The Pauling Medal Awardees

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Lucile Jenkins (Pauling’s sister), Linus Pauling and Ava Helen Pauling at the Pauling Medal ceremony, 1967.

[Part 2 of 2]

Ten years into the history of the Linus Pauling Medal, the two American Chemical Society sections that sponsored the award – the Puget Sound section and the Oregon section – decided to edit and modernize their nominating process for the 1976 presentation. Essentially, the sections sought to streamline their process and improve ease of comparison by requiring that nomination packets for each nominee be submitted in the same format, and that specific types of information be included for every individual under consideration.

The 1976 nomination round also included a ramped up discussion of including more women among the pool of nominees, though in fifty years still only one female has received the medal. Caltech’s Jacqueline K. Barton, the Pauling Medal awardee for 2007, is likewise the first female recipient of a number of other prestigious decorations in chemistry, including the National Medal of Science and the Priestley Medal. Barton is also married to a fellow Pauling Medal winner, Peter Dervan, who received the prize eight years before his wife.

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Pauling, Edward Barnes, Henry Eyring, and two unidentified individuals at the ceremony honoring Eyring as Pauling Medalist for 1969.

At a meeting held in June 1977, the two sponsoring sections discussed a further major change: adding the support of the Portland ACS section to the nominating and awarding committees. Though the benefits of including a third organizational body to absorb the logistical work and the costs of the event were evident to all involved, it was agreed that the three sections would need to wait six more years before Portland could be included, specifically because six medals had already been cast bearing the joint sponsorship of the Puget Sound and Oregon sections. Another six years would also give the three committees plenty of time to work out any kinks that might arise through the addition of another section to the nominating and awarding process.

As it happened, it actually took longer than six years to jointly award the medal across all three sections. The Portland group finally came aboard as a formal awarding body in 1987, at which point the medal was presented in the Rose City every third year, beginning in 1989.


 

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Dudley Herschbach, Seymour Rabinovitch, Rudolph Marcus, Ahmed Zewail and William H. Miller at the Pauling Medal ceremonies honoring Marcus in 1992. Herschbach, Marcus and Zewail are all Nobel Chemistry laureates.

Over the course of its fifty years, the Linus Pauling Medal has been bestowed upon an accomplished group of scientists, most of whom have received other top awards in the field of chemistry broadly as well as a variety of decorations in their areas of specialization.  Over a third of the Pauling recipients have also won the Priestley Medal, which is the highest honor given by the American Chemical Society and typically recognizes a lifetime of achievement. Likewise, over half of the Pauling Medal roster has received the National Medal of Science – the highest award that a scientist can receive from the United States government – and more than a quarter are Nobel laureates.

Unsurprisingly, the Pauling Medal list includes a great number of chemists who were close colleagues of and, in some cases, collaborators with the award’s namesake. Several of Pauling’s former graduate students and post-docs are also sprinkled throughout.

Here are the fifty recipients of the Linus Pauling Medal:

  • 1966: Linus Pauling, Staff Member, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions
  • 1967: Manfred Eigen, Director, Max Planck –Institute for Physical Chemistry, Gottingen, Germany
  • 1968: Herbert C. Brown, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, Purdue University
  • 1969: Henry Eyring, Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Chemistry, University of Utah
  • 1970: Harold C. Urey, Professor at Large, University of California at San Diego
  • 1971: Gerhard Herzberg, Division of Pure Physics, National Research Council of Canada
  • 1972: E. Bright Wilson, Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University
  • 1973: E. J. Corey, Professor of Organic Chemistry, Harvard University
  • 1974: Roald Hoffman, Professor of Chemistry, Cornell University
  • 1975: Paul Bartlett, Professor of Chemistry, Texas Christian University
  • 1976: F. Albert Cotton, Professor of Chemistry, Texas A & M University
  • 1977: John A. Pople, Professor of Chemical Physics, Carnegie-Mellon University
  • 1978: Dudley Herschbach, Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University
  • 1979: Daniel E. Koshland, Jr., Professor of Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley
  • 1980: John D. Roberts, Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
  • 1981: Henry Taube, Professor of Chemistry, Stanford University
  • 1982: George C. Pimental, Professor of Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley
  • 1983: Gilbert Stork, Professor of Chemistry, Columbia University
  • 1984: John S. Waugh, Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1985: Harold A. Scheraga, Professor of Chemistry, Cornell University
  • 1986: Harry B. Gray, Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
  • 1987: Harden M. McConnell, Professor of Chemistry, Stanford University
  • 1988: Keith Ingold, Associate Director of the Division of Chemistry, National Research Council of Canada
  • 1989: Neil Bartlett, Professor of Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley
  • 1990: James P. Collman, Professor of Chemistry, Stanford University
  • 1991: Rudolph A. Marcus, Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
  • 1992: Kenneth Wiberg, Professor of Chemistry, Yale University
  • 1993: Richard Zare, Professor of Chemistry and Physics, Stanford University
  • 1994: James Ibers, Professor of Chemistry, Northwestern University
  • 1995: Alexander Rich, Professor of Biophysics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1996: Kyriacos C. Nicolaou, Professor of Chemical Biology, Scripps Research Institute
  • 1997: Ahmed H. Zewail, Professor of Chemistry and Physics, California Institute of Technology
  • 1998: Allen J. Bard, Professor of Chemistry, University of Texas at Austin
  • 1999: Peter B. Dervan, Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
  • 2000: Gabor A. Somorjai, Professor of Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley
  • 2001: Tobin J. Marks, Professor of Catalytic Chemistry, Northwestern University
  • 2002: John I. Brauman, Professor of Chemistry, Stanford University
  • 2003: Robert H. Grubbs, Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
  • 2004: Martin Karplus, Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University
  • 2005: George Whitesides, University Professor, Harvard University
  • 2006: Peter J. Stang, Professor of Chemistry, University of Utah
  • 2007: Jacqueline K. Barton, Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
  • 2008: Thomas C. Bruice, Research Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California at Santa Barbara
  • 2009: Stephen J. Lippard, Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2010: Armand Paul Alivisatos, Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering, and Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, University of California at Berkeley
  • 2011: Larry R. Dalton, Professor of Chemistry and Electrical Engineering, University of Washington
  • 2012: Robert Cava, Professor of Chemistry, Princeton University
  • 2013: Chad Mirkin, Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Medicine, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and Center for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly, Northwestern University
  • 2014: Stephen Buchwald, Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2015: Barry M. Trost, Professor of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University
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Fifty Years of the Linus Pauling Medal

