Force of Nature

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Linus Pauling (1901-1994) is the only person to have won two unshared Nobel Prizes—one for chemistry in 1954 and one for peace in 1962. He was the leading chemist in the twentieth century and perhaps the most outstanding American scientist of the century. Working at the point where the boundaries of chemistry, biology, and physics met, Pauling was interested in the structure of matter. He was primarily a theorist who did most of his best work in his study, not in a laboratory. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, he gained additional attention as an advocate of megadoses of vitamin C and other vitamins to prevent colds and to conquer cancer.

Pauling is not only of interest to those curious about the history of science. After World War II, he became an international celebrity because of his criticism of American foreign and domestic policy and his advocacy of peace, international cooperation, and nuclear disarmament. He was attacked consistently by conservatives during the McCarthy era. There were numerous efforts to oust him from the faculty of the California Institute of Technology. Pauling’s life is an interesting case study of what happened when an outspoken, stubborn, political skilled individual refused to be silenced during this dark period in American history.

Based on extensive interviews with Pauling, members of Pauling’s family, and former colleagues, students, and critics, manuscript research, and reading in both the scientific and historical literatures, this biography was written with the cooperation and assistance of Pauling. Hager, a science journalist, presents a balanced account of this multifaceted life.

Sources for Further Study

The New York Review of Books. XLII, November 16, 1995, p. 48.

The New York Times Book Review. C, November 5, 1995, p. 28.

The New Yorker. LXXI, December 11, 1995, p. 106.