Pauling’s Nobel Nominators: Chemistry, 1949-1954; Medicine,1953


Linus Pauling shaking hands with King Gustav at the 1954 Nobel Prize Ceremony. Stockholm, Sweden. Photo Credit: Text & Bilder

[Part 5 of 6]

Today’s post focuses on those individuals who nominated Linus Pauling for the Nobel Chemistry Prize during the span of years between 1949 and his Chemistry Nobel laureate year of 1954.  We also examine Pauling’s nomination for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1953.  The post relies on data released online by the Nobel Foundation.



  • Jacques Hadamard: French mathematician and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences who made major contributions in number theory, complex function theory, differential geometry and partial differential equations.  Having lost his two older sons in World War I and another during World War II, he became active in international peace movements.
  • George Kistiakowsky: Ukrainian-American physical chemistry professor and chairholder at an invited university, Harvard.  In October 1943, he was brought into the Manhattan Project as a consultant.  He was soon placed in charge of X Division, which was responsible for the development of the explosive lenses necessary for an implosion-type nuclear weapon. He later served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Science Advisor.  He severed his connections with the government in protest against the war in Vietnam, and became active in an anti-war organization, the Council for a Livable World, becoming its chairman in 1977.  At Harvard, his research interests were in thermodynamics, spectroscopy, and chemical kinetics.
    • The nomination was made jointly with E.B Wilson and R.B. Woodward.
  • Edgar Bright Wilson, Jr.: American chemist who received his doctorate under the Pauling’s supervision.  Wilson made major contributions to the field of molecular spectroscopy and developed the theory of how rotational spectra are influenced by centrifugal distortion during rotation.  He pioneered the use of group theory for the analysis and simplification of normal mode analysis, particularly for high symmetry molecules, such as benzene.  Following the Second World War, Wilson conducted important work on the application of microwave spectroscopy to the determination of molecular structure.
  • Robert Burns Woodward (see 1948 Zechmeister nomination in previous post)
  • Charles Coryell: American chemist and co-discoverer of the element promethium.  Coryell earned a Ph.D. at California Institute of Technology in 1935 as the student of Arthur A. Noyes.  During the late 1930s, he engaged in research on the structure of hemoglobin in association with Linus Pauling and together they published several journal articles.  When he nominated Pauling he was a chairholder at MIT, which was invited to submit nominations.



  • Maurice Auméras: French chemist who, in 1950, was a chairholder at an invited university in Paris.
  • Wilhelm Gerhard Burgers: Chemist who studied the structure of matter and its physical properties. He was a chairholder at an invited university in the Netherlands at Delft.
  • Jean Doeuvre: French organic chemist who was a chairholder at an invited university in Lyon, France.
  • Paul-Antoine Giguère: Canadian chemist and chairholder at the invited Université Laval, located in Quebec.  He worked at Caltech with Pauling in the 1930s.
  • Stig Claesson: Professor of chemistry at a Nordic university listed in the special regulations of 1900, the University of Uppsala, Sweden.
    • Nominated with Robert Sanderson Mulliken: American physicist and chemist who was primarily responsible for the early development of molecular orbital theory, or the elaboration of the molecular orbital method of computing the structure of molecules. In 1934 he derived a new scale for measuring the electronegativity of elements. Mulliken’s scale does not entirely correlate with that developed by Linus Pauling, but is generally in close correspondence.  He was a professor at the University of Chicago and received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1966.



  • Hans Erwin Deuel: Swiss agricultural chemist at Technische Hochschule in Zurich who studied colloidal chemistry, focusing on plant gums and pectins in particular.
  • Jacques Hadamard (see above)
  • Bernardo Houssay: Argentine physiologist and member of the Royal Academy of Sciences who worked in the field of physiology, researching the nervous, digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems.  In the 1930s, Houssay demonstrated the diabetogenic effect on anterior hypophysis extracts and the decrease in diabetes severity with anterior hypophysectomy. These discoveries stimulated the study of hormonal feedback control mechanisms which are central to multiple aspects of modern endocrinology.  In 1947 he received one half of a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the role played by pituitary hormones in regulating the amount of glucose in animals.  The other half of the prize went to Carl Ferdinand Cori and Gerty Cori, who won for their discoveries regarding the role of glucose in carbohydrate metabolism.  Houssay was the first Argentine and Latin American Nobel laureate in the sciences.
  • Charles P. Smyth (see 1946 nomination in previous post)



  • Einar Hille: American mathematician who taught at Yale University.  He was a member of both the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Swedish Royal Academy of Science.
  • Arne Tiselius (see 1948 Riegel nomination in previous post)



  • Edward Doisy: American biochemist and professor at St. Louis University.  Doisy received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1943 with Henrik Dam for their discovery of vitamin K (K from “Koagulations” which is German for “vitamin”) and its chemical structure.  Doisy and Dam’s work stimulated research in endocrinology and opened up a new subfield of organic chemistry focusing on steroid compounds.
  • Paul-Antoine Giguère (see above)
  • Jacques Hadamard (see above)
  • Felix Haurowitz: Czech-American biochemist and doctor who taught chemistry at Indiana University.  He made key discoveries regarding hemoglobin and immunochemistry, including research in critical respiratory protein and spectroscopy of horse hemoglobin.
  • Julian M. Sturtevant: Biochemist at Yale University and a pioneer in collecting thermodynamic and kinetic data for important biochemical reactions.  He obtained a value for the enthalpy change in DNA structural transitions, which is central to the physical theories surrounding DNA structure and function.  Sturtevant also developed refined calorimetric instruments that allowed for accurate heat measurements to be made of protein structural changes, which is vital to understanding protein chemistry.  Using these instruments he conducted detailed studies measuring energy transfers during cellular metabolism and the mechanism of action of the various serine enzymes.
  • Albert Szent-Györgyi (see 1941 nomination in previous post)
  • Reine Leimu: A chemist based in Turku, Finland.
  • Karl Freudenberg: German chemist who did early seminal work on the absolute configurations of carbohydrates, terpenes, and steroids, and on the structure of cellulose and other polysaccharides. He also researched the nature, structure, and biosynthesis of lignin.  The Research Institute for the Chemistry of Wood and Polysaccharides was developed at the University of Heidelberg for him.

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling dancing at the 1954 Nobel Ball. Photo Credit: Pressens Bild, Stockholm.


  • Edward Doisy (see above)
  • Jacques Hadamard (see above)
  • Albert Szent-Györgyi (see above)
  • Irène Joliot-Curie: Working in Paris either alone or in collaboration with her husband, Frédéric Joliot-Curie, at the Institut du Radium, Joliot-Curie conducted important work on natural and artificial radioactivity, transmutation of elements, and nuclear physics.  She shared the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with her husband, a recognition of their work synthesizing new radioactive elements.  She was also Commissioner for Atomic Energy in France and oversaw construction of first French cyclotron.  Throughout her career she took an interest in the social and intellectual advancement of women.
  • Frédéric Joliot-Curie: Physicist working at the Institut du Radium in Paris.  Collaborating with his wife, Irène, Joliot-Curie discovered that radioactive elements decompose spontaneously, usually with a long period, by emitting positive or negative particles.
  • Rolf Helmer Roschier: Finnish chemist and professor of wood chemistry at the Helsinki University of Technology.  He studied terpenes, the manufacturing of wood pulp, and paper and wood saccharification.
  • Terje Enkvist: Finnish chemist at the University of Helsinki.  He worked in the field of wood chemistry.
  • Niilo Johannes Toivonen: Finnish chemist and professor at the University of Helsinki.  He also worked with pharmaceutical companies and on the editorial board for a Finnish encyclopedia.
  • Jean-Francois Wyart: Based in Paris when he nominated Pauling for the Nobel Prize, he worked in crystal structures and spectrochemistry.
  • Arne Tiselius (see 1948 Riegel nomination in previous post)
  • Theodor Svedberg: A Swedish chemist at Uppsala University, he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1926 “for his work on disperse systems.”  Svedberg’s research focused primarily on colloids and macromolecular compounds.  His work with colloids supported the theories of Brownian motion put forward by Albert Einstein and the Polish geophysicist Marian Smoluchowski, and therein contributed additional proof to the existence of molecules.  To support his experimentation, Svedberg developed the technique of analytical ultracentrifugation, and demonstrated its utility in distinguishing pure proteins from one another.  Svedberg also studied the physical properties of colloids, such as their diffusion, light absorption, and sedimentation, from which it could be concluded that the gas laws could be applied to disperse systems.
  • Freudenberg (see above)
    • Nominated with Hans Lebrecht Meerwein: German organic chemist who discovered cationic rearrangement reactions, carbenes, and an important alkylating reagent.  He is known primarily for his work on the reduction of aldehydes and ketones with aluminum alcoholates.   Through his research he clarified the mechanism of many organic reactions.
  • Harlow Shapley:  American astronomer and professor at Harvard.  He used RR Lyrae stars to correctly estimate the size of the Milky Way Galaxy and the sun’s position within it, and found that galaxies tend to occur in clusters, which he called metagalaxies.  In 1953 he proposed his “liquid water belt” theory, now known as the concept of a habitable zone.  He believed that national or international affairs should be given higher priority than research and writing.
    • Nominated with Robert Burns Woodward (see 1948 Zechmeister nomination in previous post)
    • Shapley’s first choice was Pauling and his second choice was Woodward.