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[Ed Note: With the awarding of the ninth Linus Pauling Legacy Award to Dr. Jane Lubchenco scheduled for next Tuesday, we thought this an appropriate time to take a look at the first award to have been named for Linus Pauling; one that turns fifty years old in 2016. This is part 1 of 2.]

Though Linus Pauling was a much celebrated and well-respected scientist across the globe, he traced his roots to the Pacific Northwest and always felt a special connection to the region. It would seem fitting then that the first award to bear his name would come from the area.

In a letter dated December 9, 1965, Pauling first learned that two regional sections of the American Chemical Society – the Puget Sound Section and the Oregon Section – were collaborating on a new award that would bear his name. The Linus Pauling Medal would be granted each year, beginning in 1966. Quite appropriately, the two sections asked that Pauling be the first recipient of the honor.

The Pauling Medal would replace the former Puget Sound Award (given, as one might assume, by the Puget Sound Section) and would “recognize distinguished achievement in chemistry.”  Furthermore, though the interests of Pacific Northwest scientists would play a role in deciding who received the decoration, the nomination criteria made it clear that this was not specifically a regional award:

A nominee shall have made outstanding contributions to chemistry of a character that have merited national and international recognition and that are of particular interest to chemists of this geographical area.

Indeed, though two ACS sections sponsored the award, its nomination guidelines specified that recipients need not reside within the geographical regions represented by the two sponsors. And though the medal was named for him, Pauling did not think it proper for him to be involved with deliberations concerning recipients, and he accordingly refused to nominate anyone or offer a letter of endorsement for those nominated by others.

The award itself consists of a gold medal engraved with Pauling’s profile, crowned with the text “Linus Pauling Medal,” and also including the names of the (now three – the Portland ACS section joined the award in the 1980s) sponsoring ACS sections. The awardee’s name and the date that it is bestowed are engraved on the back of the medal, accompanied by the text “for outstanding achievement in chemistry.” The medal is accompanied by a scroll.

In its early years, the Pauling Medal was granted at a ceremony hosted alternately by the two sponsoring sections, with the Oregon section usually rotating its turns between venues at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon.  The ceremony itself generally consisted of a meeting featuring a keynote address by the recipient and ancillary lectures as delivered by other distinguished chemists. The event concluded with a celebratory banquet. The ongoing costs of the award, including travel and meeting expenses, were split between the two sections.


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By design, the nomination process established for the Pauling Medal had the potential to be long and complicated, involving several rounds of voting until a consensus was reached on one awardee.  And from the beginning, the goal for each year has been to generate a minimum of ten nominations to be considered by the award committee, with a preferred pool of twenty possibilities.

Compiling this pool required the cooperation of both a canvasing committee and an award selection committee.  The canvassing committee’s job was to solicit nominations, meet at the Northwest Regional meeting to review the names that had been received, organize them for evaluation by the award selection committee, and recommend any changes to procedure that might help out in the future. The call for nominations went out early in the calendar year, so as to allow for enough time to vet potential awardees and to find a ceremony date that was mutually agreeable.

At first, the canvassing committee expressed a preference for older candidates who, like Pauling, had remained creative and continued to make important advancements in their specific field.  As the award developed and its standards became more concrete, the goal shifted to presenting the award to a chemist whose career would clearly benefit from the decoration, which usually meant concentrating on younger nominees (as was Pauling’s wish).

Once the canvassing group had done its job, the final selection was made by an award committee comprised of five members: two from each sponsoring section and a chair selected from alternating sections. In addition to the pool developed by the canvassing committee, the awarding group could add names of their own.

