February 28: Linus Pauling Day

February 28th would have been the 113th birthday of Linus Pauling, one of the 20th century’s most noted visionaries, not only in science, but in all of society. Perhaps best thought of as the Richard Feynman of biology, Pauling’s work resulted in two Nobel prizes; one for chemistry in 1954 “for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances”; and another for peace in 1962 for his efforts to limit nuclear testing in the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis and seemingly eternal brinkmanship.

Our fascination with Pauling comes from perhaps his more controversial work: the importance of vitamins and minerals in maintaining good health. While some of Pauling’s theories, such as treating cancer with high doses of vitamin C, are certainly controversial, you cannot deny the massive impact he had on brining attention to the importance of low-level nutrients, including metals, have in the body.

From the Linus Pauling Institute Facebook page:

Did you know that this is Linus Carl Pauling Day in Oregon? Governor John Kitzhaber declared this memorial holiday in a proclamation in 1996. Linus Pauling’s birthday is indeed a fitting day to honor one of Oregon’s most famous residents.

Born in Portland in 1901, Pauling and his family spent his early years in the Portland area and the nearby towns of Condon and Oswego (later renamed Lake Oswego). By 15, Pauling had enough credits to enter college, despite his lack of a high school diploma. In 1917, he was accepted at Oregon State University (OSU), known then as Oregon Agricultural College.

It was during this time that Pauling built the groundwork for his skill in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Known for his advanced knowledge of these subjects, he was eventually approached by the college to teach a chemistry course. It was in one of these classes that Pauling met Ava Helen Miller, his future wife.

Pauling graduated in 1922 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Although he left Oregon to pursue advanced degrees in California, Pauling shared a deep connection to his Oregon home. Linus Pauling donated his and Ava Helen’s personal, professional papers and memorabilia – more than 500,000 items – to his alma mater, Oregon State University. In 1996, after Pauling’s death, the Linus Pauling Institute moved to Oregon State University.

Plus, anyone who’s still having bands named after them in the 2000s is good with me.

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Posted in Iron men (and women): Researcher profiles

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