April 20, 2015

#04-007: Linus Pauling, Double Nobel Winner

black-and-white photo of a balding man touching his chin with a self-satisfied smirk on his face
Linus Pauling

Note: One Nobel prize is amazing, but TWO?! And in entirely different fields: chemistry and peace activism. Come meet this amazing man.

Get Ready: Which do you think is a greater achievement: discovering knowledge that leads to cures for major diseases, or using your influence to bring about a more peaceful world? Why?

American chemist Linus Pauling (1901-1994) is considered by some to be one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, second only to Albert Einstein. The British biologist Francis Crick, who with American James Watson discovered the nature of DNA, called him the "father of molecular biology."

Pauling was born in the state of Oregon in the American northwest, where as a boy he was known as an enthusiastic reader. After a friend showed him experiments done with a toy chemistry set, young Linus decided to become a chemist. He conducted his own experiments in high school, and even attempted to start a company in his teens. But no one wanted to hire a teenager to test the butter-fat content of milk!

He left high school without a diploma to begin his chemistry studies at what is now Oregon State University. His high school granted him a diploma 45 years later--after he had received his two Nobel Prizes.

He earned his way through college working 40 hours a week teaching and doing lab work for his university while also taking classes. In one of his teaching courses he met and then married Ava Miller. They raised three sons, all of whom became scientists, and a daughter, who married one. After graduation, he attended Cal Tech (known to some readers as the university shown on The Big Bang Theory TV show) and received his PhD in physical chemistry and mathematical physics, graduating in 1925 summa cum laude.

The early 20th century was a time when new discoveries--based on new technology--were being made rapidly. Pauling's main contribution was to explore the nature of chemical bonds, the forces that hold atoms and molecules together. For this work he received a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954.

Applications of his work led to advances in treatment of sickle cell anemia and other molecular diseases. Later, he also advocated taking high doses of Vitamin C to prevent colds--an idea which remains questionable today.

Surprisingly, he received a second Nobel in a completely unrelated field. For his peace activism--especially his campaign along with Einstein and other intellectuals to warn of the dangers of developing nuclear weapons--he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.

Linus Pauling died of cancer at the age of 93.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Pauling

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. activism
  2. advocated
  3. anemia
  4. biologist
  5. doses
  6. enthusiastic
  7. molecular
  8. questionable
  9. sickle cell anemia
  10. summa cum laude

  1. measured amounts
  2. not certainly true
  3. lack of oxygen in the blood, causing pale skin, weakness, and shortness of breath
  4. avid; showing great interest
  5. a person who studies life science
  6. participation in actions meant to affect politics
  7. relating to the small particles, made up of atoms, of which matter is made
  8. argued for the importance of; promoted
  9. with highest honors
  10. an inherited blood disease which makes badly-shaped red blood cells that then cannot carry enough oxygen

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 20, 2015

This lesson received 2 visits on my old site between April, 2016, and August, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. f; 2. h; 3. c; 4. e; 5. a; 6. d; 7. g; 8. b; 9. j; 10. i