The criteria for selection were very flexible, with only two strict conditions placed: 1) no member of the canvassing or awarding committees could be considered and 2) a candidate could not be awarded the Pauling Medal for the same achievements that had led to their receipt of a Nobel Prize. Rather, consideration for the Pauling Medal would be based entirely on new and innovative work.


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Linus Pauling received the first Linus Pauling Medal on December 3, 1966 at a celebration held in Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. His acceptance talk was titled “Science as a Way of Life,” and made mention of the insect collections that he compiled as a boy, a few scientific mishaps that he encountered during his career and, in particular, his struggles in determining the molecular structure of sodium dicadmide. He also included the now famous story of how he determined the alpha-helical structure of proteins while folding paper as he was sitting sick in bed.

In addition to Pauling’s lecture, the first Pauling Medal event included talks by Neil Bartlett, Martin Karplus, and Joseph Kraut. Bartlett would later receive the Pauling Medal himself in 1989 and Karplus – the 2013 Nobel Chemistry laureate – was likewise honored in 2004.

Having traveled to Oregon for the event, Linus and Ava Helen took advantage of their visit to drive down to Corvallis to meet with chemistry students and to speak as part of a convocation at Oregon State University. Following their time in Portland, they headed north to Spokane, Washington, where Linus gave a talk at Gonzaga University. From there they went to Seattle where they saw one of Ava Helen’s brothers and gave yet another lecture, this time at the University of Washington.

In the years that followed, the Paulings attended the Pauling Medal ceremonies as often as they could, participating more frequently as time went on. When Pauling was able to make it, he was recognized as a guest of honor of the sponsoring sections and would typically say a few words in praise of the awardee. In years when he was unable to attend the ceremony, Pauling would usually send a letter of congratulations to the awardee.  He continued to attend the event long after Ava Helen’s death in 1981, making an appearance virtually every year until his own health started to decline in the early 1990s.

 

 

Ahmed Zewail, Priestley Medalist

Ahmed Zewail

We send our congratulations to Dr. Ahmed H. Zewail, Caltech’s Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Physics, who was recently named recipient of the 2011 Joseph Priestley Medal, the highest decoration granted by the American Chemical Society.  Dr. Zewail is, of course, no stranger to major honors, having received the 1999 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

As with the Nobel award, Zewail’s Priestley medal is being granted for his groundbreaking research in femtochemistry.  Zewail was the keynote speaker at our 2001 Pauling Centenary Conference and his address, titled “Timing in the Invisible,” serves as a useful introduction into the fascinating world of femtochemistry – broadly defined as the study of atomic behaviors that occur in very short periods of time.

In his 2001 talk, Zewail described the experiments that his laboratory had, at the point, developed in their quest to measure the activity of very small, very fast systems.  Using homegrown laser technologies, the Zewail group first succeeded in making simple observations of the periodic stretching and compression of bonds between two atoms.  From there, the researchers moved on to more complex investigations, including measurements of the energy needed to break the bonds of a given atomic arrangement.

The speed of the processes that Zewail’s laboratory studies are mind-boggling to the non-scientist.  As Zewail described it, one primary use of femtoscience is the study of “the fundamental vibrational time scale” – the “spring-motion” movement of two bonded atoms – that occur in tiny segments of time ranging from 10-12 to 10-14 seconds.

And as it turns out, there are many practical applications that have emerged from femtoscopic research, including, for example, the mechanics of human vision and the properties of photosynthesis in plants.  Femtoscopic experiments also provide a method for researchers to determine the amounts of energy that hold together different types of chemical bonds. In effect, femtoscience allows scientists to, in Zewail’s words, “see bonds and atoms.”

Zewail also took a few moments in his Centenary Conference keynote to reflect upon his relationship with Linus Pauling, whom he knew for the last two decades of Pauling’s life.   In doing so, Zewail provided some context for what has become one of more eye-catching artifacts held in the Pauling Papers.

I also organized the 90th birthday for Linus at Caltech, and I think if Linus did not come back to Caltech to share his great moments, it would have been a mistake in the history of Caltech and science. I even crowned him the Pharaoh of Chemistry, and I believe that he loved this picture….It cost me about $500 to do this, because I had to go to Hollywood and try to fit his face into one of Ramses II.

As one might expect, chemistry’s king of kings also received the ACS’s most prestigious award, accepting it at a ceremony in April 1984.  In his speech that evening, Pauling reflected a great deal upon the life and work of Joseph Priestley (who was something of a kindred spirit), and in one particular passage especially, the reader is able to draw a parallel between the award’s namesake and its 2011 recipient.

One of Priestley’s biographers, Gibbs, has asked ‘How was it that, in this difficult and obscure field [of the existence and nature of different kinds of gases] he was able to make advances that had eluded so many men of science?  He himself put it down to his habit of searching into dark and mysterious corners, and of following a scent wherever it might lead, without any preconceived notions.  Almost alone among scientists then living, he was honest enough to credit part at least of his success to enthusiasm and a sense of adventure.