Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pauling's last blackboard

Today I visited the Linus Pauling Archives at Oregon State University.
[I was actually on vacation in Corvallis visiting my sister-in-law but I just had to take a visit].

They have assembled a lot of fascinating material online, which is worth perusing. For example, how a funding agency convinced him to start working on proteins, and the details of correspondence about his (erroneous) ideas about quasi-crystals.

But, in the actual library there is a small display featuring Pauling's last blackboard, his desk, some molecular models, some calculators, his two Nobel Prize medals, and his signature beret.

Pauling is definitely one of my scientific heroes. He made multiple landmark contributions. Most of us would be happy to do just one of the things he is known for. He was truly the master of multi-disciplinarity. He brought quantum physics to chemistry, structural chemistry to biology, and molecular biology to medicine. But he had "clay feet", failing to see problems with his ideas about the triple helix for DNA, vitamin C and quasi-crystals.

Curious fact: I was allowed to touch the Nobel Prize medals but my brother-in-law asked if I could have my picture taken with Pauling's signature beret. The librarian said no!

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