|The Langmuir Prize
To provide support and encouragement for chemists early in their careers, Dr. A. C.
Langmuir (the brother of the physical chemist Irving Langmuir) in 1931 began funding
an annual prize of one thousand dollars, to be awarded to the best young chemist in
the nation. He left the selection to the American Chemical Society (ACS), the field's
leading professional association. The first year the Langmuir Prize was offered, former
ACS president A. A. Noyes made sure that Linus Pauling, his favorite young chemist,
In August 1931, Pauling was thrilled to learn that he had won. The prize recognized
Pauling's unusual productivity and promise-at age thirty he had already published
more than fifty papers covering a wide range of theoretical and experimental topics-and
was particularly rich award for those days, equivalent to roughly one quarter of Pauling's
It also provided the ACS and Caltech with the opportunity for some publicity. Pauling
soon found himself a minor celebrity, interviewed by newspaper writers from Portland
to New York, asked for photographs, and featured in magazines. Scientific American
ran a large picture of him looking serious and scholarly and described him as the
"prodigy of American science." Noyes told reporters that Pauling was "the most promising
young man with whom I have ever come in contact in my many years of teaching." A.
C. Langmuir gushed that he was "a rising star, who may yet win the Nobel Prize."
At an evening plenary session of the national ACS meeting in Buffalo, New York, that
September, Pauling loped across the stage to receive the award from the society's
president to the sound of enthusiastic applause from two thousand of the nation's
leading chemists. A cartoon of the occasion, drawn for a meeting newsletter, showed
a tousle-haired young Pauling eagerly stretching his hands out toward a bag marked
"$1000." His only regret, he said later, was that his mother had not been there to
see him win the award.