Linus Pauling (1901-1994)
A master and maker in many fields, Linus Pauling lived a very long and productive life spanning nearly the entire twentieth century. By the time he was in his twenties, he had made a name for himself as a scientist. After many significant contributions including his work on the nature of the chemical bond, he turned to chemical biology and is generally accepted as the founder of molecular biology. Later in his life he became very involved in issues of politics and peace for which he is somewhat less well known. In his later years, he became interested in health and medicine and specifically in the use of vitamin C to prevent ailments from the common cold to cancer.
In Pauling’s own words he was “…a physicist with an interest in chemistry. [His] scientific work, however, has not been restricted to chemistry and physics, but has extended over X-ray crystallography, mineralogy, biochemistry, nuclear science, genetics, and molecular biology; also nutrition and various aspects of research in medicine, such as serology, immunology, and psychiatry” (Marinacci Ed., 1995, p. 26). Pauling received two Nobel Prizes acknowledging his contributions, one in Chemistry in 1954 and one for Peace in 1962.
Gardner describes the creative individual as follows: “The creative individual is a person who regularly solves problems, fashions products, or defines new questions in a domain in a way that is initially considered novel but that ultimately becomes accepted in a particular cultural setting” (Gardner, 1993, p. 35). As I understand this, a creative individual is one who seeks out problems and states or solves them in a way that no one else has previously. Such innovation is then eventually attributed value by others and accepted and embraced. In this case, the meaning of the word problem is very open, so that it may be used with regard to art, music, science, etc. Linus Pauling had an amazing ability to locate interesting problems and to think of various novel solutions, eventually discarding some to arrive at the most satisfactory answer. He used to say that it was easy to think of answers, but that the difficult part was deciding which were worth anything. The questions that Pauling examined and the answers that he posited changed the way that we see the world and the way that chemistry is taught and learned.
Linus Pauling’s life and work are, to me, a source of inspiration. I have, for some time now, been determined to become a scientist. I have always pursued my goals with tenacity and single-mindedness and can relate well with another who has done the same and with such great success. Linus Pauling’s work as well as his ability to convey his thoughts to large groups of people is exemplary of the level to which I aspire. It is said that he was an exceptional lecturer “with a gift for communicating complex ideas” (Goertzel & Goertzel, 1995, xiv). ...