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Linus Pauling

Linus PaulingAKA Linus Carl Pauling

Born: 28-Feb-1901
Birthplace: Portland, OR
Died: 19-Aug-1994
Location of death: Big Sur, CA
Cause of death: Cancer - Prostate
Remains: Buried, Oswego Pioneer Cemetery, Lake Oswego, OR

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist [1]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist, Activist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Scientist and peacenik

Linus Pauling was a founding father of molecular biology, who conducted important work in the fields of applied genetics, immunology, hematology, pathology, pigmentology, quantum mechanics, and serology. World renowned as a scientist, he used his fame as a platform to call for an end to war, and opposed the American military interventions in Korea, Vietnam, and the 1991 war against Iraq. A Nobel laureate in both chemistry and peace, he is the only person to have won two un-shared Nobel Prizes.

He was born in Portland, but his family moved to a small farming town when he was a toddler. When he was nine years old, his father wrote a letter that was published in the area's newspaper, The Oregonian, stating that his son was reading and asking questions far beyond his age, and asking readers for advice on how to help a child with such "prematurely developed inclinations." A month later, though, a perforated stomach ulcer took Pauling's father's life.

The family then moved back to Portland, and struggled in near poverty for the remainder of Pauling's childhood. His mother took boarders in the family home, and he worked as a dishwasher, a film projectionist, a milkman, and a longshoreman, among other jobs. The demands of his work schedule and his disinterest in taking a required course in civics prevented him from fulfilling the requirements to graduate from high school. He then worked as a manual laborer to earn tuition to Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University), where his education was interrupted when he was hired to teach full-time at the same institution. Ava Helen Miller, one of his students in a course titled "Chemistry for Home Economics Majors", became his wife. After a year of teaching he returned to class as a student, earning his bachelor's degree at Oregon State and then his PhD summa cum laude at Cal Tech, where he remained as a teacher and researcher for almost four decades.

Beginning in 1922 and continuing throughout the 1930s, Pauling used x-ray diffraction and electron diffraction to chart and explain the chemical bond that allows atoms to form into molecules. In 1928 he wrote a paper detailing six principles that determine structure of complicated crystals. In 1933 he explained the magnetic properties of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells, and in the same year he became the youngest member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1935 he offered hydrogen bonds as an explanation for the configurational entropy of ice. In 1939 he summarized his findings on chemical bonds in the landmark book The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals, which brought him great acclaim in scientific circles, and which remains in print to this day.

In 1940 he proposed a "hand in glove" theory or molecular complementariness, in which one molecule fits snugly against or inside another molecule. In 1941 he was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, a potentially fatal kidney disease. For the next fifteen years, he continued working despite his illness, while living on an experimental diet of very low-protein food and large amounts of water, a regimen devised by physician and research scientist Thomas Addis (1881-1949). In 1942 Pauling and two colleagues created the first artificially-formed antibodies, and in 1945 he introduced oxypolygelatin, a substitute for blood plasma.

Francis Crick, James Watson, and Maurice Wilkins considered Pauling their key rival in the race to unravel deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in 1946 he proposed that genes might contain two mutually complementary strands, and in 1948 he proposed that polypeptide chains could be coiled in a helical structure formed from amino acids, a concept he called the alpha helix, foreshadowing Crick, Watson, and Wilkins' 1953 discovery of the double-helix. He was the first scientist to propose the concept of molecular disease, concluding in 1948 that sickle cell anemia is caused by a hemoglobin defect.

In 1952 he showed the structure of chlorine hydrate. In 1953 he published his theory of ferromagnetism. In 1955 he detailed the molecular structure of silk fibroin. In 1956 his kidney disease was pronounced cured. In 1959 he proposed a hydrate microcrystal theory of anesthesia.

