|Pauling (pô'lĭng) Pronunciation Key
American chemist noted for his work on the structure and nature of chemical bonding. By applying quantum physics to chemistry, he discovered the structure of many molecules found in living tissue, especially proteins and amino acids. Pauling also discovered the genetic defect that causes sickle cell anemia. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1954.
Our Living Language : After American chemist Linus Pauling completed his major theoretical work on chemical bonding in the 1930s, culminating with the publication of his influential The Nature of the Chemical Bond, and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals (1939), he then turned his attention to examining protein structure. In 1948, while toying with folded pieces of paper, he had the sudden insight that the polypeptide chain of amino acids was coiled into a helical shape, which he later named the alpha helix. Around this same time Pauling realized that many diseases, in particular sickle cell anemia, might be molecular in origin, and his work laid the foundation for later human genome research. Late in his life Pauling devoted much of his time to the field he called orthomolecular medicine, which entailed studies of the health benefits of megadoses of vitamins and minerals, especially of vitamin C. Pauling is as well known for his efforts to make the world a better place as he is for advancing the frontiers of scientific knowledge. He campaigned tirelessly on behalf of world peace, and in the 1950s when his studies of the harmful effects of nuclear fallout from atomic weapons made him draw the conclusion that they should be banned, he was accused of being a Communist and prevented from traveling abroad, almost missing the award ceremony for the Nobel Prize for chemistry that he was awarded in 1954. He continued his work, nonetheless, circulating a petition against atmospheric nuclear testing that eventually was signed by more than 11,000 scientists. On October 10, 1963, the day the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty went into effect, Pauling was awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize. He is the only person to receive two unshared Nobel Prizes.