Plaudits for Pauling


This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Linus Pauling. Oregon State University celebrates the Pauling Centenary with a diverse array of events that honor Pauling’s many achievements and interests. “Linus Pauling and the Twentieth Century”, a traveling exhibition that portrays biographical, scientific, and humanitarian highlights of Pauling’s long and productive life, was hosted at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland from January through the end of March. The Exhibition is planned for the Boston Museum of Science this summer and fall. A commemorative lecture, “Science and Conscience”, by John Polanyi, Nobel laureate in chemistry, was given in February. The Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Lecture in World Peace by Betty Williams, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, will take place in May, and the annual Linus Pauling Chemistry Lecture is planned for later in the year. 

A symposium on Pauling’s influence on science and society, “A Liking for the Truth: Truth and Controversy in the Work of Linus Pauling”, was held at OSU on Pauling’s birthday, February 28th. The keynote address, “Timing in the Invisible”, was given by Dr. Ahmed Zewail, the Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology and 1999 Nobel laureate in chemistry. Other speakers included two of Pauling’s biographers, Tom Hager and Dr. Robert Paradowski; Dr. Jack Dunitz, a chemical crystallographer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; and Dr. Linus Pauling Jr., Linus Pauling’s eldest son. Other events at the end of February included a reading of the biographical play “The Essential Bond” about the relationship between Linus and Ava Helen Pauling and the showing of two biographical films. A symposium on structural biology on May 18th will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of the alpha-helix protein structure by Pauling, Corey, and Branson. And as mentioned in the Fall/Winter 2000 newsletter, the Linus Pauling Institute will convene a conference, “Diet and Optimum Health” on May 16-19 in Portland. 

Linus Pauling: A Centenary Celebration, edited by Cliff Mead and Tom Hager, was published in January. The updated Pauling Catalogue and a two-volume anthology of Pauling’s seminal scientific papers, edited by Linus Pauling’s children and son-in-law, are scheduled for publication later this year.

A panel of experts was recently asked by the editors of Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society, to compile a list of the greatest and most influential chemistry books. Linus Pauling’s The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals was one of six books receiving the most votes and the only book from the twentieth century. Four of Pauling’s books are on the list, more than any other scientist.

In the November 23, 2000, issue of Nature, one of the premier scientific journals in the world, Dr. Gautam Desiraju of the University of Hyderabad in India contributed a millennium essay about Pauling entitled “The all-chemist”. Desiraju praised Pauling’s astounding revolution of the science of chemistry by noting that the “extrapolation from physics to chemistry and the articulation of chemistry as an independent subject was the handiwork of a single individual. Linus Pauling ranks with Galileo, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Newton, Bach, Faraday, Freud, and Einstein as one of the great thinkers and visionaries of the millennium.” Desiraju continued, “Chemistry, then, is utterly different from physics and biology in its dependence, at a primal level, on just one scientist.” Citing Pauling’s work on the nature of the chemical bond, the hybridization of bond orbitals (a fundamental concept of organic chemistry), electronegativity, metallic and hydrogen bonds, the structure of benzene, molecular structure, and other concepts that form the basis for modern chemistry, Desiraju proclaimed that Linus Pauling was “not of this age, but for all time.” 

Here at the Linus Pauling Institute, we heartily agree. 

Last updated May, 2001

Honoring a Scientific Giant with Nutritional Research Toward Longer, Better Lives

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