Physiology or Medicine


  • John Tileston Edsall: Early protein scientist and professor of biochemistry at Harvard who contributed significantly to the understanding of the hydrophobic interaction. He was active in preserving the history of protein science, and devoted to the study of proteins and their constituent amino acids.  His early work contributed to establishing proteins as unique, large structured molecules that deserved the same intense study as had become commonplace for the chemistry of small molecules.
    • Nominated with Frederick Sanger: British biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1958 “for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin.”  He also received one quarter of a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980, split with Paul Berg – who received one half of the Prize “for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant-DNA” – and with Walter Gilbert who received one quarter of the Prize with Sanger “for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids.”
    • Nominated with Robert Brainard Corey:  American biochemist, mostly known for his role in the discovery of the α-helix and the β-sheet with Linus Pauling.  Their discoveries were remarkably correct, and their bond lengths remained the most accurate for the next forty years.  The α-helix and β-sheet are two structures that are now known to form the backbones of many proteins.  While it was Pauling who had the intuition and imagination that produced these concepts, it was Corey who was primarily responsible for proving them correct by carrying out the necessary diffraction experiments.  Together, Pauling and Corey authored more than 30 papers.

Pauling’s Nobel Nominators: Chemistry, 1940-1948


The Nobel Ceremony, Stockholm, Sweden, December 10, 1954. Pauling stands at right. Image by Hans Malmberg.

[Part 4 of 6]

Linus Pauling was nominated at least seventy times for a Nobel Prize and was first nominated for the Chemistry Prize in 1940.  He received nominations nearly every year after until he received the Prize in 1954.  He was nominated for the Peace Prize in 1962 before being awarded the Prize in 1963.  He was also nominated in 1953 for Medicine.  Pauling is the only person to have won two unshared Nobel Prizes, although he was also nominated many times as a co-recipient.

Nobel Prize nominations older than fifty years old are available in an online database for researchers and other interested parties to review. Nominations are sealed for fifty years, as stipulated by the statutes of the Nobel Foundation.  The database includes the nominator’s name and some additional basic information, including location and institutional affiliation.

Today’s post will focus on those who nominated Pauling for the Nobel Chemistry Prize during the years 1940-1948. (You’ll see that Pauling was quite popular in 1948) Later posts will itemize the remainder of his Nobel Chemistry nominations, as well as his nominations for Physiology or Medicine, and for Peace.



  • John G. Kirkwood: American physicist and chemist who focused on physical chemistry.  He earned his BS from the University of Chicago and his PhD from MIT.
  • Karl Landsteiner: Considered the father of transfusion medicine, he was an Austrian immunologist and pathologist. He won the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the major blood groups and for the development of the ABO system of blood typing, which allowed for successful blood transfusions.  When he nominated Pauling, he was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and worked at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University).
    • Nominated with Max Bergmann: Jewish-German biochemist who specialized in decoding protein and peptide structures. This discovery was key for understanding biochemical processes. At the time of his nomination he was a doctor in New York City.



  • Albert Szent-Györgyi: Hungarian physiologist who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1937 “for his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion process with special reference to vitamin C and the catalysis of fumaric acid.”  He was credited with discovering vitamin C and the components and reactions of the citric acid cycle.  When he nominated Pauling, he was a chairholder at the University of Szeged in Hungary, a Nobel invited university for the Chemistry Prize.



  • Robert Millikan: American experimental physicist, who won the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physics for his measurement of the elementary electronic charge and his work on the photoelectric effect. In 1923 he was working at Caltech.



  • William N. Lacey: A chemical engineer, Lacey was a chairholder at Caltech, which was an invited university in 1944.  While at Caltech, Lacey helped to develop the chemical engineering program.  He was also the author or co-author of six textbooks and over 140 scientific papers.
    • Lacey and Stuart Bates (below) made their nominations jointly
  • Stuart J. Bates: Professor of physical chemistry and chairholder at an invited university, Caltech.
  • Joseph Koepfli: Caltech chemist and research associate in organic chemistry.  Koepfli worked to develop the blood substitute oxypolygelatin with Pauling and during the Second World War he also researched antimalarial drugs.  In 1944 he was a chairholder when Caltech was invited to nominate laureates.



  • Kirkwood (see 1940 above)
  • Robert Livingston: Physician, neuroscientist, and social activist.  Professor of physiology and chairholder at the invited University of Minnesota.
  • Charles P. Smyth: American physical chemist and chairholder at an invited university, Princeton.  He studied dielectric properties of matter.

Pauling and colleagues in Paris, 1948.


