Francis Crick: The first question I ask myself is not when did I first meet Linus, but when did
I first hear about him?
In 1946 I was sitting in an office in London, in the British Admiralty, trying to
decide what to do and wondering whether I should go into what we now call molecular
biology. I had not had much organic chemistry in school; I remembered there were hydrocarbons
and various things like that, but I did not know what an amino acid was. My knowledge
was at a very elementary level. Across my desk came an article, or rather I think
the account of an article, in Chemical and Engineering News, which said that hydrogen bonds were very important in biology. Well, I did not know
two things: I did not know what a hydrogen bond was, and I had never heard of the
author who had a rather peculiar name; it was Linus Pauling. That was the first occasion
I came across his name. Of course, I asked around, and I heard that a lot of other
people, not just ignorant physicists like myself, knew a lot about him.
Not long after that, I bought a textbook, Linus Pauling's General Chemistry, and this was an eye-opener to me, because while I had done some chemistry at high
school, I had not done any at university. High school chemistry in those days was
taught really as a subject where you had to memorize a lot of odd things that happened.
I exaggerate a little, but do remember it was in high school; no doubt, if I had gone
on further it would have fallen into place more. But when I read Linus' book, I was
very impressed by the systematic way everything was organized. I do not think I ever
did learn much of the inorganic chemistry, by the way, but I learned all about the
strong bonds, and the weak bonds, including the hydrogen bond, of course. And that
really is almost all, I would say, the organic chemistry I know today. By now I have
forgotten most of it as well, but what I knew then, I think I got from that book.