In high school, Pauling conducted chemistry experiments by scavenging equipment and material from an abandoned steel plant. They approached local dairies offering to perform butterfat samplings at cheap prices but dairymen were wary of trusting two boys with the task, and the business ended in failure.
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Denied, he left Washington High School in June without a diploma. His mother arranged an interview with the owner of a number of manufacturing plants in Portland, Mr. He immediately resigned from the machinist's job and informed his mother, who saw no point in a university education, of his plans.
In his first semester, Pauling registered for two courses in chemistry, two in mathematics, mechanical drawing, introduction to mining and use of explosives, modern English prose, gymnastics and military drill. The college offered him a position teaching quantitative analysis , a course he had just finished taking himself.
In his last two years at school, Pauling became aware of the work of Gilbert N. Lewis and Irving Langmuir on the electronic structure of atoms and their bonding to form molecules. Engineering professor Samuel Graf selected Pauling to be his teaching assistant in a mechanics and materials course.
It was in one of these classes that Pauling met his future wife, Ava Helen Miller. In , Pauling graduated from Oregon State University  known then as Oregon Agricultural College with a degree in chemical engineering. He published seven papers on the crystal structure of minerals while he was at Caltech.
He received his PhD in physical chemistry and mathematical physics ,  summa cum laude , in All three were experts in the new field of quantum mechanics and other branches of physics. He became one of the first scientists in the field of quantum chemistry and a pioneer in the application of quantum theory to the structure of molecules. In , Pauling took a new position as an assistant professor at Caltech in theoretical chemistry. He published approximately fifty papers in those five years, and created the five rules now known as Pauling's rules. At Caltech, Pauling struck up a close friendship with theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer , who spent part of his research and teaching schedule away from U.
Berkeley at Caltech every year. Their relationship soured when Oppenheimer tried to pursue Pauling's wife, Ava Helen. When Pauling was at work, Oppenheimer came to their home and blurted out an invitation to Ava Helen to join him on a tryst in Mexico.
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She flatly refused, and reported the incident to Pauling. He immediately cut off his relationship with Oppenheimer. In the summer of , Pauling made another European trip, during which he learned about gas-phase electron diffraction from Herman Francis Mark. After returning, he built an electron diffraction instrument at Caltech with a student of his, Lawrence Olin Brockway, and used it to study the molecular structure of a large number of chemical substances.
Pauling introduced the concept of electronegativity in He would hold both positions until In the late s, Pauling began publishing papers on the nature of the chemical bond. While at Cornell, he delivered a series of nineteen lectures  and completed the bulk of his famous textbook The Nature of the Chemical Bond. Even today, many modern scientific papers and articles in important journals cite this work, more than seventy years after the first publication.
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Part of Pauling's work on the nature of the chemical bond led to his introduction of the concept of orbital hybridization. Thus the one 2s and three 2p orbitals in a carbon atom can be mathematically 'mixed' or combined to make four equivalent orbitals called sp 3 hybrid orbitals , which would be the appropriate orbitals to describe carbon compounds such as methane , or the 2s orbital may be combined with two of the 2p orbitals to make three equivalent orbitals called sp 2 hybrid orbitals , with the remaining 2p orbital unhybridized, which would be the appropriate orbitals to describe certain unsaturated carbon compounds such as ethylene.
Another area which he explored was the relationship between ionic bonding , where electrons are transferred between atoms, and covalent bonding , where electrons are shared between atoms on an equal basis. Pauling showed that these were merely extremes, and that for most actual cases of bonding, the quantum-mechanical wave function for a polar molecule AB is a combination of wave functions for covalent and ionic molecules.
The third of the topics that Pauling attacked under the overall heading of "the nature of the chemical bond" was the accounting of the structure of aromatic hydrocarbons , particularly the prototype, benzene. He had treated it as a rapid interconversion between two structures, each with alternating single and double bonds , but with the double bonds of one structure in the locations where the single bonds were in the other. Pauling showed that a proper description based on quantum mechanics was an intermediate structure which was a blend of each.
