Linus Pauling and The Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History Narrative  
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The Teacher
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Pauling cared deeply about teaching, enjoyed it, and wanted to make it come alive for students. He believed a chemical education should start with a sense of wonder. "I know of no chemist who was attracted to this field because of theoretical chemistry," he wrote his superiors at Caltech. "Instead, it is an interest in chemicals and their reactions which first attracted the chemist." In his own lectures he used chemical props and tricks like a magician, showing students how chemistry worked rather than telling them. He proposed giving students drawings of molecules "as we now picture them" to give them a concrete feel for what they were studying. Such molecular drawings, now common in most chemistry textbooks, had not been used before.

And he was a great lecturer, a "bouncy young extrovert," as one student described Pauling in the mid-1930s, "wholly informal in dress and appearance. He bounded into the room, already crowded with students eager to see the Great Man, spread himself over the seminar table next to the blackboard and, running his hand through an unruly shock of hair, gestured to the students to come closer. . . The talk started with Pauling leaping off the table and rapidly writing a list of five topics on which he could speak singly or all together. He described each in a few pithy sentences, including racy impressions of the workers involved."

More important than his lecturing style was Pauling’s vision of a new chemistry built on a new foundation of quantum mechanics. Pauling had learned chemistry as a relatively loose aggregate of procedures and observations; now, he thought, it could be taught as a unified science with a firm and consistent underlying theory. His own ideas about the chemical bond could be used to explain a wide variety of phenomena, from thermodynamics to crystal structures, from organic to inorganic chemistry, providing a new level of order and sense. He began organizing his classes around these basic themes.

The result would be one of the most influential books in the history of science.

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Audio Clip  Audio: Pauling's Lecture Style. 1977. (1:46) Transcript and More Information

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Audio Clip  Audio: A Legendary Showman. January 19, 1996. (0:48) Transcript and More Information

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See Also: "Lifestory: Linus Pauling." 1997.  Clip: A Brilliant Lecturer. (0:37)
See Also: Examinations, Lecture Notes: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics with Chemical Applications, Ch 156a, Ch 156b, Ch156c, 1933 - 1934. 

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Picture
Linus Pauling, in lecture at California Institute of Technology. 1935.


Page 1
"The Teaching of General Chemistry." March 30, 1949.

"...[T]o awaken an interest in chemistry in students we mustn’t make the courses consist entirely of explanations, forgetting to mention what there is to be explained."

Linus Pauling
November 18, 1930
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