  • Sir Christopher Kelk Ingold: British chemist who studied reaction mechanisms and the electronic structure of organic compounds.  His work served as an introduction into mainstream chemistry of nucleophile, electrophile, inductive and resonance effects and he is regarded as one of the chief pioneers of organic chemistry.  He was a chairholder at University College of London, an invited university, at the time of Pauling’s nomination.
  • Richard Badger: Professor of chemistry and chairholder at an invited university. He developed Badger’s rule, which expresses the relationship between the forces acting between two atoms and the distance separating them.  As an authority on the spectroscopic study of molecules in the infrared, visible, and ultraviolet regions, he conducted important spectroscopic studies of complex molecules.  He also used spectroscopic techniques to explore the conditions under which hydrogen bonds form and to study the contributions such bonds make to the stability of molecular structures.  Badger’s experimental results constituted a valuable resource for his Caltech colleague, Linus Pauling.
    • This nomination was made jointly by Badger, Stuart Bates and William Lacey (see 1944 above), as well as Howard Lucas, Carl Niemann, Bruce Sage, Ernest Swift, and James Sturdivant, all of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
  • Howard J. Lucas: Organic chemist and chairholder at an invited university.  He was at Caltech from the beginning, beginning his career when the school was still known as the Throop College of Technology.  Throughout his career he focused on teaching. Indeed, his real field of endeavor, as he explained it, was “the synthesis of chemists from the raw material of Caltech undergraduates.”
  • Carl Niemann: American biochemist who worked extensively on the chemistry and structure of proteins at Caltech, where in 1948 he was a chairholder.  He is known, with Max Bergmann, for proposing the Bergmann-Niemann hypothesis, which states that proteins consist of 288 residue polypeptides or multiples thereof with periodic sequences of amino acids.  He also contributed to the downfall of the cyclol model of protein structure.  Niemann joined Pauling’s Crellin Laboratory at Caltech in 1938. In 1939 Niemann and Pauling published a strong critique of Dorothy Wrinch’s cyclol hypothesis of protein structure, which held that globular proteins formed inter-linked polyhedral structures. In their rebuttal, Niemann and Pauling argued that X-ray crystallography and other data indicated that cyclol bonds did not occur in proteins and that polypeptides were held together in globular proteins by hydrogen bonds and weaker intermolecular forces.  Niemann went on to head research in immunochemistry and the organic chemistry of proteins.
  • Bruce H. Sage: Chairholder at an invited university, Caltech.  Sage studied petroleum chemistry and phase equilibria in hydrocarbon systems.
  • Ernest H. Swift: Professor in chemical engineering and chairholder at an invited university, Caltech. His work focused on analytical chemistry.
  • James H. Sturdivant: Chemist and professor of chemistry at Caltech from 1938-72. He also served as a chairholder at the invited university and wrote several articles with Pauling.  He developed the X-ray instrumentation necessary to probe the atomic positioning of crystals of a wide variety of chemical and biological materials.  Using this technology, he determined the crystal structures of brookite, PtMe3Cl, and cerium metal.  He also developed X-ray diffraction methods to determine the structures of complex ions in solution.
  • Harold Clayton Urey: Working at the University of Chicago, Urey was an American physical chemist whose pioneering investigations of isotopes earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1934 for the discovery of deuterium.  He played a significant role in the development of the atom bomb and gaseous diffusion, but may be most well-known for his contributions to theories on the development of organic life from non-living matter.  In 1958 he accepted a post as a professor-at-large at the new University of California, San Diego where he helped to create the science faculty. He was one of the founding members of UCSD’s school of chemistry, which was created in 1960.
    • This nomination was made jointly with Willard Libby and Joseph Mayer.
  • Willard Frank Libby: A physical chemist and specialist in radiochemistry – particularly hot atom chemistry, tracer techniques, and isotope tracer work.  Libby became well-known at the University of Chicago for his work on natural carbon-14 (radiocarbon) and its use in dating archaeological artifacts. He also studied natural tritium and its use in hydrology and geophysics.  While at the University of Chicago he performed a wide range of scientific advisory and technical consultancy work with industrial firms associated with the Institute for Nuclear Studies, as well as with the Atomic Energy Commission, defense departments, scientific organizations and other universities.  He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1960 for creating the method of carbon-14 dating.
  • Joseph Mayer: A theoretical physical chemist, researcher, author and consultant, Mayer is best known for his work on the application of statistical mechanics to concepts of liquids and dense gases.  He formulated the Mayer expansion in statistical field theory, the cluster expansion method, and the Mayer-McMillan solution theory.  In 1948 he was a chairholder at the invited University of Chicago.
  • James Partington: A British physical chemist and historian of chemistry, he was a fellow and council member of the Chemical Society of London as well as the first president of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Early Chemistry, founded in 1937.  His efforts helped to lay the groundwork for the forward evolution of physical chemistry following both World Wars.  He was at an invited university, Queen Mary College in London, when he nominated Pauling.
  • George Glockler: Physical chemist at the University of Iowa who studied the electrochemistry of gases, molecular structure, and bond energies. He was also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
    • Nominated with Glenn Theodore Seaborg: Seaborg spent most of his career as an educator and research scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, serving as a professor, and, between 1958 and 1961, as the university’s chancellor.  He was the principal discoverer or co-discoverer of ten elements: plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium and element 106, which, while he was still living, was named seaborgium in his honor.  He also discovered more than 100 atomic isotopes and is credited with important contributions to the chemistry of plutonium, originally as part of the Manhattan Project, where he developed the extraction process used to isolate the plutonium fuel used in the second atomic bomb.  He shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1951, awarded jointly with Edwin Mattison McMillan “for their discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements.”
      • Glocker’s first choice for awarding the prize was to Seaborg, while his second choice was Pauling.
  • László Zechmeister: Chairholder at an invited university, Caltech. Zechmeister played a major role in the rapid expansion of the use of chromatography during his years as a professor at the University of Pécs, Hungary, where worked before moving to Caltech in 1940.  He also was the author of the first comprehensive chromatography textbook.
    • Nominated with Paul Rabe: Alkaloid chemist who, while in Hamburg, Germany, succeeded in establishing the correct molecular formula for quinine and successfully synthesized it from quinotoxine.
    • Nominated with Robert Burns Woodward: American synthetic organic chemist at Harvard who is considered by many to be the preeminent organic chemist of the twentieth century, having made key contributions to the subject, especially in the synthesis of complex natural products and the determination of their molecular structure.  He showed that natural products could be synthesized by careful applications of the principles of physical organic chemistry.  In 1965 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his achievements in organic synthesis.
  • Urey (see above)
    • Nominated with Klaus Clusius: German physical chemist and professor based in Zurich who worked on the German nuclear project during the Second World War, focusing on isotope separation and heavy water production.  In 1938 he developed a thermodiffusion isotope separation tube with his younger colleague, Gerhard Dickel.  His main fields of interest were reaction kinetics, low temperature studies, and the investigation of isotopes.
    • Nominated with Gerhard Dickel: Developed a thermodiffusion isotope separation tube, in 1938, with Clusius.  He was a professor in Munich at the time of his nomination.
    • Urey’s first choice was Seaborg and J. Kennedy, while his second choice was Clusius, possibly divided with Dickel. His third choice was Pauling.
  • Byron Riegel: Organic chemist and chairholder at an invited university, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He studied oral contraceptives.
    • Nominated with Roger Adams: American organic chemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign best known for the Adams catalyst.  His furthered the understanding of the composition of naturally occurring substances such as complex vegetable oils and plant alkaloids.  Adams’ research represents a high point for structural organic chemistry, particularly on natural products, before the Instrumental Revolution and before the emergence of physical organic chemistry as a major field.
    • Nominated with Arne W. Tiselius: In 1947 Tiselius became a member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry and served as vice-president of the Nobel Foundation.  He was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his work on electrophoresis and adsorption analysis and especially for his discovery of the complex nature of the proteins occurring in blood serum.” He discovered the governing factors, and developed a very elegant and accurate optical method, for the quantitative measurement of the diffusion of water vapor and other gases into zeolite crystals.
    • Riegel’s first choice was Pauling, followed by Adams and then Tiselius. His fourth choice was Glenn Seaborg, and his fifth was Vladimir Ipatieff.



Pauling’s Nobel Chemistry Prize



Image is captioned: “Prof. Linus Pauling stole the show at the Nobel banquet with his cheerful laugh.” Credit: MT söndag, 1954.

[Part 2 of 6]

Nominated at least seventy times for prizes in chemistry, medicine and peace, Linus Pauling is the only person to have ever won two unshared Nobel Prizes. The Chemistry Prize, received in 1954, would be his first; he received the second prize in 1963 for Peace.

By the time that Pauling won the Chemistry Nobel in 1954, many believed the prize to be long overdue. Pauling himself had started to feel that he might never win one because his most important work to that point comprised a body of research rather than the singular specific discovery for which Nobel Prizes had usually been awarded.  Pauling also knew that he had been nominated in 1953 by Albert Szent-Györgyi, but did not receive the support of the Nobel Committee.

News of Pauling’s Chemistry Prize spurred a huge influx of correspondence and congratulations from colleagues and friends, both locally and globally.  The award ceremony also prompted a world tour that lasted almost five months, beginning with two weeks of sightseeing in Norway and Sweden as a family.


Image is captioned: “Prof. Linus Pauling stole the show at the Nobel banquet with his cheerful laugh.” Credit: MT söndag, 1954.

Prior to 1954, Pauling had been nominated for the Chemistry Prize nearly every year beginning in 1940.  And although he was nominated several times to share a prize with various colleagues, these individuals were not always people with whom he had worked, but also included fellow scientists who had focused on similar projects as had Pauling.

In 1954 Pauling was nominated thirteen times for the Chemistry Prize, twice with a partner: German organic chemist Hans Lebrecht Meerwein and American organic chemist Robert Burns Woodward. Five of the 1954 nominators had also submitted Pauling’s name in preceding years, colleagues including Edward Doisy, Jacques Hadamard, Albert Szent-Györgyi, Arne Tiselius, and Karl Freudenberg.  New and notable nominations in 1954 came from French chemists Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, and the American astronomer Harlow Shapley.

In his will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that one prize was to go to “the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement.”  In 1954 Pauling was honored “for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances.” Pauling’s prize marked the first time that the Nobel Committee had recognized a collection of work rather than “the most important chemical discovery or improvement” of a given year.


Pauling learned that he was to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on November 3, 1954, just 45 minutes before giving a lecture at Cornell University. He recalled later that he “had a little trouble with the seminar.” Soon after finding out that he had won the Nobel, congratulations began to come from his nominators, who were colleagues and friends from around the world.  Hundreds of letters and telegrams soon followed.

The tenth American to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Pauling was honored by the Nobel Committee for his study of the structure of matter and of the seemingly invisible forces that hold together the building blocks of all matter. When asked for his thoughts on this work, Pauling first explained that it was the support and environment that fellow scientists and collaborators had created at Caltech that helped him to win the prize. He likewise noted that he had been able to develop his theories as a result of many years worth of work – by him and others – on x-ray crystallography and the behavior of electronically irradiated chemicals.


Stage presentation of “The Road to Stockholm: The Appalling Life of Linus Pauling,” 1954. Verner Shomaker and Ken Hedberg stand near the microphone.

The Paulings began their trip to Stockholm with a bon voyage party thrown by Caltech faculty on December 3rd.  The gala was held at the Caltech Athenaeum and attended by 353 people – the largest dinner served there up to that point.  In addition to a meal, the evening’s events included an ode to Pauling performed by a muse on the harp.

