Linus Pauling


Linus Carl Pauling

Linus Carl Pauling
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1954

Born: 28 February 1901, Portland, OR, USA

Died: 19 August 1994, Big Sur, CA, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, CA, USA

Prize motivation: “for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances”

Prize share: 1/1

Also awarded: The Nobel Peace Prize 1962


Linus Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon, in the United States. His family came from a line of Prussian farmers, and Pauling's father worked as a pharmaceuticals salesman, among other things. After first studying at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, Pauling earned his PhD from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, with which he maintained ties for the rest of his career. In the 1950s, Pauling's involvement in the anti-nuclear movement led to his being labeled a suspected communist, which resulted in his passport being revoked at times. Linus and Ava Helen Pauling had four children together.


The development of quantum mechanics during the 1920s had a great impact not only on the field of physics, but also on chemistry. During the 1930s Linus Pauling was among the pioneers who used quantum mechanics to understand and describe chemical bonding–that is, the way atoms join together to form molecules. Pauling worked in a broad range of areas within chemistry. For example, he worked on the structures of biologically important chemical compounds. In 1951 he published the structure of the alpha helix, which is an important basic component of many proteins.

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