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Letter from Linus Pauling to Leslie Sutton. April 2, 1940.
Pauling discusses ongoing developments in wartime Europe and U.S. reluctance to join combat. He describes the current work of Schomaker and Stevenson in electron diffraction and the installation of IBM punch-card calculating machines.


April 2, 1940

Dr. Leslie E. Sutton

1 Eastchurch

Iffley, Oxford


Dear Leslie:

I am glad to learn from your letter which arrived here on February 28, one month after you mailed it, that you are now feeling better about the situation than you were when you wrote at the beginning of the War. It is good that you have time for your own work and teaching. I am looking forward to seeing your lecture on the "Present Stage of Valency Theory" when it appears.

You must remember when thinking about the United States that it is the way of democracies to be undecided and to have difficulty in reaching a final decision about important questions. This disadvantage of the democratic system is of course far outweighed by the advantages, which we all know about and for which you are fighting. We have been working hard around here for the "Union Now" scheme of uniting the democracies, although I must say that I am not very optimistic about anything's being done soon.

The work in the laboratory is moving along as usual. Schomaker and Stevenson and the other electron diffraction men have been getting a lot of interesting results. Schomaker now has refinement of the radial distribution method in such good shape that it leads often to complete structure determinations in one step. There is also a lot of crystal structure work being done especially on amino acids and polypeptides. We are just installing some International Business Machines with about 200,000 punched cards for making very rapidly and accurately the electron diffraction and

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x-ray calculations. I am interested now in the question of the structure and process of formation of antibodies, and have developed a theory on which many predictions can be based. We are beginning experimental work in serology in order to test some of these.

We have a new staff member in organic chemistry, Professor L. Zechmeister of the University of Pecs. He is working especially now on isomerism of carotenoids.

My wife and I are leaving next Sunday for the East, where we shall attend the Spring meetings of the societies. We are all in good health, Young Linus is now fifteen, and may go off to boarding school next year, although a definite decision has not yet been made.

With best regards to everyone at Oxford, I am

Sincerely yours,

Linus Pauling


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