Linus Pauling and American Quantum Chemistry



In 1911, Ernest Rutherford conducted one of the greatest experiments in the history of science at Cambridge University. Not only did it advance understanding in physics, but it provided a model of the atom that led directly to important breakthroughs in the scientific community’s grasp of quantum mechanics. The theory of quantum mechanics emerged in 1925 for predicting energy states of atoms and chemical bonding. The theory Rutherford was testing viewed atoms as spheres in which electrons were embedded like raisins in a pudding. The sphere was positively charged; the electrons were negatively charged. Each element was characterized by a different number of electrons. For example, hydrogen had one, helium had two, and lithium had three. The experiment was elegant and simple, involving bombarding a metal foil with the alpha particles from a piece of radium.


Quantum Mechanic Chemical Bonding Alpha Particle Apply Quantum Mechanic Peter Debye 
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  1. 1.
    Katherine R. Sopka, Quantum Physics in America (American Institute of Physics, New York, 1988), Vol. 10, p. 277.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Pauling to W. A. Noyes, January 26,1938, Archives of the University of Illinois.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Interview with Linus Pauling, by John Heilbron, Pasadena, March 27, 1964.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Interview with Linus Pauling, by John Heilbron, Pasadena, March 27, 1964.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Linus Pauling, “Fifty Years of Progress in Structural Chemistry and Molecular Biology,” Daedalus (Boston), May 1970.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Based on information kindly provided to me by Linus Pauling, in a letter from Linus Pauling to author, September 30, 1989.Google Scholar

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© Anthony Serafini 1993

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