions and approximations, to simplify the mathematics.

He was not the only one facing the problem. The same mathematical complexity was stalling London and others interested in the field. The difference with Pauling was that he was confident enough that the mathematics would fall into place to publish his preliminary thought, thus ensuring scientific priority. He then set his graduate student, Sturdivant, an able mathematician in his own right, to work on the tetrahedral-wave-function problem. When Sturdivant got nowhere after weeks of work, Pauling, now on to other problems set the carbon problem aside.

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Audio Clip  Audio: Complicated Calculations. January 17, 1983. (0:44) Transcript and More Information

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Video Clip  Video: Lecture 2, Part 6. 1957. (6:38) Transcript and More Information

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See Also: "The Wave Mechanics Treatment of 'Penetrating Orbits.'" 1926 - 1927. 
See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to J. Holmes Sturdivant. May 4, 1948. 

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J. Holmes Sturdivant. 1950.


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"Memorial Message -- James Holmes Sturdivant." February 19, 1975.

"[P.W.] Bridgman . . . would say that a question that does not have operational significance, that does not lead to an experiment of some sort, or an observation, it's significant. I never have been bothered by the detailed or penetrating discussions about interpretation of quantum mechanics."

Linus Pauling
March 27, 1964
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