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Letter from Jerry Donohue to Linus Pauling. December 15, 1952.
Donohue writes to provide Pauling with the details of "three more satisfactory helices" that Donohue has derived in his work on the structure of proteins. Donohue adds that he would like to continue testing his experimental methods using the interatomic distance data that Pauling generated during his research on the the alpha-helix. Donohue also notes that, though the Colorado position appears to be more of a possibility, he would prefer to return to Caltech. In closing, Donohue reports of Francis Crick's embarassment at the sloppy timing of Nature's publication of Pauling's alpha-keratin letter and also mentions Arndt and Riley's recent work on oriented fibrous insulin.


Dec. 15

Dear Dr. Pauling

I have discovered three more satisfactory helices. In the notation of Bragg, Kendrew and Perutz, these are 3.010, 4.414, and 4.416. They have 2.00, 1.20 and 1.15 Å per residue along z. I suspect that 4.416 is the π of Barbara Low, but her description, unfortunately, fits both 4.414 and 4.416. 4.414 is somewhat strained (angle at α-carbon=102 degrees, and each residue is twisted 6 degrees [0.4 Kcal/mole/residue]), 4.416 is planar, but α-carbon angle is 114 degrees. This could probably be decreased a little. 3.010 is entirely satisfactory. I have written to Barbara for clarification, and when I get it, I am going to write these up, and will send you a copy before I submit it anywhere. I think it should be a letter to the editor of J.A.C.S.

I am also calculating radial distribution functions, in order to test the sensitivity of the method. I do not check your curves for the α-helix. Would it be possible for you to have a copy made of the list of interatomic distances (i.e., kind and length) so that I can see what went wrong?

I got another letter from Prof. Stanley in which he is rather more hopeful, but would rather talk things over with me personally. In as much as I should much prefer to locate in California rather than anywhere else, and since negotiations at this distance for any position are rather difficult, I am wondering if it would not be better for me to come back to Crellin for a year before taking a permanent place. You mentioned this possibility in one of our talks last spring, and I must confess it looks more attractive to me now than it did then.

Francis Crick's α-keratin letter appeared in the Nov. 22 Nature. it is now three issues later and yours is not out yet. I do not know any reason for the delay, but Francis is rather embarrassed by it, as he assumed the two letters would appear together. I believe that he is going to write you about it.

Arndt and Riley have found a 1.5 Å reflection in some oriented fibrous insulin which Freddie Gutfreund gave them. It will take some checking before they're sure, though. They have put all manner of proteins in their radial distribution machine, and are now chewing on the results. We hope to learn them shortly.

Merry Christmas


I enclose a drawing of the 3.010, which I should like returned.

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