Caltech celebrates Pauling's 85th birthday

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  • into the acetonitrile solution over a two-week period.

    By analogy to ferritin, the MIT

    chemists say the [Fen06(OH)6]15+

    core they produced "is anchored by carboxylate groups to phenyl rings, which perform the function of the protein sheath by providing a hy-drophobic environment/ '

    It's possible, Lippard speculates, that "nature uses this reaction chem-istry in building up the ferritin core." However, he adds, they have no evidence as yet that this mole-cule or any piece of it is related to the ferritin core.

    Lippard and his coworkers, with continued support from the Nation-

    Computer-generatedphoto of Fen molecule (above) shows bonds and color-coded van der Waals surfaces red for iron atoms, blue for oxygens, and yellow for carbons. These rhombohedral crystals of Feu oxo-hydroxo compound (left) were made by allowing aqueous tetrahydrofuran to diffuse slowly into iron-containing acetonitrile solution

    al Institute of General Medical Sci-ences, plan to examine the Fen com-pound's chemical, electronic, and magnetic properties. They also will try to make other polyiron aggre-gates, especially in the presence of phosphate, which is a constituent of the ferritin core.

    The Fen compound now joins a steadily growing family of oxo iron(III) complexes having more than three iron centers. These complexes began appearing about two years ago, when a West Ger-man group reported an Fes species [Angezv. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl., 23, 77 (1984)]. Until the MIT discovery, this octa-iron aggregate was the largest one to be structurally characterized. In addition, tetra-iron compounds have been made recently by several groups in the U.S. and the Soviet Union (including Lippard's). "It's fascinating that these species exist but had never been fished out be-fore, despite the fact that the hy-drolytic chemistry of iron is about as old a chemistry as people have been observing," Lippard remarks.

    Ron Dagani, Washington

    Caltech celebrates Pauling's 85th birthday Linus Pauling turned 85 years old on Feb. 28, and California Institute of Technology, where Pauling spent 42 years of his career, threw him a party to celebrate the event.

    About 700 people attended the day-long symposium in Pasadena, dur ing which speakers recalled Pauling's years at Caltech and dis-cussed ongoing research that in one way or another has been influenced by Pauling's ideas. Almost 300 well-wishers, the most that could be ac-commodated, attended a dinner for Pauling and several members of his family at Caltech's Athenaeum.

    Pauling arrived at Caltech in 1922 as a chemistry graduate student. He was on Caltech's faculty from 1926 to 1963 and served as the chairman of the division of chemistry and chemical engineering from 1937 to 1958. Much of the research that es-tablished Pauling as one of the giants of 20th century science and led to his 1954 Nobel Prize in Chem-istry was conducted at the institute. He noted during the symposium that he believed that no other insti-tution could have been as well suit-ed as Caltech to the conduct of that research.

    Yet Paul ing 's depar ture from Caltech in 1963 was anything but cordial. His activism throughout the 1950s in support of a nuclear weap-ons test ban and other antiwar ac-tivities alienated the Caltech board of trustees, some of whom thought he should be dismissed. His research laboratory space was cut back in the early 1960s. After Pauling re-ceived the 1963 Nobel Peace Prize, Caltech's president publicly ques-tioned the value of the activities that led to the award. Pauling re-signed from Caltech the same day.

    So "A Salute to Linus Pauling on his 85th Birthday" also served as a largely successful effort by Caltech to reclaim for itself one of its great-est alumni and faculty members. Ahmed H. Zewail, Caltech chemis-try professor and organizer of the salute, noted this in his opening comments. "We are very happy to have Linus back, celebrating his 85th birthday with us; the Caltech/Paul-

    March 17, 1986 C&EN 23

  • Science

    Pauling with daughter Linda Pauling Kamb and Zewail, who organized salute. Honore (right) autographs well-wisher's program

    ing bond is very strong," Zewail said.

    Other speakers focused on Paul-ing's towering scientific achieve-ments. "I think, in everybody's judg-ment, Linus Pauling is the greatest chemist of the 20th century/ ' said Norman Davidson, a Caltech chem-istry professor. "In my opinion, he is also one of the three greatest sci-entists of the 20th century," David-son continued, leaving his audience to guess at the identity of the other members of the triumvirate. Paul-ing's greatest scientific contribution was that "his work led to the reali-zation that the nature of chemical bonds and the structure of mole-cules are the central and most fruit-ful themes of modern chemistry," Davidson said.

    Davidson also praised Pauling's activism. He was, Davidson said, "more than any other individual responsible for the climate that led to the partial test ban treaty." Dur-ing the era of Sen. Joseph R. Mc-Carthy and his infamous hearings, "Pauling acted as a shield for peo-ple in lower positions who were called before the committee," David-son remarked.

    Alex Rich, a professor of biophys-ics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked under Pauling at Caltech from 1949 to 1954, dur-ing which time the double helix structure of DNA was discovered. At the Pauling salute, Rich discussed research in his and other laborato-ries on left-handed z-DNA. He recalled that he had started work-

    Pauling and Francis Crick chat during reception at Caltech's Athenaeum

    ing on the problem of left-handed DNA and how the two strands of the molecule separated during tran-scription while he was at Caltech. Pauling one day had stuck his head into Rich's office and said, "Work hard on that problem. It may be important." As usual, Pauling's sci-entific intuition was accurate. Rich observed that he would not have guessed that the problem would still occupy him 30 years later.

    Among the scientific eminences who paid tribute to Pauling at the symposium were Nobel Prize win-ners Francis Crick, chairman of Salk Institute; William N. Lipscomb Jr., chemistry professor, Harvard Uni-versity; and Henry Taube, chemis-try professor, Stanford University. Lipscomb, for example, outlined a number of Pauling's ideas concern-ing protein structure and function and traced how those ideas con-tinue to influence biochemical re-search today.

    In his comments at the close of the symposium, Pauling said, "The 42 years I was associated with Cali-fornia Institute of Technology were great onesI think the greatest years of my life." Following the din-ner and presentation of mementos, Pauling referred to his departure from Caltech. Everyone seemed to agree that it all happened a long time ago. "My feelings for the in-stitute are still very strong and al-ways have been," Pauling concluded.

    Rudy Baum, San Francisco

    24 March 17, 1986 C&EN

    Caltech celebrates Pauling's 85th birthday