The American physical chemist Linus Carl Pauling, b. Portland, Oregon, Feb. 28, 1901, has made extensive contributions to structural chemistry and molecular biology. He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology (1925) and taught there until 1964. In 1926 he received a Guggenheim fellowship to study quantum theory in Europe. Upon his return to Caltech he applied quantum mechanics to chemistry and developed a new theory of the chemical bond. In 1939 he published these views in The Nature of the Chemical Bond, one of the most influential scientific books of the 20th century.
In the mid-1930s, Pauling became interested in biological molecules. With C. D. Coryell he performed magnetic studies on oxygen-carrying hemoglobin molecules, and with A. E. Mirsky he developed a structural theory of denatured and coagulated protein molecules. His research projects were interrupted by World War II, during which he worked on explosives and developed an oxygen detector. In the early 1950s he proposed the alpha helix as the basic structure of proteins and narrowly missed discovering the double-helix structure of DNA. In 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry for his outstanding contributions toward understanding chemical bonding.
After the war Pauling became deeply concerned about the dangers of radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons tests. He spoke and wrote against testing, and in 1958 he presented a petition to the United Nations signed by more than 11,000 scientists. On Oct. 10, 1963, the effective date for the U.S.-Soviet test-ban treaty, Pauling was awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize. Pauling's later career has centered on medical issues. He has shown that sickle-cell disease is a hereditary molecular disease, and he has investigated Megavitamin Therapy (the use of large amounts of vitamins for health purposes). In particular, he has advocated a large intake of vitamin C for treatment of the common cold.
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