The Nature of the Chemical Bond was written in language that chemists could understand. Pauling purposely left out
almost all mathematics and detailed derivations of bonds from quantum mechanics, concentrating
instead on description and real-world examples. The book was filled with drawings
and diagrams of molecules. It was, considering the breadth of its approach, amazingly
And it was vitally important. In it Pauling had, as Nobel Laureate Max Perutz later
said, shown that "chemistry could be understood rather than being memorized."
The response to its publication was immediate and enthusiastic. A letter Pauling received
from a University of Illinois professor was typical: "I cannot refrain from taking
the opportunity to express to you congratulations and my personal appreciation for
one of the finest contributions to chemical literature that I have ever read."
G. N. Lewis, to whom Pauling dedicated the book, wrote him, "I have just returned
from a short vacation for which the only books I took were half a dozen detective
stories and your ‘Chemical Bond.’ I found yours the most exciting of the lot."
The book soon became a standard text at most of the nation’s leading universities.
It would go through a number of new editions, be translated into French, Japanese,
Russian, German and Spanish, and stay in print for almost three decades. It would
become a Bible for a new generation of chemists and one of the most cited references
in the history of science.