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Linus C. Pauling

Linus Pauling

Courtesy of John D. Roberts, CHF Collections

  • Born: February 28, 1901, Portland, Oregon
  • Died: August 19, 1994

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0067
Interview Date: April 6, 1987
Location: Denver, Colorado
Interviewer: Jeffrey L. Sturchio
No. of pages: 33
Minutes: 120

  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 Zurich, 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.


1922 B.S., Chemical Engineering, Oregon State College
1925 Ph.D., summa cum laude, Physical Chemistry and Mathematical Physics, California Institute of Technology

  Professional Experience

California Institute of Technology

1922 - 1925 Teaching Fellow

California Institute of Technology

1923 - 1927 Research Associate

National Research Council

1925 - 1926 Fellow

Universities of Münich, Zürich, and Copenhagen

1926 - 1927 Guggenheim Fellow

California Institute of Technology

1927 - 1929 Assistant Professor

California Institute of Technology

1929 - 1931 Associate Professor

California Institute of Technology

1931 - 1964 Professor

California Institute of Technology

1936 - 1958 Chairman, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

California Institute of Technology

1936 - 1958 Director, Gates and Crellin Chemical Laboratories

California Institute of Technology

1945 - 1948 Member, Executive Committee, Board of Trustees

California Institute of Technology

1963 - 1967 Research Professor, Center for Study of Democratic Institutions

California Institute of Technology

1967 - 1969 Professor of Chemistry, University of California, San Diego

Stanford University

1969 - 1974 Professor of Chemistry

Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine

1973 - 1975 President

Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine

1973 Research professor

Stanford University

1974 Professor Emeritus

Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine

1978 - 1979 President


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

Title and Description Page

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 A.B. in history from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

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