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  • Linus Pauling's chemical diagrams
02/15/2018 09:24:29

From TECHER: Circles of Thought

How Linus Pauling (PhD ‘25) put his ideas into pictures

While he was a faculty member at Caltech, educating students in the complexities of molecular structures and chemical bonds, and long before he was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for promoting nuclear disarmament, Linus Pauling (PhD '25) had a much simpler idea: pictures.

In order to help young students better understand molecular structures, he suggested in his "Notes on Freshman Chemistry," the idea of giving students pictures of molecules as scientists then understood them. Perhaps it was here, in these notes from 1932, that Pauling first imagined his book, The Nature of the Chemical Bond, written in 1939. Though far from a picture book, the text—which aimed to introduce the structure of molecules and crystals without the complexities of quantum mechanics and advanced mathematics—became one of Pauling's most well-known publications.

This item originally appeared in the 2018 issue of Techer, the Caltech Alumni Association's annual magazine.