Linus C. Pauling

Born: February 28, 1901 | Portland, OR, US
Died: Friday, August 19, 1994 | Monterey

Linus Pauling traces his interest in science since his formative years, from gathering laboratory equipment and conducting chemistry experiments in his home, working in his high school's chemistry laboratory, to supporting himself during his undergraduate years by tending to the chemistry department stockroom at Oregon State Agricultural College. As a graduate student at Caltech, Pauling was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Zürich, where he later developed the theory of the three-electron bond. 

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0067
No. of pages: 33
Minutes: 107

Interview Sessions

Jeffrey L. Sturchio
6 April 1987
Denver, Colorado

Abstract of Interview

Linus Pauling begins this interview by describing his early interest in science. While growing up in Portland, Oregon, he collected laboratory equipment and carried out chemistry experiments in his home. He also worked in the chemistry laboratory of his high school. Pauling supported himself through his undergraduate years at Oregon State Agricultural College by working in the chemistry department stockroom and assisting an engineering professor. During graduate school at Caltech, he learned x-ray crystallography from Roscoe Dickinson and published his first paper. Pauling continued to use crystallography to attack more complex chemical problems. In 1926, Pauling was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Europe. In Zürich, he carried out research on the interaction of two helium atoms which later led him to develop the theory of the three-electron bond. Pauling concludes this interview with his return to Caltech as assistant professor of chemistry. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1922 Oregon State College BS Chemical Engineering
1925 California Institute of Technology PhD Physical Chemistry and Mathematical Physics

Professional Experience

California Institute of Technology

1922 to 1925
Teaching Fellow
1923 to 1927
Research Associate
1927 to 1929
Assistant Professor
1929 to 1931
Associate Professor
1931 to 1964
Professor
1936 to 1958
Chairman, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
1936 to 1958
Director, Gates and Crellin Chemical Laboratories
1945 to 1948
Member, Executive Committee, Board of Trustees
1963 to 1967
Research Professor, Center for Study of Democratic Institutions

National Research Council

1925 to 1926
Fellow

University of Munich

1926 to 1927
Guggenheim Fellow, Universities of Munich, Zurich, and Copenhagen

University of California, San Diego

1967 to 1969
Professor of Chemistry

Stanford University

1969 to 1974
Professor of Chemistry
1974 to 1988
Professor Emeritus

Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine

1973 to 1975
President
1973 to 1988
Research Professor
1978 to 1979
President

Honors

Year(s) Award
1931

Langmuir Prize, American Chemical Society

1941

Nichols Medal, New York Section, American Chemical Society

1947

Davy Medal, Royal Society

1948

United States Presidential Medal for Merit

1952

Pasteur Medal, Biochemical Society of France

1954

Nobel Prize, Chemistry

1955

Addis Medal, National Nephrosis Foundation

1955

Phillips Memorial Award, American College of Physicians

1956

Avogadro Medal, Italian Academy of Science

1957

Paul Sabatier Medal

1957

Pierre Fermat Medal in Mathematics

1957

International Grotius Medal

1963

Nobel Peace Prize

1965

Order of Merit, Republic of Italy

1965

Medal, Academy of the Rumanian People's Republic

1966

Linus Pauling Medal

1966

Silver Medal, Institute of France

1966

Supreme Peace Sponsor, World Fellowship of Religion

1972

United States National Medal of Science

1972

International Lenin Peace Prize

1978

Lomonosov Medal, USSR Academy of Science

1979

Medal for Chemical Sciences, National Academy of Science

1984

Priestley Medal, American Chemical Society

1984

Award for Chemistry, Arthur M. Sackler Foundation

1987

Award in Chemical Education, American Chemical Society

1989

Vannevar Bush Award, National Science Board

1990

Richard C. Tolman Medal, Southern California, Section, American Chemical Society

Table of Contents

Early Interest in Science
1

Growing up in Portland, Oregon. Collects laboratory equipment and carries out first chemistry experiments. Sisters and brothers. Takes high school chemistry and works in the lab after school.

Oregon Agricultural College
5

Chemistry textbooks, classes and independent study. Supports self through college. Applies to several graduate schools and accepts appointment at Caltech.

Caltech
10

Learns x-ray crystallography from Roscoe Dickinson. Publishes first paper. Studies physical science with Richard C. Tolman. Mathematics. Personal interaction with faculty and students. Publishes series of papers with Dickinson. Studies quantum mechanics.

Guggenheim Fellowship in Europe
18

Münich. Expands Gregor Wentzel's method to calculate properties of atoms and ions. Zürich. Works on problem of helium atom interaction. Studies wave mechanics. American friends.

Return to Caltech
22

Influence of A. A. Noyes. Becomes assistant professor of chemistry. Berkeley.

Notes
25
Index
29

About the Interviewer

Jeffrey L. Sturchio

Jeffrey L. Sturchio is president and CEO of the Global Health Council. Previously he served as vice president of corporate responsibility at Merck & Co., president of the Merck Company Foundation, and chairman of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa. Sturchio is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Applied Economics and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Healthy Next Generation of the World Economic Forum. He received an AB in history from Princeton University and a PhD in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.