Linus Pauling and The Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History Narrative  
Home | Search | All Documents and Media | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day
The Xenon Conundrum
<  38  >

Rather, almost everything Pauling did turned out well. One daring prediction Pauling made based on his scale was that fluorine, estimated to be extremely electronegative, would be able to form compounds even with an inert gas like xenon. Inert gases of any sort were thought incapable of chemical combination, and the creation of a xenon compound would have made history.

Experiments were needed to test his prediction. Pure xenon gas was extremely rare, but Pauling managed to obtain a little of it from a colleague and gave it to his colleague Don Yost, who worked through the summer of 1933 searching for the predicted compounds. He could not find any — a failure that Pauling found both confusing and galling. The reasons for Yost's inability to find what he was looking for are uncertain. But it turned out that Pauling was right. Thirty years later, another team would make international news by producing the xenon compounds Pauling had said were possible.

Previous Page Next Page

Audio Clip  Audio: Research on Xenon. November 11, 1966. (1:02) Transcript and More Information

Get the Flash Player to see this audio player.

See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to Fred Allen. November 16, 1933. 

Click images to enlarge 

Don Yost, approx. 1930.

Page 1
Pastel drawing of Xenon Hydrate. 1964.

"I should like to do some work (with Professor Yost) in an attempt to prepare certain compounds of xenon suggested by theoretical arguments. No doubt your xenon is precious; if, however, you could lend us 10 cc or so (of not necessarily pure stuff), we would try to return it to you either as such or in some compound (I hope), and we would be properly grateful."

Linus Pauling
September 13, 1932
Home | Search | All Documents and Media | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day