Linus Pauling and the Structure of Proteins: A Documentary History All Documents and Media  
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Key Participants

William T. Astbury
George W. Beadle
John Desmond Bernal
William Lawrence Bragg
Herman R. Branson
Dan H. Campbell
William B. Castle
Robert B. Corey
Francis H. C. Crick
Max Delbrück
Emil Fischer
Frank Blair Hanson
Maurice Huggins
Harvey A. Itano
John C. Kendrew
Karl Landsteiner
Alfred E. Mirsky
Carl G. Niemann
Linus Pauling
Max F. Perutz
Frederick Sanger
S. Jonathan Singer
Theodor (The) Svedberg
Alexander R. Todd
Warren Weaver
Dorothy Wrinch

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Robert Corey.
Robert Corey. 1950.
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Robert B. Corey


Robert Corey Papers, 1924-1965
Location: Caltech Institute Archives
Address: Mail Code 015A-74, Caltech, Pasadena, California 91125
Size: 2 linear feet
Finding Aid:
Phone: 626-395-2704  Fax: 626-793-8756
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"I think it has really been very much worthwhile for me to get away for this period of time, under circumstances favorable to my thinking over questions and trying to find their solution."

Linus Pauling. Letter to Robert Corey. March 3, 1948.

"He and I together decided that he should work on the determination of the structure of some crystals of amino acids and simple peptides. When I say that he and I together made this decision, I may not be quite right. It is not unlikely that he had already made the decision, and that he arranged to have me agree with him, in such a way that I would think that we had made the decision together. I learned later that he was very good at this..."

Linus Pauling. "Robert Brainard Corey." May 3, 1971.

"On my return to Pasadena in the fall of 1948 I talked with Professor Corey about the alpha helix and the gamma helix, and also with Dr. Herman Branson, who had come for a year as a visiting professor. I asked Dr. Branson to go over my calculations, and in particular to see if he could find any third helical structure. He reported that the calculations were all right, and that he could not find a third structure."

Linus Pauling. "The Discovery of the Alpha Helix." September 1982.

"...[T]hree ways of folding polypeptide chains have turned out to constitute the most important secondary structures of all proteins. Dr. Corey, to some extent with my inspiration, designed molecular models of several different kinds that were of much use in the later effort to study other methods of folding polypeptide chains. I used these units to make about 100 different possible structures for folding polypeptide chains."

Linus Pauling. "The Discovery of the Alpha Helix." September 1982.

"[Corey and I] reached the conclusion, as did Crick, that in the alpha-keratin proteins the alpha helices are twisted together into ropes or cables. This idea essentially completed our understanding of the alpha-keratin diffraction patterns."

Linus Pauling. "The Discovery of the Alpha Helix." September 1982.

"During a single year, using his own x-ray equipment, Corey made great strides into the protein puzzle. He showed that in the crystalline dipeptide diketopiperazine (a simplified analogue of amino acids), the amide bonds were coplaner, strongly suggesting the presence of a resonance structure - observations that fit precisely with Pauling's studies of the amide bond in urea during the early 1930s."

Lily E. Kay. The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Rise of the New Biology (New York: Oxford University Press). 1993.

"While my own work at Caltech had nothing to do with protein structure, Pauling used to talk to me occasionally about his models and what one could learn from them. In his lecture, he had talked about spirals. In conversation a few days later, I told him that for me the word "spiral" referred to a curve in a plane. As his polypeptide coils were three-dimensional figures, I suggested they were better described as "helices." Pauling's erudition did not stop at the natural sciences. He answered, quite correctly, that the words "spiral" and "helix" are practically synonymous and can be used almost interchangeably, but he thanked me for my suggestion because he preferred "helix" and declared that he would always use it henceforth. Perhaps he felt that by calling his structure a helix there would be less risk of confusion with the various other models that had been proposed earlier. In their 1950 short preliminary communication, Pauling and Corey wrote exclusively about spirals, but in the series of papers published the following year the spiral had already given way to the helix. There was no going back. A few years later we had the DNA double helix, not the DNA double spiral. The formulation of the α-helix was the first and is still one of the greatest triumphs of speculative model building in molecular biology, and I am pleased that I helped to give it its name."

Jack Dunitz. "La Primavera." (unpublished manuscript) 2011.

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