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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index P > Linus Pauling Quotes > Structure

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Linus Pauling
(28 Feb 1901 - 19 Aug 1994)

American chemist, physicist and author who applied quantum mechanics to the study of molecular structures, particularly in connection with chemical bonding. Pauling was the only person ever to win two unshared Nobel prizes (Chemistry in 1954, and Peace in 1962).


Linus Pauling Quotes on Structure (10 quotes)

>> Click for 49 Science Quotes by Linus Pauling

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Biology today is moving in the direction of chemistry. Much of what is understood in the field is based on the structure of molecules and the properties of molecules in relation to their structure. If you have that basis, then biology isn’t just a collection of disconnected facts.
— Linus Pauling
From interview with Neil A. Campbell, in 'Crossing the Boundaries of Science', BioScience (Dec 1986), 36, No. 11, 737.
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I heard … xenon was a good anesthesia. … I thought, “How can xenon, which doesn’t form any chemical compounds, serve as a general anesthetic? … I lay awake at night for a few minutes before going to sleep, and during the next couple of weeks each night I would think, “…how do anesthetic agents work?" Then I forgot to do it after a while, but I’d trained my unconscious mind to keep this question alive and to call [it] to my consciousness whenever a new idea turned up…. So seven years went by. [One day I] put my feet up on the desk and started reading my mail, and here was a letter from George Jeffrey … an x-ray crystallographer, on his determination of the structure of a hydrate crystal. Immediately I sat up, took my feet off the desk, and said, “I understand anesthesia!” … I spent a year [and] determined the structure of chloroform hydrate, and then I wrote my paper published in June of 1961.
— Linus Pauling
Interview with George B. Kauffman and Laurie M. Kauffman, in 'Linus Pauling: Reflections', American Scientist (Nov-Dec 1994), 82, No. 6, 522-523.
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I think that the formation of [DNA's] structure by Watson and Crick may turn out to be the greatest developments in the field of molecular genetics in recent years.
— Linus Pauling
‘Discussion des rapports de M Pauling’, Rep. Institut International de Chemie Solvay: Conference on Proteins, 6-14 April 1953 (1953), 113.
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If the structure that serves as a template (the gene or virus molecule) consists of, say, two parts, which are themselves complementary In structure, then each of these parts can serve as the mould for the production of a replica of the other part, and the complex of two complementary parts thus can serve as the mould for the production of duplicates of itself.
— Linus Pauling
Molecular Architecture and the Processses of Life (1948), 10.
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It has been recognized that hydrogen bonds restrain protein molecules to their native configurations, and I believe that as the methods of structural chemistry are further applied to physiological problems it will be found that the significance of the hydrogen bond for physiology is greater than that of any other single structural feature.
— Linus Pauling
Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals (1939), 265.
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It is structure that we look for whenever we try to understand anything. All science is built upon this search; we investigate how the cell is built of reticular material, cytoplasm, chromosomes; how crystals aggregate; how atoms are fastened together; how electrons constitute a chemical bond between atoms. We like to understand, and to explain, observed facts in terms of structure. A chemist who understands why a diamond has certain properties, or why nylon or hemoglobin have other properties, because of the different ways their atoms are arranged, may ask questions that a geologist would not think of formulating, unless he had been similarly trained in this way of thinking about the world.
— Linus Pauling
‘The Place of Chemistry In the Integration of the Sciences’, Main Currents in Modern Thought (1950), 7, 110.
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Sometimes progress is slow. But then there does come a time when a lot of people accept a new idea and see ways in which it can be exploited. And because of the larger number of workers in the field, progress becomes rapid. That is what happened with the study of protein structure.
— Linus Pauling
From interview with Neil A. Campbell, in 'Crossing the Boundaries of Science', BioScience (Dec 1986), 36, No. 11, 739.
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The nucleic acids, as constituents of living organisms, are comparable In importance to proteins. There is evidence that they are Involved In the processes of cell division and growth, that they participate In the transmission of hereditary characters, and that they are important constituents of viruses. An understanding of the molecular structure of the nucleic acids should be of value In the effort to understand the fundamental phenomena of life.
[Co-author with American chemist, B. Corey (1897-1971)]
— Linus Pauling
'A Proposed Structure for the Nucleic Acids', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (1953), 39, 84.
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We may say that life has borrowed from inanimate processes the same mechanism used in producing these striking structures that are crystals.
— Linus Pauling
‘The Nature of Forces between Large Molecules of Biological Interest’, Nature (1948), 161, 708.
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[Professor Pauling] confesses that he had harboured the feeling that sooner or later he would be the one to get the DNA structure; and although he was pleased with the double-helix, he ‘rather wished the idea had been his’.
— Linus Pauling
‘The Need to Understand’, New Scientist (1971), 50, 755.
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See also:
  • 28 Feb - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Pauling's birth.
  • Linus Pauling in His Own Words: Selections From his Writings, Speeches and Interviews, by Barbara Marinacci. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Linus Pauling.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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