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Letter from Linus Pauling to Daniel Mazia. April 1, 1953.
Pauling writes to discuss Mazia's data on the surface films of DNA. In urging Mazia to continue his line of research, Pauling confides that he and Robert Corey "do not feel at all sure that our [DNA] structure is the correct one."


1 April 1953

Dr. Daniel Mazia

Department of Zoology

University of California

Berkeley 4, California

Dear Dr. Mazia:

I am glad to have your letter of 11 March, and to know about your work on surface films of deoxyribonucleic acid.

I am afraid that I do not have much to say about your first question - as to how to account for the stability of DNA film over a solution in which the substance is soluble.

I agree with you that your measurement of 22 A for the thickness of the film agrees nicely with our results. The diameter of our helix is about 18 A. If these molecules were to be packed together in a surface film, there is a chance that the contact distance would be somewhat less with a corresponding increase in the thickness of the film, accordingly your value of 22 is, I think, compatible with our structure.

As to your third question, I do not have a strong feeling about the matter. I have not thought enough about this matter as yet, to have formed a sound opinion.

It seems to me that the work that you and Mr. James have done adds one more piece of evidence to support our structure, to the extent that it makes the thickness of the molecule roughly 20 A.

I hope that you will continue to carry on work in this field. Professor Corey and I do not feel at all sure that our structure is the correct one, but we do feel that it will be possible, in the course of a few years, to determine the fundamental folding of polynucleotide chains in the nucleic acids.

Sincerely yours,

Linus Pauling:W

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