Afterward, the dinner attendees joined others at Caltech’s Culbertson Hall for a showcase celebrating Pauling.  This lighthearted affair included the performance of a skit titled “The Road to Stockholm,” a humorous tale of Pauling’s scientific work and life as performed by Pauling’s colleagues, who called themselves the “Chemistry-Biology Stock Company.”  Afterward, a buoyant Pauling told the media that the event had been the “high point of my life.”

Once in Scandinavia, Ava Helen and Linus were accompanied by their children Linus Jr. (joined by his wife, Anita), Peter, Linda, and Crellin. For the duration of their visit, the entire Pauling family found themselves on prominent display in the Swedish press.


From an article, “Festivitas och Gladje Kring Nobelbanketten”, Dagens Nyheter, December 12, 1954.

A total of six Nobel Prizes can potentially be presented in any given year: one each in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace, and the economic sciences.  And in 1954 all but the Physics Prize – awarded to Max Born and Walter Bothe for their “fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially in the statistical interpretation of the wave function” – were granted to Americans.  Laureates alongside Pauling included Ernest Hemingway (Literature), and Drs. John Enders, Thomas Wellers, and Frederick Robbins (Medicine).  In 1954 no Peace Prize was awarded, and the Economics Prize was not established until 1968.

Pauling described the Nobel Ceremony in Stockholm as “very impressive…it must be one of the most impressive ceremonies in the modern world.” The pageantry marking Pauling’s decoration began on December 9th, with a reception hosted by the Royal High Chamberlain of Sweden, who was also President of the Nobel Foundation.  This gathering was followed by a formal dinner hosted by the Secretary of the Swedish Academy.


The following day, the laureates received their Nobel Prizes from King Gustav Adolph at the Stockholm Concert Hall. Following that was the Nobel Dinner, held in the Gold Room of the Stockholm City Hall. The dinner coincided with a torchlight parade organized by Swedish university students, and Pauling was honored to deliver a response to the students on behalf of all the year’s Nobel laureates, in which he famously encouraged the students to always think for themselves.

Pauling’s Nobel lecture was delivered the next day, on December 11th.  Titled “Modern Structural Chemistry,” the talk outlined Pauling’s advancements in structural and inorganic chemistry.  Pauling situated this work within a broader time frame to both add context to his own achievements in the field and to connect them with the work of others. As he interpreted the historical evolution of modern structural chemistry, he explained

The development of the theory of molecular structure and the nature of the chemical bond during the past twenty-five years has been in considerable part empirical – based upon the facts of chemistry – but with the interpretation of these facts greatly influenced by quantum mechanical principles and concepts.

He concluded his remarks with a prophetic statement on what he saw coming in the future:

We may, I believe, anticipate that the chemist of the future who is interested in the structure of proteins, nucleic acids, polysaccharides, and other complex substances with high molecular weight will come to rely upon a new structural chemistry, involving precise geometrical relationships among the atoms in the molecules and the rigorous application of the new structural principles, and that great progress will be made, through this technique, in the attack, by chemical methods, on the problems of biology and medicine.

His lecture delivered, Pauling and his wife rounded out their Nobel adventure at the royal palace as dinner guests of Sweden’s King and Queen.


The Nobel Chemistry medal depicts nature, in the form of the goddess Isis, emerging from clouds and holding a cornucopia in her arms.  The veil that would cover her face is held back by the Genius of Science.  The inscription on the medal reads: Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes which, loosely translated, means “And they who bettered life on earth by their newly found mastery.”  (Word for word: “inventions enhance life which is beautified through art.”) Below the goddess and Genius, the name of the laureate is engraved on a plate adjacent to the text “REG. ACAD. SCIENT. SUEC.” which stands for The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The medal itself was designed by Swedish sculptor and engraver Erik Lindberg.  The obverse side of the medal depicts Alfred Nobel in profile, and the years of his birth and death.


Accompanying Pauling’s medal was a Nobel diploma and a monetary award.  In 1954 the prize award amount was $35,000, or approximately $305,517.00 in today’s dollars.  When asked how he would spend it, Pauling responded, “most scientists have plenty of old bills to pay.”

Following the ceremonies in Sweden, Ava Helen and Linus toured the world for almost five months.  They spent Christmas in Bethlehem and later traveled all throughout Asia, visiting India and Japan in particular, and meeting with colleagues at universities and elsewhere. Pauling believed that it was especially important for him to visit India as, earlier in the year, he had been denied a passport to travel to the subcontinent, though he had been invited personally by India’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Paulings were well-received throughout their world travels, and they returned home from their trip even more determined to fight for peace and global disarmament. This work which would eventually lead to another Nobel Prize, accepted some nine years later.

The Nobel Prizes: History and Mechanics


Alfred Nobel.

[Ed Note: Immersed as we are in the sheer volume and diversity of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, it is sometimes easy for us as a staff to overlook the fact that Linus Pauling remains the only person to have received two unshared Nobel Prizes.  As we begin our ninth year of blogging, we’ll be addressing Pauling’s extraordinary accomplishment with a six-part series.  The first three parts will focus on the history and mechanics of the Nobel Prize, and the story of Pauling’s receipt of his two prizes in 1954 and 1963.  The latter three parts will discuss those individuals who nominated Pauling for his awards, data that has recently made available by the Nobel Foundation.]

Linus Pauling is the only person who has received two unshared Nobel Prizes, one in Chemistry (1954) and another for Peace (1962, awarded in 1963).  Three other individuals have won two Nobels, but they shared the prizes. These three additional double laureates are Marie Curie (also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize), Frederick Sanger and John Bardeen.

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, industrialist, and businessman who developed a safe way to detonate dynamite. One of his primary strengths was his ability to combine the imaginative and explorative mind of the scientist and inventor with the forward thinking of the industrialist.  Nobel was also very interested in social and peace-related issues, and held what many considered to be radical views in his era. He likewise maintained a great interest in literature and wrote his own poetry and dramatic works.


Portrait of Alfred Nobel by Emil Österman, 1915

Before he died, Nobel decided that the great wealth that he had accumulated over a lifetime of work should be used to endow “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”  The Nobel Prizes thus became an extension and a fulfillment of his life-long interests. After many years spent traveling and establishing laboratories in twenty different countries, Alfred Nobel died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896.  He was sixty-three years old.

When Nobel’s will was unsealed, it came as a surprise to many that his fortune – equivalent to $265 million in 2015 dollars – was to be used to endow prizes honoring high achievement in the arts, sciences, and peace activism.  In his last will and testament, he wrote that his estate:

shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind…which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

He further directed that

The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiology or medical works by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm; and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes, no consideration be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be Scandinavian or not.

The executors of Nobel’s will were two young engineers, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist.  The duo set about forming the Nobel Foundation as an organization to take care of the financial assets left by Nobel for the purposes that he had stipulated, and to coordinate the work of the prize-awarding bodies. This process was not without its difficulties, especially since the will was contested by Nobel’s relatives and questioned by authorities in various countries.


The main task of the Nobel Foundation is to safeguard the financial base of the Nobel Prizes, and to administer the work connected to the selection of the Nobel Laureates.

The nomination process is slightly different for each prize, due to the different institutions and hosting countries involved.  In September or October of the year prior to a prize being awarded, nomination forms are sent out to qualified people to complete confidentially.  Approximately 3,000 people are invited to nominate each year in chemistry; the quantity of nominators varies for the other subject areas.  The requirements for a qualified nominator also vary between awards, but in the case of the chemistry prize they include:

  1. Swedish and foreign members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
  2. Members of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry and Physics.
  3. Previous Nobel Laureates in Chemistry or Physics.
  4. Permanent professors in Chemistry at universities and institutes of technology in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
  5. Chair holders at six selected universities or colleges selected by the Academy of Science, which together ensure an adequate distribution of perspectives over different countries and centers of learning.

The Academy may also invite nominations from other scientists whom they see fit to submit names.


The Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, 2007 Nobel Foundation image. Photo: Hans Mehlin

Nominations for the chemistry prize are returned to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, where the five members of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry consult with a collection of experts to vet the names that they have received. The pool of names under consideration often number between 250-300 individuals, due to multiple nominators submitting the same names.

After consulting with experts from March through May, the committee then puts together a report by the end of August.  After the report is completed, the committee submits its recommendations for the prize to the Swedish Academy in September.  These recommendations are discussed by members of the Chemistry Section of the Academy at two meetings.  Nobel laureates are then chosen in early October through a majority vote.  This vote is final and without appeal, and the winner is then announced.  The Nobel laureates receive their prizes on December 10 at the Stockholm Concert Hall. The prize consists of a Nobel medal and diploma, as well as a document insuring the cash award associated with the prize.


The Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, 2008. Nobel Foundation image. Photo: Odd-Steinar Tøllefsen

The Nobel Peace Prize varies slightly in its nomination process.  For one, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for Nobel Peace Prize selection.  For another, a letter of invitation to nominate is not required and the qualifications of a nominator also differ.  Nominators must be one of the following:

  1. Members of national assemblies and governments of states.
  2. Members of international courts.
  3. University rectors; professors of social sciences, history, philosophy, law, or theology; directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes.
  4. Persons who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Peace.
  5. Board members of organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  6. Active and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
  7. Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

For the Peace prize, there is no standardized form for nominations due to an understanding of the many ways that a nominee’s qualities can be described.  However, nominations must include the name of the candidate; an explanation as to why the person or organization is deemed worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize; and the name, title, and professional affiliation of the nominator.

After receiving the nominations submitted before February 1, the Norwegian Nobel Committee prepares a short list of names by assessing the nominations’ validity and the candidates’ work.  Nominations received after February 1 are included in the pool for the following year.

At its first meeting, the Peace Prize committee’s permanent secretary presents the list of candidates, which can be reviewed and added to. After this, the nomination process is considered closed, and the short list is prepared.  Through August, advisers review the short list, which usually consists of twenty to thirty names, and create reports detailing their evaluation of the candidates under consideration.  Advisers can include Norwegian university professors maintaining broad and varied expertise in relevant subject areas.  When necessary, reports are also requested from other Norwegian and foreign experts.  The Nobel Committee examines these reports in order to determine the most appropriate candidate and decides if any more information is needed.

In another difference from the Chemistry prize, the Peace Prize decision strives to be unanimous and is determined at the final meeting of the committee, held in October just before the prizes are announced.  Just as with chemistry, the Peace Prize laureate is chosen and announced in early October, with the decision being final and without appeal.  Though the ceremony for the Peace Prize takes place at City Hall in Oslo, Norway, it too is held on the tenth of December, the date that all Nobel awards are presented. As with the chemistry laureates, recipients of the Peace Prize receive a medal and diploma, as well as a certificate confirming the prize amount.  For both prizes, nomination information is made not available for until fifty years following a nomination.

Pauling and Perutz: The Later Years

[Concluding our series on Max Perutz, in commemoration of the Perutz centenary.]

In 1957, Max Perutz and Linus Pauling wrote to each other again on a topic that was new to their correspondence. This time Pauling asked Perutz to sign his petition to stop nuclear weapons tests, a request to which Perutz agreed.

Signature of Max Perutz added to the United Nations Bomb Test Petition, 1957.

Signature of Max Perutz added to the United Nations Bomb Test Petition, 1957.

As the decade moved forward, the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA attracted ever more attention to the work of James Watson and Francis Crick. In May 1958, Perutz asked Pauling to sign a certificate nominating his colleagues Crick and John Kendrew to the Royal Society. Pauling agreed, though stipulated that Kendrew’s name be placed first on the nomination, as he expected that Crick would get more support. As with Pauling’s bomb test petition a year earlier, Perutz agreed.

At the beginning of 1960, William Lawrence Bragg wrote to Pauling about nominating Perutz, along with Kendrew, for the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics. Pauling was hesitant about the nomination, thinking it was still early, as their work on hemoglobin structure had only recently been published. Pauling also felt that Dorothy Hodgkin should be included for her work in protein crystallography. Bragg thought this a good idea and included Hodgkin in his nomination.

By March, Bragg’s nominations had gone through and Pauling was asked to supply his opinion. After spending some time thinking about the matter, Pauling wrote to the Nobel Committee that he thought that Robert B. Corey, who worked in Pauling’s lab, should be nominated along with Perutz and Kendrew for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry instead. Pauling felt that if Perutz and Kendrew were included in the award, Corey should be awarded half, with the other half being split between Perutz and Kendrew. Pauling also sent a letter to the Nobel Committee for Physics, indicating that he thought that Hodgkin, Perutz, and Kendrew should be nominated for the chemistry prize. Pauling sent a copy of this letter to Bragg as well.

Pauling’s letter to the Nobel Committee, March 15, 1960. pg. 1.

Pg. 2

In July, Bragg replied to Pauling that he was in a “quandary” about Corey, as he was “convinced that” Corey’s work “does not rank in the same category with that which Mrs. Hodgkin or Perutz and Kendrew have done.” Perutz and Kendrew’s efforts, he explained, had theoretical implications directly supporting Pauling’s own work, whereas Corey’s research was not that “different from other careful analyses of organic compounds.” Once everything was sorted out, Perutz and Kendrew were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1962 (the same year that Watson and Crick, along with Maurice Wilkins, won in Physiology/Medicine, and Pauling, though belated for a year, won the Nobel Peace Prize) and Hodgkin received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964. Robert Corey never was awarded a Nobel Prize.

Linus Pauling, Max Delbrück and Max Perutz at the American Chemical Society centennial meeting, New York. April 6, 1976.

Perutz and Pauling corresponded very little during the 1960s, with Perutz writing only to ask for Pauling’s signature, once for a photograph that would be displayed in his lab and a second time for a letter to Italian President Antonio Segri in support of scientists Domenico Marotta and Giordano Giacomello, who were under fire for suspected misuse of funds.

In 1971 Perutz read an interview with Pauling in the New Scientist which compelled him to engage Pauling on scientific questions once again. Perutz was surprised to have read that Pauling had tried to solve the structure of alpha keratin as early as 1937 and that his failure to do so led him to study amino acids. Perutz wrote that had he known this in 1950, he, Bragg and Kendrew might not have pursued their own inquiry into alpha keratin. Pauling responded that he thought his efforts had been well-known as he and Corey had made mention of them in several papers at the time. Pauling explained that he had difficulties with alpha keratin up until 1950, when he finally was able to show that the alpha helix best described its structure. Perutz replied that he was aware of Pauling and Corey’s work and the alpha helix, but was surprised that Pauling’s early failure to construct a model led him to a more systematic and fruitful line of research.

Perutz also wondered whether Pauling had seen his article in the previous New Scientist, which reflected on Pauling and Charles Coryell’s discovery of the effect of oxygenation on the magnetic qualities of hemoglobin. Perutz saw this as providing “the key to the understanding of the mechanism of haem-haem [heme-heme] interactions in haemoglobin.” Pauling responded that he had not seen Perutz’s article but would look for it, and also sent Perutz a 1951 paper on the topic. Perutz took it upon himself to send Pauling his own article from the New Scientist.

A few years later, in 1976, Perutz again headed to southern California to attend a celebration for Pauling’s 75th birthday, at which he nervously gave the after dinner speech to a gathering of 250 guests. Before going to the event in Santa Barbara, Perutz stopped in Riverside and visited the young university there, which impressed him. Perutz wrote to his family back in Cambridge that he wished that “Oxbridge college architects would come here to learn – but probably they wouldn’t notice the difference between their clumsy buildings and these graceful constructions.”

Perutz also visited the Paulings’ home outside Pasadena, which elicited more architectural comments. Perutz described to his family how the Pauling house was shaped like an amide group, “the wings being set at the exact angles of the chemical bonds that allowed him to predict the structure of the α-helix.” Perutz asked Pauling, perhaps tongue in cheek as he thought the design somewhat conceited, “why he missed the accompanying change in radius of the iron atom.” Pauling replied that he had not thought of it.

Bertrand Russell and Linus Pauling, London England. 1953.

In preparation for his speech, Perutz also took some time to read No More War! which he concluded was as relevant in 1976 as when it was first published in 1958. Perutz saw Pauling’s faith in human reason as reminiscent of Bertrand Russell’s. Indeed, the many similarities between the two were striking to Perutz, and he included many of them in his talk, “except for their common vanity which I discreetly omitted.” In a personal conversation, Perutz asked Pauling about his relationship with Russell which, as it turned out, was mostly concerned with their mutual actions against nuclear weapons. Perutz was somewhat disappointed that “they hardly touched upon the fundamental outlook which I believe they shared.”

Perutz and Pauling were again out of touch for several years until April 1987, when Pauling traveled to London to give a lecture at Imperial College as part of a centenary conference in honor of Erwin Schrödinger. Pauling’s contribution discussed his own work on antigen-antibody complexes during the 1930s and 1940s, during which he shared a drawing that he had made at the time. Perutz was in attendance and noticed how similar Pauling’s drawing was to then-recent models of the structure that had been borne out of contemporary x-ray crystallography. Perutz sent Pauling some slides so that he could judge the similarities for himself.

