Linus C. Pauling

scientist, activist
Born: 2/28/1901
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon

Although he earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry (1925), Linus Pauling's willingness and ability to cross disciplinary boundaries helped to earn him the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1954. Pauling is credited as being one of the first scientists to apply quantum mechanics to molecular structure. He used several techniques to develop a working theory of the way in which atoms hold together or bond, which had great and lasting effects in chemistry, physics, and biology. Pauling's textbook The Nature of the Chemical Bond, and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals (1939), which summarized his theories, became one of the most influential texts in chemistry during the early to mid-20th century. Pauling also performed research in molecular biology that helped him to identify the genetic defect that causes sickle-cell anemia. Pauling's pacifism in general and his opposition to the testing of nuclear weapons in particular drew the ire of conservative Americans. However, Pauling was awarded the 1963 Nobel Peace Prize after the passage of the international ban on atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in 1962 for which he had long lobbied. He was the only person to win two, unshared Nobel Prizes.

Died: 8/19/1994