The Scientific War Work of Linus C. Pauling Narrative  
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A Failed Project
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The apparatus quickly proved itself inadequate for use in the field. It was bulky, making it unsuitable for use in confined spaces like tank cabins or cockpits. Worse, it was too fragile to survive transport to the Pacific or European theaters, much less the strain of battlefield conditions. Finally, the device was hopelessly inaccurate unless used under specific, controlled conditions. All of these factors rendered it useless for its intended purpose, stopping the project dead in its tracks.

Disappointed, Pauling released his final report and quickly retired the project. In an attempt to find some justification for the hundreds of hours of labor that went into the device, Pauling noted that the apparatus was well suited to use in the laboratory. Indeed, when used in a stable environment, the device was highly accurate and very useful for rapid measurements. The few meters that were produced before the closure of the project were distributed among researchers at Caltech for later use.

Interestingly, this project may have had some effect on Pauling's later career. In 1951 Pauling and three co-authors published an important article in Science titled "Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease." In this article, it is suggested that the warping of cells in individuals with sickle cell anemia is a result of the attraction between abnormally charged hemoglobin and oxygen molecules. Pauling discovered this, in part, by bonding carbon monoxide to sickle cell hemoglobin and creating carboxyhemoglobin. It is plausible that Pauling's World War II work at least partially informed this discovery which, in turn, led to major growth in the fields of biological chemistry and medicine.

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See Also: "Photometric Determination of Carboxyhemoglobin." October 21, 1942. 

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Charcoal portrait of Linus Pauling. 1945.

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Letter from Linus Pauling to James Conant. January 12, 1943.

"In regard to the carbon monoxide project, unless there is some other method of approach it would appear to me without a too careful analysis that the hemoglobin method is not suitable for adaption to an airplane instrument."

Warren C. Johnson
March 23, 1943
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