In the latter decades of his life, Pauling was as famous for his ideological activism as for his scientific work. Politically, he was a Republican until 1934, when he switched his registration to Democratic. In 1940, a year and a half before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he wrote an openly published letter to Congress, pleading for American entry into a war for freedom against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. In 1942, his wife spoke out against the internment of Japanese-Americans, condemning this as an affront to American principles of liberty and justice for all. During the Second World War he declined an invitation to join the Manhattan Project due to his ongoing illness, but he conducted a great deal of war-related research, developing more advanced explosives and inventing the Pauling Oxygen Meter, a device for ensuring safe levels of oxygen in airplanes and submarines.

He was deeply disturbed by the 1945 US atomic bombing of two Japanese cities. Within weeks after the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki he began making speeches condemning further development of atomic weapons, and devoting much of his time and efforts toward the eradication of war from the world. In 1946 he joined Albert Einstein's activist group against atomic weaponry, Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. Beginning in 1947, he made it his policy to never again give a speech or lecture without including a plea for world peace. In 1949 he called for a system of universal health care in America. He was castigated by Senator Joseph McCarthy for a "well nigh incredible" series of connections to what McCarthy deemed "communist front organizations", though Pauling denied that he had ever been a communist. Ironically, he was also criticized by scientific officials in the Soviet Union, who claimed that his magnum opus The Nature of the Chemical Bond was somehow "hostile to the Marxist view".

In 1950 testimony before Congress, Pauling vociferously objected to the era's required loyalty oaths. A substantial portion of his research funding was soon halted over his alleged "lack of loyalty", and between 1951 and 1954 his passport was repeatedly revoked by the US State Department, with ample media coverage questioning his patriotism. His permission to travel abroad was restored in 1954, but only after he was announced as the winner of that year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry. In 1955 he was a signatory to the Bertrand Russell-Albert Einstein Manifesto, a scientific petition for peace that was published in numerous mainstream magazines and newspapers. In 1957 and again in 1958, Pauling and his wife authored petitions which were signed by thousands of scientists, advocating an end to nuclear testing. In 1958, Pauling and more than a dozen colleagues sued the US Defense Department in an attempt to halt such tests. In the same year, combining his scientific and ideological interests, Pauling published a noteworthy study of the genetic and biological effects caused by atomic testing, radioactive fallout, and related environmental contamination.

In 1960 Pauling was subpoenaed by Congress and ordered to name the people who helped him circulate his peace petitions. Fearing that they would be called to account before Congress as he had been, he refused. "My conscience will not allow me to protect myself by sacrificing these idealistic young people", he said. "I am not going to do it!" In 1962 he led picketers at the White House against nuclear weapons testing, one of the first "peace protests" of the tumultuous 1960s. When he was awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize, the announcement cited his activism "not only against the testing of nuclear weapons, not only against the spread of these armaments, not only against their very use, but against all warfare as a means of solving international conflicts."

The award was generally greeted with derision in America, where Pauling had been portrayed in media as almost a traitor to the Cold War. The New York Herald Tribune editorialized that the Nobel Peace Prize would be tainted by "the extravagant posturings of a placarding peacenik". Life magazine called the Nobel announcement "a weird insult from Norway", and noted (accurately) that "Pauling and his weird politics have never been taken seriously by American opinion". Administrators at the high school he had attended 45 years earlier reacted more favorably, announcing that Pauling's work had fulfilled all civics requirements and belatedly presenting him with his high school diploma in 1963.

In 1970 he published the book Vitamin C and the Common Cold, proposing that mega-doses of the vitamin can ward off the common cold. He made himself something of a guinea pig, taking 18,000 mg of vitamin C daily (hundreds of times the ordinarily recommended dosage) and greatly increasing even that dosage whenever he felt symptoms suggesting the onset of a cold. His enthusiasm for vitamin C continued, and in 1979 he issued a claim, considered quackery then and now by many scientists, that extreme high doses of vitamin C provide protection against cancer.

His wife died of stomach cancer two years later, and Pauling himself was diagnosed with prostate and rectal cancer in 1991. He underwent two surgeries but declined most other medical recommendations for treatment, choosing instead to take mega-doses of vitamin C. He continued his scientific work and political activism for three more years, before dying at his ranch outside California's Big Sur in 1994.


[1] Was raised Lutheran, but became an atheist as an adult.

