Linus Pauling was the most important chemist, and arguably the most important American
scientist, of the twentieth century. From his descriptions of chemical bonds in quantum
mechanical terms in the late 1920s and 1930s - a series of papers that culminated
in the hugely influential book The Nature of the Chemical Bond - through his structural studies of complex inorganic and organic molecules and discovery
of the chemical basis of sickle-cell anemia, Pauling's work leaped over the boundaries
of disciplines and helped to revolutionize the study of chemistry.
In 1951 he was the head of the chemistry division at the California Institute of Technology,
the acknowledged world master at solving complex molecular structures, author of hundreds
of papers and several seminal textbooks, widely respected as a genius in his field,
and a role model for Watson and Crick, who adopted the method he had used to attack
proteins - a combination of model-building, chemical knowledge and modern physics
- in their work on DNA.
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Portrait of Linus Pauling. 1950.
"The structure of hair, muscle, and related proteins." April - May 1951.
"I believe that the same process of moulding of plastic materials into a configuration
complementary to that of another molecule, which serves as a template, is responsible
for all biological specificity. I believe that the genes serve as the templates on
which are moulded the enzymes that are responsible for the chemical characters of
the organisms, and that they also serve as templates for the production of replicas
of themselves. The detailed mechanism by means of which a gene or a virus molecule
produces replicas of itself is not yet known. In general the use of a gene or virus
as a template would lead to the formation of a molecule not with identical structure
but with complementary structure. It might happen, of course, that a molecule could
be at the same time identical with and complementary to the template on which it is