Linus Pauling, born 1901, applied quantum mechanics to the study of molecular structures and chemical bonding. He received the 1954 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and introduced the concept of electronegativity — the ability of an atom to attract electrons to form bonds.
The quantum mechanics developed in the 1920s was quickly applied to problems of chemical bonding and structure, which were the focus of much of the prolific research of Linus Carl Pauling (1901–1994) and earned him the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1954.
Among his accomplishments, he determined crystal structures by X-ray crystallography and the structures of gas molecules by electron diffraction. He studied the magnetic properties of substances, including hemoglobin, which helped him ascertain the molecular cause of sickle-cell anemia. He developed an electronegativity scale to assign to atoms involved in covalent and ionic bonding, and he formulated the concept of “resonance” to talk about the state of a chemical system where none of the classical structural formulas is entirely consistent with observed properties. He extended the theory of covalent bonds to include metals and intermetallic compounds. He proposed helical structures for proteins based on the coplanarity of the atoms in the peptide bond. But Pauling is perhaps best known to the public for championing the use of vitamin C to maintain and restore health.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical Heritage Foundation