Father: Herman Henry William Pauling (pharmacist, b. 1876, d. 11-Jun-1911 stomach ulcer)
Mother: Lucy Isabelle Darling ("Belle", b. 12-Apr-1881, m. 27-May-1900, d. 1945 anemia)
Sister: Pauline Darling Pauling Stockton Ney Dunbar Emmett (b. 7-Aug-1902, d. 19-Oct-2003)
Sister: Frances Lucile Pauling Jenkins (b. 1-Jan-1904, d. 18-Jan-1992)
Wife: Ava Helen Miller (activist, b. 24-Dec-1903, m. 17-Jun-1923, d. 7-Dec-1981 cancer)
Son: Linus Carl Pauling, Jr. (physician, b. 10-Mar-1925)
Son: Peter Jeffress Pauling (physicist, b. 10-Feb-1931, d. 2003)
Daughter: Linda Helen Pauling (b. 31-May-1932)
Son: Edward Crellin Pauling (biologist, b. 4-Jun-1937, d. 1997)

    High School: Washington High School, Portland, OR (attended 1914-1917)
    High School: Washington High School, Portland, OR (1963)
    Teacher:
BS Chemical Engineering, Oregon State University (1922)
    University: PhD Chemistry, California Institute of Technology (1925)
    Scholar: Theoretical Physics, University of Munich (1926-27)
    Teacher: Theoretical Chemistry, California Institute of Technology (1929-31)
    Professor: Theoretical Chemistry, California Institute of Technology (1931-63)
    Administrator: Director of Gates Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (1937-63)
    Administrator: Chairman of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology (1937-63)
    Professor: Research Professor, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (1963-67)
    Professor: Chemistry, University of California at San Diego (1967-69)
    Professor: Chemistry, Stanford University (1969-71)

    Guggenheim Fellowship 1926-27
    Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics 1931
    William H. Nichols Medal 1941
    Willard Gibbs Medal 1946
    Theodore William Richards Medal 1947
    Davy Medal 1947
    Presidential Medal for Merit 1948
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1954
    Amadeo Avogadro Medal 1956
    Humanist of the Year 1961
    Gandhi Peace Prize 1962 (with James P. Warburg)
    Nobel Peace Prize 1962
    Lenin Peace Prize 1967
    National Medal of Science 1975
    Mikhail Lomonosov Gold Medal 1978
    NAS Medal in the Chemical Sciences 1979
    Priestley Medal 1984
    Vannevar Bush Award 1989
    Academy of Achievement 1979
    American Chemical Society President, 1949
    American Chemical Society Resigned in protest, 1963
    American Philosophical Society 1936
    American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
    Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions
    Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists 1946
    International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science
    National Academy of Sciences 1933
    Rockefeller Foundation Numerous research grants
    Russian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1958
    Alpha Chi Sigma Chemistry Fraternity
    Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
    Prostate Surgery 1992
    Surgery for rectal cancer, 1992
    English Ancestry Maternal
    German Ancestry Maternal and Paternal
    Scottish Ancestry Maternal

Author of books:
The Structure of Line Spectra (1930, physics, with Samuel Goudsmit)
Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, with Applications to Chemistry (1935, physics, with Edgar Bright Wilson)
The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals (1939, chemistry)
General Chemistry (1947, textbook)
College Chemistry (1950, textbook)
No More War! (1958, peace essays)
The Chemical Bond: A Brief Introduction to Modern Structural Chemistry (1967, textbook)
Vitamin C and the Common Cold (1970, health)
Chemistry (1975, textbook; with Peter Pauling)
Vitamin C and Cancer (1979, health)
How to Live Longer and Feel Better (1986, health)
A Lifelong Quest for Peace: A Dialogue (1992, essays; with Daisaku Ikeda)
Linus Pauling in His Own Words (1995, writings, speeches, and interviews; posthumous)
Linus Pauling on Peace (1998, essays; posthumous)
Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker (2001, memoirs; posthumous)

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #4225 (41, depicting Pauling over sickle cell imagery, issued 4-Sep-2009)


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