Linus C. Pauling

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

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. 

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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. 


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
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

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
1973 to 1988
Research Professor
1978 to 1979


Year(s) Award

Langmuir Prize, American Chemical Society


Nichols Medal, New York Section, American Chemical Society


Davy Medal, Royal Society


United States Presidential Medal for Merit


Pasteur Medal, Biochemical Society of France


Nobel Prize, Chemistry


Addis Medal, National Nephrosis Foundation


Phillips Memorial Award, American College of Physicians


Avogadro Medal, Italian Academy of Science


Paul Sabatier Medal


Pierre Fermat Medal in Mathematics


International Grotius Medal


Nobel Peace Prize


Order of Merit, Republic of Italy


Medal, Academy of the Rumanian People's Republic


Linus Pauling Medal


Silver Medal, Institute of France


Supreme Peace Sponsor, World Fellowship of Religion


United States National Medal of Science


International Lenin Peace Prize


Lomonosov Medal, USSR Academy of Science


Medal for Chemical Sciences, National Academy of Science


Priestley Medal, American Chemical Society


Award for Chemistry, Arthur M. Sackler Foundation


Award in Chemical Education, American Chemical Society


Vannevar Bush Award, National Science Board


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

Table of Contents

Early Interest in Science

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

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


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

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

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


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.