Flyer for Pauling's 90th birthday tribute, California Institute of Technology, February 28, 1991.

Flyer for Pauling’s 90th birthday tribute, California Institute of Technology, February 28, 1991.

The final time that Pauling and Perutz met in person was for Pauling’s ninetieth birthday celebration in 1991. Perutz, again, experienced stage fright as he gave his speech. But he was encouraged afterwards, especially after receiving a compliment from Francis Crick who, according to Perutz, was “not in the habit of paying compliments.” Perutz told his family that the nonagenarian Pauling “stole the show” by giving one speech at 9:00 AM on early work in crystallography and then another speech at 10:00 PM on his early years at Caltech. Perutz found it enviable that Pauling stood for both lectures and was still getting around very well, though he held on to the arm of those with whom he walked. Without coordinating, Perutz and Pauling also found a point of agreement in their talks, noting that current crystallographers were “so busy determining structures at the double” that they “have no time to think about them.” This rush often caused them to miss the most important aspects of the newly uncovered structures.

Just as Perutz first encountered Pauling through one of his books, The Nature of the Chemical Bond, so too would Pauling’s last encounter with Perutz be through a book, Perutz’s Is Science Necessary? Pauling received the volume in 1991 as a gift from his friends and colleagues Emile and Jane Zuckerkandl. Pauling’s limited marginalia reveal his interest in the text’s discussions of cancer and aging research. Aged 90 and facing his own cancer diagnosis, Pauling was particularly drawn to Perutz’s review of François Jacob’s The Possible and the Actual which sought, but did not find, a “death mechanism” in spawning salmon. Pauling likewise highlighted the book’s suggestion that “like other scientific fantasies…the Fountain of Youth probably does not belong to the world of the possible.” And Pauling made note of particular individuals that he had known well, like John D. Bernal and David Harker. Pauling deciphered the latter’s identity from Perutz’s less-than-favorable anonymous portrayal.

Pauling also noted spots where Perutz wrote about him. While most of these references were positive and focused on topics like Pauling’s influence on Watson and Crick and his breakthroughs on protein structure, one in particular was not. Perhaps less cryptic than the reference to Harker, Perutz described how “one great American chemist now believes that massive doses of vitamin C prolong the lives of cancer patients,” following it with “even more dangerous are physicians who believe in cancer cures.”

While critical, Perutz really meant the “great” in his comment and he continued to repeat it elsewhere. After Pauling passed away in August 1994, Perutz told his sister Lotte that “many feel that he [Pauling] was the greatest chemist of this century” while also being “instrumental in the protests that led to Kennedy and Macmillan’s conclusion of Atmospheric Test ban.”  He reiterated this idea in the paragraph that concluded his obituary of Pauling, published in the October 1994 issue of Structural Biology.

Pauling’s fundamental contributions to chemistry cover a tremendous range, and their influence on generations of young chemists was enormous.  In the years between 1930 and 1940 he helped to transform chemistry from a largely phenomenological subject to one based firmly on structure and quantum mechanical principles.  In later years the valence bond and resonance theories which formed the theoretical backbone of Paulings work were supplemented by R. S. Mullikens’ molecular orbital theory, which provided a deeper understanding of chemical bonding….Nevertheless resonance and hybridization have remained part of the everyday vocabulary of chemists and are still used, for example, to explain the planarity of the peptide bond.  Many of us regard Pauling as the greatest chemist of the century.

Congratulations to Martin Karplus


We were delighted to learn last week that Martin Karplus will be one of three individuals to share the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Karplus is among Linus Pauling’s many scientific descendants, having worked as a graduate student under Pauling in the early 1950s. A bit later, Karplus worked with Pauling and E. Bright Wilson, Jr. on an ill-fated project to publish a revised version of Pauling and Wilson’s 1935 text, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics.  We documented this story in May 2010.

In another life, the blog dabbles in oral history and it was our great good fortune to interview Dr. Karplus during a trip that he made to Corvallis just this past summer.  A few excerpts about his Pasadena experience are included below; the entire interview has been archived in our History of Science Oral History Collection (OH 17).

On choosing Caltech after finishing his undergraduate studies at Harvard...

My brother was at the Advanced Institute working with Oppenheimer and I’d decided I wanted to go west and I would either go to Caltech or Berkeley. I was admitted to both of them. And, as I said, I visited my brother and he introduced me to Oppenheimer, who had been professor both at Berkeley and Caltech and I asked him what he would do. And we talked a little bit about things and I’m not sure that he was aware that really I was going to go into biology rather than into chemistry. But he – I still remember the statement of his that Caltech was a ‘shining light in a sea of darkness,’ and he strongly recommended going to Caltech as being a smaller place where somebody like me would be able to really do what I wanted to do. So I think that was it. I mean, in those days you didn’t visit the schools or anything. So I think he was basically – well I talked with my brother about it, also, but that was sort of how I made my decision to go to Caltech and I think it was a good decision.

On taking classes from Pauling…

He was a great lecturer. But the most impressive thing was that he gave the students problems as homework problems and everyone worked very hard on them. Then it turned out that he actually didn’t know the answer to this problem and so there was a lot of discussion of this. At the time I was sort of annoyed, but afterwards realized that this was really very important, to learn the difference between doing your homework when you know that there is an answer, you can always find it, and doing research, where obviously there may be an answer somewhere but it’s not so easy to find. But that was part of his methodology.

On Pauling as a doctoral adviser…

…people built their careers on Pauling’s ideas. I still remember when I started, every morning when I would come in there would be this little yellow sheet in my mailbox, saying ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to do so-and-so?’ And at first I felt ‘okay, well Pauling wants me to look at that, I’ve got to work on it. I don’t have time to do what I’m really doing on my thesis.’ So this went on for a little while until Alex Rich and some of the other people that I talked with said ‘look, Pauling does this to everybody, he doesn’t expect you to do it. You can either throw them away or you can store them and maybe they’re ideas that you could really work out.’

….And, if we’re talking about experiences, one was my qualifying oral, where Pauling asked me to discuss his theory of metals, which I knew something about. So I said innocently, ‘well, let’s start with copper,’ and I said ‘let me see, what’s the atomic number of copper?’ And so Pauling looked at me and said ‘well, you start with hydrogen and you work your way up and then you’ll get to copper.’ So, with a certain amount of fumbling, I finally did get there, but everybody was terribly amused and Pauling afterwards sort of said to me ‘now look, you’re a very bright fellow. But one thing, if you’re a chemist, you should know, is the periodic table. So that very much impressed me.

Martin Karplus and Linus Pauling, 1960s.

Martin Karplus and Linus Pauling, 1960s.

On a memorable party with the roommates…

We had a big party at the – we lived in this house in Altadena where a number of us, Sidney Bernhard, Alex Rich; Matt Meselson was involved in it too. We all lived together. I and Sidney were the cooks and the others washed the dishes and cleaned up, and we had this big party. We had often had parties and Dick Feynman would come and play the drums. And Pauling and Ava Helen came to this party.

We had a lot of snails in the garden and Pauling went out and collected them. And I thought, ‘okay, he likes snails, he’s going to go home and Ava Helen is going to cook them.’ What I discovered later when I was working – I did a lot of cooking and working in restaurants – is that it’s really a very complicated process to prepare the snails and you would have to let them sit for about a week or so until they eat up all their own slime. I never asked what they actually did with them, with this collection, but he had this big collection of snails which he took home.

On Richard Feynman…

I remember he gave a public lecture on water which was just unbelievable. He really had insights, and of course there’s this now famous quote in the Feynman lecture series, which is something like ‘everything that happens in life has to do with the wiggling and jiggling of atoms,’ and now almost everybody who works in molecular dynamics uses this quote as a sort of introduction on their importance. I talked with him a number of times about looking at larger systems and he was very encouraging. Though I must say that when I took his quantum mechanics course, it was difficult in the sense that he taught quantum mechanics from his point of view, with path integrals and such, and for people who didn’t know quantum mechanics already, it would have been very difficult. On the other hand, it was a difficult period, but it actually taught me a lot of things, which I’ve used since then.

Anyways, when he came to our parties he played the drums; he was really part of the Caltech spirit. I think most other schools you wouldn’t expect a professor like that, to come to the party with some students, say ‘look, why don’t you come up there, we’re having a big party tonight…’

The Unlikely Makings of a World Tour

Scandinavian Airlines keepsake, December 6, 1954.