The structure was a superposition of structures rather than a rapid interconversion between them. The name " resonance " was later applied to this phenomenon. In , Pauling published five rules which help to predict and explain crystal structures of ionic compounds. In the mids, Pauling, strongly influenced by the biologically oriented funding priorities of the Rockefeller Foundation's Warren Weaver , decided to strike out into new areas of interest. He demonstrated that the hemoglobin molecule changes structure when it gains or loses an oxygen atom.
He returned to his earlier use of X-ray diffraction analysis. But protein structures were far less amenable to this technique than the crystalline minerals of his former work. The best X-ray pictures of proteins in the s had been made by the British crystallographer William Astbury , but when Pauling tried, in , to account for Astbury's observations quantum mechanically, he could not. It took eleven years for Pauling to explain the problem: his mathematical analysis was correct, but Astbury's pictures were taken in such a way that the protein molecules were tilted from their expected positions.
Pauling had formulated a model for the structure of hemoglobin in which atoms were arranged in a helical pattern, and applied this idea to proteins in general. In , based on the structures of amino acids and peptides and the planar nature of the peptide bond, Pauling, Robert Corey and Herman Branson correctly proposed the alpha helix and beta sheet as the primary structural motifs in protein secondary structure.
Pauling then proposed that deoxyribonucleic acid DNA was a triple helix ;   his model contained several basic mistakes, including a proposal of neutral phosphate groups, an idea that conflicted with the acidity of DNA. Sir Lawrence Bragg had been disappointed that Pauling had won the race to find the alpha helix structure of proteins. Bragg's team had made a fundamental error in making their models of protein by not recognizing the planar nature of the peptide bond. They later benefited from unpublished data from Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College which showed evidence for a helix and planar base stacking along the helix axis.
Pauling later cited several reasons to explain how he had been misled about the structure of DNA, among them misleading density data and the lack of high quality X-ray diffraction photographs. During the time Pauling was researching the problem, Rosalind Franklin in England was creating the world's best images. They were key to Watson's and Crick's success.
Pauling did not see them before devising his mistaken DNA structure, although his assistant Robert Corey did see at least some of them, while taking Pauling's place at a summer protein conference in England. Pauling had been prevented from attending because his passport was withheld by the State Department on suspicion that he had Communist sympathies. This led to the legend that Pauling missed the structure of DNA because of the politics of the day this was at the start of the McCarthy period in the United States.
Politics did not play a critical role. Not only did Corey see the images at the time, but Pauling himself regained his passport within a few weeks and toured English laboratories well before writing his DNA paper. He had ample opportunity to visit Franklin's lab and see her work, but chose not to. Pauling also studied enzyme reactions and was among the first to point out that enzymes bring about reactions by stabilizing the transition state of the reaction, a view which is central to understanding their mechanism of action.
It was the first proof of a human disease caused by an abnormal protein, and sickle cell anemia became the first disease understood at the molecular level.
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Using electrophoresis , they demonstrated that individuals with sickle cell disease have a modified form of hemoglobin in their red blood cells , and that individuals with sickle cell trait have both the normal and abnormal forms of hemoglobin. This was the first demonstration causally linking an abnormal protein to a disease, and also the first demonstration that Mendelian inheritance determines the specific physical properties of proteins, not simply their presence or absence — the dawn of molecular genetics.
His success with sickle cell anemia led Pauling to speculate that a number of other diseases, including mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, might result from flawed genetics. As chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and director of the Gates and Crellin Chemical Laboratories, he encouraged the hiring of researchers with a chemical-biomedical approach to mental illness, a direction not always popular with established Caltech chemists.
In , Pauling gave a lecture entitled "Molecular Medicine". On September 16, , Pauling opened a new research notebook with the words "I have decided to attack the problem of the structure of nuclei. The basic idea behind Pauling's spheron model is that a nucleus can be viewed as a set of "clusters of nucleons".
The basic nucleon clusters include the deuteron [np], helion [pnp], and triton [npn]. Even—even nuclei are described as being composed of clusters of alpha particles , as has often been done for light nuclei.