"Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease" by Pauling, Itano, Singer, and Wells not
only was a revolutionary paper in making popular the general concept of molecular
disease, but also in inspiring subsequent research in hematology. Scientists from
various fields including biochemistry, genetics, hematology, and clinical medicine
contributed to the pursuit of finding, understanding, and treating abnormal hemoglobins.
Considering that molecular biology is a discipline comprised of multiple fields including
biology, chemistry, medicine, and genetics, it is not surprising that many of Pauling's
contemporaries view his work on sickle cell anemia as pivotal to establishing molecular
Some people believe that Pauling's sickle cell anemia work should have been mentioned
in his 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. However, he won this prize for his work on the
nature of the chemical bond. Others have remarked that he should have been awarded
a Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology and in fact, Pauling had heard that he was
considered for a Nobel Prize for his sickle cell anemia work. In addition, some of
Pauling's colleagues stated at his 85th birthday celebration that he should have received
a third Nobel Prize acknowledging his contribution to understanding sickle cell anemia.
Although Pauling did not receive a Nobel Prize for the sickle cell anemia work, he
and others understood its significance. Immediately prior to his death, Pauling noted
that the sickle cell anemia investigations and article "contributed to the development
of the field of molecular biology." Pauling was not alone in this belief. During
a banquet honoring Pauling at Caltech in 1986, speakers described him as "the greatest
chemist of the twentieth century" and "the true father of molecular biology." Francis
Crick, co-founder of the structure of DNA, said (after Pauling's death) that his contribution
to sickle cell anemia, as well as the subsequent work performed at Caltech and elsewhere
by other investigators, merged the fields of genetics and protein chemistry.