[Part 1 of 2]

In 1953 Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited Linus Pauling to attend the Indian Science Congress and dedicate a new scientific research institute. It was a fantastic opportunity that Pauling was eager to seize. Prompted by the invitation, he made plans to set out on a broader world tour in late 1953, intending to visit India as well as Japan, Israel and Greece, among other countries.

Pauling’s prospects went sour, however, as he waited, and waited, and waited, but did not hear back from United States passport officials until after his proposed departure date in December 1953. Though disappointing, this lack of cooperation on the government’s part was fairly unsurprising – Pauling had a history, having been under investigation by the FBI amidst accusations of his belonging to the Communist Party.

The center of much of the passport drama was Ruth B. Shipley, the Director of the Passport Office. In 1952 Pauling was accused by various media outlets of being a communist, although he adamantly denied maintaining any ties to the Communist party. The allegations were mostly based on Pauling’s anti-war political stance and his peace activism following World War II.  In January 1952, based on these allegations, Shipley flat-out denied Pauling a passport, a decision that was eventually overturned by the State Department, which granted him a limited passport in July.

Ruth B. Shipley

Nonetheless, Pauling had plans to travel to Europe that year which had to be put off. It was the beginning of a pattern that repeated itself on multiple occasions – Shipley would deny Pauling’s request, and the decision would be overturned just days before his departure date.

(Pauling’s political activities affected not only his passport, but also his research. President Dwight D. Eisenhower entered office in 1953 and appointed Oveta Culp Hobby as Secretary of the new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, a fledgling administration known to withhold grant money from suspected communists. It wasn’t shocking then, that in late Fall of 1953 Pauling was notified that his research grants from the United States Public Health Service, a subunit of Culp’s department, were being suspended. The grants totaled about $60,000 and helped support Pauling’s work on oxypolygelatin and protein structure. Pauling was advised to reapply for the grants under the names of other individual researchers so his name wouldn’t be attached.)

Despite his lack of success in carrying out his world tour the previous winter, Pauling still hoped that he could sort out his issues with the federal bureaucracy and reschedule his travel plans to make it to the next Indian Science Congress in January 1955.  But by October 1954, Pauling was admitting defeat, writing to the Secretary of State that he no longer planned on traveling during the upcoming winter. This was in response to yet another letter that Pauling had received from Shipley, telling him that he could appeal the decision of the Passport Office to reject his request for validation to the Board of Passport Appeals. Pauling was not interested in a repeat of the previous winter, in which inaction on the part of the Passport Office had caused him “significant financial loss, personal embarrassment, and damage to my reputation.” As a result of the office’s decisions, Pauling had been forced to cancel highly-publicized appearances at a number of conferences on very short notice – he wasn’t willing to repeat a similar episode.

Then, all of a sudden, circumstances began to change rather quickly.  Near the end of the month, just as he was conceding defeat to the State Department, rumors started to cropping up that Pauling was going to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. On November 2, Pauling’s win became official. The award was granted in recognition of his “research on the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances,” a commendation of what amounted to his entire life’s work in science. Letters of congratulation came pouring in from colleagues, friends, family and acquaintances. Son Peter, who was working on his Ph. D. at Cambridge and living with his sister Linda, excitedly wrote to his father, asking if he was invited and inquiring if he should buy a new suit.

Headline from the New Republic

Pauling’s heightened profile, combined with the support that he was receiving from the scientific community, gave him leverage in his battle with the government to reestablish his right to travel. Emboldened, Pauling reasoned that if he was going to Sweden in December for the Nobel Prize ceremony, he might as well resuscitate his previous travel plans. He wrote to Caltech President Lee A. Dubridge requesting a leave of absence and, on November 4, sent out an array of letters delegating his duties while away. He assigned important tasks to trusted co-workers: Carl Niemann would serve as acting chairman of the Division of Chemisty and Chemical Engineering, Holmes Sturdivant would prepare and present the Division budget to the President in a satisfactory way, Robert Corey would give a talk on the structure of collagen at the Western Spectroscopists meeting and Dan Campbell was to speak on antibodies and the duplication of molecules.

The newly planned tour would have the Paulings traveling first, with the whole family, to Stockholm on the 7th of December for the Nobel Prize ceremony, followed by a jaunt over to Oslo and then to Amsterdam. After Europe Linus and Ava Helen would move on to Israel where they would spend Christmas, visiting Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. On the 28th, the pair would briefly visit Cyprus and then move on to Pakistan on the 30th. By the 31st they were to arrive in India where they would stay for the next six weeks. On February 15th they were scheduled to depart en route to a two-day stop in Bangkok, Thailand followed by a final stay in Japan.

But first, the Pauling clan arrived in Stockholm for the Nobel festivities. Linus, Ava Helen, Crellin, Linus Jr. and his wife Anita flew out of Los Angeles and were greeted at the airport in Stockholm by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Peter and Linda excitedly joined them there. That afternoon they checked into the luxurious Grand Hotel where they would be staying and where the family enjoyed tea while Linus took part in a press conference. The following days were a nonstop whirlwind of receptions, parties, and speeches. The whole family was invited to a cocktail party hosted by Hugo Theorell of the Nobel Medical Institute, the man who would win the Nobel Prize for medicine the following year. And the day before the prize ceremony, a reception was held for the winners along with dinner hosted by the Royal High Chamberlain.

Peter, Crellin and Linus Pauling, Jr. with their Dad, 1954.

The big day arrived on the 10th. It was a busy and eventful affair: a rehearsal, a concert, the prize ceremony and a meeting with the Royal Family followed by dinner, dancing and an informal chat with some Swedish university students. At the banquet that evening Pauling made a lovely speech about Sweden, telling his hosts that

I have found that it is always a great pleasure to come to Sweden. I feel at home in Sweden: even though there may be a snow-covered landscape about us, instead of the green (or sometimes brown) hills of southern California, nevertheless I feel, emanating from the Swedish people, the radiations of sympathy, of homologous character, so strongly as almost to cause me to consider myself to be a Swede.

The next day Pauling visited the Nobel Foundation to collect his prize stipend, a sizable amount at $30,000, (almost a quarter million dollars in today’s money) before delivering his Nobel lecture. The speech focused on resonance and bond concepts; the primary components of the work for which he had been recognized. That evening the Nobel celebration came to an end with a formal dinner at the royal palace hosted by the king and queen, followed by a party thrown by the American embassy.  Equal parts exhausted and delighted, the Paulings went to bed that night knowing that, the excitement of previous days notwithstanding, a grand adventure still awaited them.

Pauling and the Nobel Prize Trip

Linus Pauling and King Gustav VI, Nobel Prize ceremonies, Stockholm, Sweden. 1954.

“I doubt that many Nobel Prizes have been so popular with the masses in science…. [A]lmost all are delighted that the Nobel Prize embarrasses the State Department.”
– Charles Coryell in a letter to J. Robert Oppenheimer, as referenced in Force of Nature, by Tom Hager, p. 451. November 2, 1954.

In 1954, Linus Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of complex substances.” Pauling, who had thought it unlikely that he would receive the Prize, was both shocked and thrilled. He received the news just before giving a lecture at Cornell University and, in his own words, he “had a little difficulty calming down enough to enter [the lecture hall].”

For the past several years, Pauling had been in almost constant struggle with the U.S. government. Pauling was an outspoken proponent of peace and loudly argued against American activities during the Cold War. As such, he had been branded a Communist sympathizer and, as a result, a threat to U.S. interests. Pauling knew his request for a passport renewal, which would allow him to participate in the Nobel ceremony, was going to be a sticking point. Thanks to a European press blitz, accompanied by dozens of letters from well-known individuals, the U.S. State Department was forced to reassess its position of power.

Nobel Prize for Chemistry. December 10, 1954.

Nobel Prize for Chemistry. December 10, 1954.

Pauling’s position as a Nobel winner, combined with his highly outspoken personality, placed the State Department at the wrong end of the American public’s sympathies. When ominous-sounding letters from European delegates began arriving, insisting that Pauling be allowed to travel, the Passport Office decided enough was enough. Pauling was granted unfettered access to global travel.

After a thoroughly enjoyable celebration at Caltech, Linus and Ava Helen Pauling, along with their four children, departed for Sweden. The Nobel ceremonies began on December 9, 1954. Each laureate was introduced with a speech detailing their accomplishments. After the speeches, the laureates were presented with their medals by King Gustavus VI. After the ceremony, a lavish dinner was held in the Gold Room of Stockholm’s city hall. Here, each prize winner was toasted by the king, and then offered a brief speech of his or her own.

