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Web Site Explores Pauling's Chemical Bond

Sketch of Tetragonal Boron, by Roger HaywardLinus Pauling won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 “for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances,” such as inorganic substances and proteins. Pauling’s initial contribution to the determination of the chemical bond was made in 1931, the same year in which he was appointed full professor at the California Institute of Technology at the age of 30. That paper, “The nature of the chemical bond. Application of results obtained from the quantum mechanics and from a theory of paramagnetic susceptibility of the structure of molecules,” was the first in an extremely influential series of papers by Pauling on chemical bonding published over the next few years that revolutionized the science of chemistry. In this landmark paper, Pauling established a set of rules concerning the strength of bonds formed by different atoms, the angles between bonds, the rotation around bond axes, and the spatial arrangement of the bonds in molecules. This insight suddenly made possible the accurate prediction of previously insoluble molecular structures. The series culminated in 1939 with the publication of his seminal book, The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals: An Introduction to Modern Structural Chemistry, which is one of the most cited scientific books of all time. Pauling’s discoveries allowed chemists to understand how atoms bond to form molecules and greatly facilitated chemical research in the 20th century. Several years ago, the editors of Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society, asked an expert panel to compile a list of the greatest and most influential chemistry books. Four of Pauling’s books made the list, and The Nature of the Chemical Bond was one of six books receiving the most votes and the only book from the 20th century.

Pauling made a decision in the 1980s to donate all of his professional and personal memorabilia to Oregon State University, his undergraduate alma mater. When the Linus Pauling Institute moved from California to Corvallis to become part of OSU in 1996, the original manuscript for Pauling’s first paper on the chemical bond from 1931 was donated to the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers in the Special Collections at OSU’s Valley Library. The manuscript had been retrieved from the wastebasket in 1930 or 1931 by one of Pauling’s students, who gave it to LPI in the late 1970s.

In December 2004, the Pauling Papers inaugurated a new web site, Linus Pauling and the Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History, devoted to the chemical bond saga. The web site celebrates the 50th anniversary of Pauling’s Nobel Prize award and features manuscripts, notes, correspondence, photographs, audio and video clips, and a narrative.

The fascinating story of the chemical bond can be found in the Special Collections or by visiting the LPI web site and following the link to the Pauling Papers. The Pauling Papers also features other special sections, including Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA: A Documentary History, Linus Pauling Research Notebooks, and Linus Pauling: A Centenary Exhibit. Additionally, a short biography of Pauling can be found at the LPI web site.

New Center Emphasizes Healthy Aging

A new, interdisciplinary research center at Oregon State University will be established this year. As envisioned by its Director, Dr. Karen Hooker, the new Center for Healthy Aging Research will address compelling biological and societal issues of the elderly population, focusing on disease prevention and management and the optimization of health and well-being. The Center will bring together researchers from numerous departments in the College of Health and Human Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Science, and the Linus Pauling Institute. The Center will engage in teaching and public outreach and maintain four research cores: 1) Diet, Genes, and Aging, 2) Bone Health, Exercise, and Function in Aging, 3) Psychosocial Factors and Optimal Aging, and 4) Social and Ethical Issues in Technologies for Healthy Aging. Close ties will be established with OSU’s Program on Gerontology, which offers multi-disciplinary courses to undergraduate and graduate students. The new Center’s research theme is the response to stress and adaptation in the elderly.

Dr. Tory Hagen, LPI Principal Investigator, will direct the Diet, Genes, and Aging Core, which will also include LPI Principal Investigators Drs. Joe Beckman, Balz Frei, and Fred Stevens. LPI affiliated investigators will retain their membership in LPI while contributing to the activities of the new Center. The research conducted in this core will focus on “age-essential” micronutrients that may affect cellular stress responses. The elderly are especially vulnerable to disease because of attenuated responses to biological and environmental stresses, such as bone fractures, drug interactions, chronic inflammation and infections, and loss of glycemic control. Dr. Hagen’s group will investigate the underlying mechanisms involved in this age-related dysfunction and examine the effects of micronutrients and other dietary constituents, such as vitamins C and E, carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and zinc, on correcting and maintaining cellular responses to stress. “LPI is very pleased to contribute to this new Center at OSU,” said LPI director Balz Frei. “In my lab, we are planning to investigate why aging is an independent risk factor for heart disease and stroke.” The overarching goal of this research is to prolong the “health span” of individuals, allowing them to live with a longer period of vitality.

Please send any comments, suggestions, or questions to the Linus Pauling Institute.