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 Prize
<  48  >

After publication of The Nature of the Chemical Bond, Pauling, his place in chemical history assured, focused his attention away from physics and toward biology. Over the next 15 years he made vital advances in immunology, genetics, and determining the structure of proteins. During World War II he helped to perfect new explosives and rocket propellants and invented a more effective oxygen meter for submarines. After the war he won a string of prestigious awards, including a host of honorary degrees and most of the highest honors and medals vailable for scientific work.

But the highest award of all, the Nobel Prize, seemed to elude him. His name was often mentioned among possible Nobel candidates in chemistry, but the award itself always went to someone else (one of Pauling’s former students even won it in 1951). Pauling reasoned that he was being ignored because Alfred Nobel’s will said specifically that the prizes were to be given for a single important discovery, while Pauling had reshaped chemistry through a series of discoveries, creating an edifice of structural chemistry composed of many parts. "That was the trouble," he later said. "What was the single great discovery I had made?"

Then, while lecturing at Cornell the fall of 1954, Pauling received a phone call from a newspaper reporter. "What is your reaction to winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry?" came the question. Pauling asked what it was for. "Chemistry," came the reply. "No, what does the citation say?" Pauling asked. He wanted to know which of his many achievements was being honored. "For research into the nature of the chemical bond," the reporter read from the newswire, "and its application to the elucidation of complex substances." Pauling gave a wide grin. The Prize was being awarded to him for everything he had done from 1928 on. The Nobel officials had found a way to give him a lifetime award.

Previous Page Next Page

Audio Clip  Audio: Learning of the Nobel Chemistry Prize. 1977. (0:54) Transcript and More Information

Get the Flash Player to see this audio player.

Video Clip  Video: The Nobel Chemistry Prize. 1988. (0:49) Transcript and More Information

Get the Flash Player to see this video.


See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to Lee DuBridge. November 4, 1954. 
See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to Linus Pauling, Jr. November 26, 1954. 
See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to the Collector of Internal Revenue, December 5, 1954. 

Click images to enlarge 

Medal - Obverse
Nobel Prize for Chemistry. December 10, 1954.


Picture
Stöld. 1954.

"I doubt that many Nobel Prizes have been so popular with the masses in science.... [A]lmost all are delighted that the Nobel Prize embarrasses the State Department."

Charles Coryell
November 2, 1954
Home | Search | All Documents and Media | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day