Following the dinner, the laureates were led a balcony overlooking hundreds of university students. Pauling, as decided by his fellow award winners, was elected to speak to the students. After a brief introduction, he began his speech.

Perhaps, as one of the older generation, I should preach a little sermon to you, but I do not propose to do so. I shall, instead, give you a word of advice about how to behave toward your elders. When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect – but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or has lost his hair, no mater whether he is a Nobel Laureate – may be wrong. The world progresses, year by year, century by century, as the members of the younger generation find out what was wrong among the things that their elders said. So you must always be skeptical – always think for yourself.

At the close of his speech, the crowd below the laureates cheered and applauded Pauling and his message of hope and self-reliance.

The next two weeks were taken up by the delivery of speeches, a party at the U.S. embassy, and sightseeing in Sweden. After the Nobel festivities concluded, Linus Pauling and his wife departed on a four month trip, visiting Israel, India and Japan, giving over fifty speeches during their travels.

Pauling’s return to Pasadena was bittersweet. Though saddened to end his trip, he was reinvigorated with a sense of purpose. The people of the world were shocked by the Cold War and the threat of nuclear weapons. Pauling was prepared to return to his peace work, knowing he was supported by like-minded individuals the world over.

Learn more about Pauling’s Nobel trip on the website Linus Pauling and the Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History.

The Road to Stockholm: The Appalling Life of Linus Pauling

The Appalling Life of Linus Pauling presented in commemoration of the first Nobel Prize at Caltech. 1954.

Stage presentation of “The Road to Stockholm: The Appalling Life of Linus Pauling” presented in commemoration of the first Nobel Prize at Caltech. 1954.

“Dr. Linus Pauling is the man for me / He makes violent changes in my chemistry / Oh, fie, when he rolls his eyes / All my atoms ionize.”
– Chemistry-Biology Stock Company, C.I.T.. Song lyrics from “The Road to Stockholm.” 1954.

Since Linus Pauling’s revolutionary work in chemistry in the early 1930s and the subsequent publication of The Nature of the Chemical Bond, the scientific community had been anticipating his receipt of the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, his efforts went unrewarded by the Nobel community. While his name appeared as a nominee on more than one occasion, the honor managed to elude him. Pauling believed he had failed to win the award because he had never made a single major discovery. Instead, his achievements were a compilation of discoveries over the course of several decades. The Nobel Prize Committee, according to Alfred Nobel’s will, could not award the Prize for a body of work – it had to be for the single most important discovery in a given year.

In 1954 Pauling was shocked to discover that he had, in fact, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. The Nobel Committee had given him the award for “research into the nature of the chemical bond…and its application to the elucidation of complex substances.” The Committee had broken precedent and given Pauling an award for his life’s work.

In honor of Pauling’s achievement, the Caltech faculty hosted an enormous dinner celebration. 350 faculty members and guests crowded into Caltech’s Athenaeum for a dinner which was accompanied by quips from Dr. Norman Davison, the night’s master of ceremonies, and a harp solo by a toga-clad faculty member. After the opening festivities, the crowd transferred to another Caltech building where they were treated to a series of hilarious parodies created by Pauling’s colleagues.

The performances, collectively titled “The Road to Stockholm,” included a number of songs, skits, and speeches. Much of the night’s entertainment was masterminded by a young humanities professor, Kent Clark and British post-doctorate Ted Harold. The two men were responsible for such inventive songs as “Pauling’s Courses” and “The Gates and Crellin Laboratory” which declared,

If you have an intuition that is clear and keen, and you love to pound your fingers on the desk machine
If you are fond of polyhedra and the way they pack, and for first approximations you have got the knack
Then the only place in the world to be, is the Gates and Crellin Laboratories of Chemistry.

Listen: “The Road to Stockholm – Crystallography by LP”

The students and faculty spent the evening lampooning Pauling’s discoveries, loudly expounding on his achievements, and gently poking fun at his passport troubles. At the close of the festivities, Pauling took his place on stage and briefly lectured the audience on the academic environment and his newest research. He then heartily thanked the performers and the audience, declaring the event to be “the high point of my life.”

Ken Hedberg, currently a part of OSU’s chemistry department, was at Caltech during the celebration. He performed at Pauling’s dinner as a member of the chorus. He recalls Ava Helen and Linus sitting in the front row, highly entertained by the performances. “We,” he says, “all had a great deal of fun.”

Read more about this event here or visit this narrative page on the website “Linus Pauling and the Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History.”

Linus Pauling and the Birth of Quantum Mechanics

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling in Munich, with Walter Heitler (left) and Fritz London (right), 1927.

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling in Munich, with Walter Heitler (left) and Fritz London (right), 1927.

My year in Munich was very productive. I not only got a very good grasp of quantum mechanics — by attending Sommerfeld’s lectures on the subject, as well as other lectures by him and other people in the University, and also by my own study of published papers — but in addition I was able to begin attacking many problems dealing with the nature of the chemical bond by applying quantum mechanics to these problems.”
– Linus Pauling, 1992

In the spring of 1926, funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship, Linus and Ava Helen Pauling embarked on their first trip to Europe, scientific tourists beginning a journey that would revolutionize modern chemistry and physics.

The Paulings travelled through the continent, stopping at the famed institutes of modern science in Munich, Göttingen, and Zurich, among others, and meeting with scientific giants including Arnold Sommerfeld, Max Born and Erwin Schrödinger. It was at this time that quantum mechanics, the branch of science devoted to the study of the atom’s physics, was being revolutionized by the ideas of Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg. It wasn’t until Pauling left Germany for Switzerland however, that he was introduced to a ground-breaking idea – the combination of Schrödinger’s wave mechanics with the study of structural chemistry.

In Zurich, the German researchers Walter Heitler and Fritz London explained to Pauling the concept of “electron resonance” as developed by Heisenberg. At its core, the theory suggested that electrons could be attracted to one another, to the point where they would eventually switch back and forth between two given atoms. This exchange of electrons would, in turn, release energy, in the process drawing the two atoms together and creating a chemical bond. This revolutionary concept agreed with certain known principles of the hydrogen atom – the atom on which Heitler and London were conducting their calculations – and appeared to support the Pauli exclusion principle which, as Pauling later put it, “states that no two electrons in the universe can be in exactly the same state.”

After his return to Caltech in September of 1927, Pauling worked on several projects, including his first published book and a class on the Heitler-London work. In the process of defining his research program as a young member of the Caltech faculty, Pauling decided that, rather than continuing to dabble in theoretical physics, he would instead return to his roots in chemistry. With that, he set out to combine what he had learned in Europe with his continuing interests in structural chemistry.

He began his work on the chemical bond, figuring calculations and comparing his results to existing experimental data. He affirmed that Heitler and London’s work meshed comfortably with G. N. Lewis‘ theory of the shared electron pair and he published articles on the subject, in the process introducing many chemists to the notion of using quantum mechanics as a tool for the study of non-physics problems. In early 1928, he suggested that quantum mechanics could answer the question of carbon bonding – a revolutionary idea at the time. Unfortunately, while the preliminary mathematics were promising, the sheer mathematical computing power required did not exist for Pauling to fully solve the problem.

In 1930 M.I.T. physicist John C. Slater succeeded in simplifying Schrödinger’s mathematical description of the types of changes experienced by any quantum system over time — an important mathematical model known as the Schrödinger Wave Equation. By slightly restructuring Slater’s set of simplified equations, Pauling was able to utilize the concept of wave functions to describe new orbitals that matched the known traits of the carbon-tetrahedron bond. Not only did these new methods allow Pauling to calculate the data for basic tetrahedral bonds, they also provided stable footing for detailing the precise structures of a series of complex molecules. This was the genesis of valence-bond theory — a hugely important marriage of quantum physics and structural chemistry.

In early 1931, Pauling released a paper detailing six rules, later known as “Pauling’s Rules,” that dictated the basic principles governing the molecular structure of any given molecule. He presented his findings in the simplest language possible, avoiding complex mathematics in order to make the concepts accessible to his fellow chemists. This paper, of course, was titled “The Nature of the Chemical Bond” and would serve as the basis for his immensely popular textbook of the same name.

In 1954 Pauling won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “For research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of complex substances.” The award was granted in recognition of the work that began during his first trip to Europe and blossomed in the decade that followed. Pauling’s innovative application of quantum mechanics had resulted in his receipt of the highest possible scientific honor and the subsequent worldwide recognition of his talents.

Learn more about this story by visiting the website “Linus Pauling and the Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History.”