Linus Pauling

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Pauling's handwritten notes for a series of lectures he delivered at Cornell University in 1937. These lectures were published in 1939 as The Nature of the Chemical Bond, a book that is now considered one of the century's most important scientific works.

Ithaca, New York, where he had been asked to deliver the George Fisher Baker lectures. This prestigious appointment involved giving a series of talks on a single subject, which would then be published as a volume in the Baker series. Pauling's lectures on the chemical bond were a great success. After returning to Caltech in early 1938, he spent the next few months reworking and expanding his notes.

The result was published in 1939 as The Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals: An Introduction to Modern Structural Chemistry. It would become the most important Baker lecture book ever printed, and one of the most-cited scientific texts in history. In a very basic way, this book changed the course of chemistry. For the first time, the discipline was explained not as a collection of facts tied together by practical application in the laboratory but as a field unified by an underlying physical theory: Pauling's quantum-mechanical ideas about the chemical bond. By showing how the new physics explained the chemical bond, how those bonds explained the structure of molecules, and how molecules' structure explained their behavior, Pauling showed for the first time, as the Nobel Prize—winner Max Perutz said, that "chemistry could be understood rather than memorized."

The response from readers was immediate and enthusiastic. G. N. Lewis's comments were typical, if somewhat more lighthearted than most. He wrote Pauling, "I have just returned from a short vacation for which the only books I took were half a dozen detective stories and your 'Chemical Bond.' I found yours the most exciting of the lot." Chemistry professors began assigning the book to their graduate students. Sales went well, continuing to grow for decades as the book went through many printings and three editions. Over the next 20 years, The Nature of the Chemical Bond would become established as a classic.

Pauling with his wife. Ava Helen, and four children on the steps of their Pasadena home shortly before the start of World War II. The demands of Pauling's work kept him from being a close and nurturing father.

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