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Notable Oregonians: Linus Pauling - Chemist, Nobel Winner

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Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling, 1901-1994

Linus Pauling was born on February 28, 1901 in Portland, Oregon, the son of a pharmacist. He lived for eight years as a child in Condon, Oregon where his father ran a drug store. Pauling later attended Washington High School in Portland and received his bachelor's degree from Oregon State College in 1922, his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in 1925, and honorary degrees from universities in seven countries.

 

From 1925 to 1927 Pauling studied with three of the most noted physicists of his time: Arnold Sommerfeld in Munich, Erwin Schrodinger in Zurich, and Niels Bohr in Copenhagen. From 1927 until 1964, he was a professor at California Institute of Technology where he earned a reputation as a gifted teacher. For 22 of these years he was chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, as well as director of the Gates and Crellin Laboratories of Chemistry.

 

From 1963 to 1967, Pauling was attached to the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Santa Barbara, California, as a research professor; from 1967 to 1969, he was a professor of chemistry at the University of California at San Diego; and beginning in 1969 he was a professor at Stanford University.

 

Pauling's early interest was in physical chemistry in which he looked into the many aspects of molecular structure, from simple molecules to proteins. In 1939 he published the results of over ten years of research in The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals. This textbook proved to be one of the most influential of the century. Over the years, Pauling also made advances related to the complex molecular structure of living tissue; sickle-cell anemia; a molecular model for explaining anesthesia; and vitamin C. He won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954.

 

During World War II, Pauling was a consultant to the explosives division of the National Defense Research Commission and from 1945 to 1946 he was a member of the Research Board for National Security. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit for his contributions in 1948. The use of the atomic bomb near the end of the war turned Pauling in a new direction when he studied the potentially malignant effects of nuclear fallout on human molecular structures. Beginning in the late-1940s, Pauling waged a constant campaign against war and its now nuclear nature. He encountered accusations of being pro-Soviet or Communist, allegations that he categorically denied.

 

In 1958 Pauling presented to the United Nations a celebrated petition signed by 9,235 scientists from many countries protesting further nuclear testing. In that same year he published No More War!, a book that presented the rationale for abandoning not only further use and testing of nuclear weapons but also war itself. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, outlawing all but underground nuclear testing, was signed in July, 1963, and went into effect on October 10, 1963, the same day on which the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the Peace Prize reserved in the year 1962 was to be awarded to Linus Pauling. He is the only person to ever receive two unshared prizes.

 

After retiring to the status of Professor Emeritus at Stanford in 1973, Pauling co-founded the nonprofit biomedical research organization that now bears his name. The Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine was established primarily to conduct research and education in orthomolecular medicine, following his belief that nutrition could prevent, ameliorate or cure many diseases, slow the aging process, and alleviate suffering.

 

(Sources: Linus Pauling Institute | The Nobel Foundation | Encyclopedia Britannica) Revised 1/2013

 

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