Linus Pauling: A Life in Science and Politics

Linus Pauling: A Life in Science and Politics

by Ted Goertzel, Ben Goertzel
     
 

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One of the few unquestioned greats of twentieth-century science, Linus Pauling was the only person to receive two unshared Nobel Prizes-one in chemistry, for deciphering the quantum physics of large molecules, and one in peace, for helping to end nuclear bomb testing. His brilliance was allied with a certain stubbornness, and when he died in 1994, at the age of 93, he…  See more details below

Overview

One of the few unquestioned greats of twentieth-century science, Linus Pauling was the only person to receive two unshared Nobel Prizes-one in chemistry, for deciphering the quantum physics of large molecules, and one in peace, for helping to end nuclear bomb testing. His brilliance was allied with a certain stubbornness, and when he died in 1994, at the age of 93, he was embroiled in controversy regarding his advocacy of vitamin C as a treatment for cancer. Based on thirty years of interviews, this masterful biography is filled with insights into the life and work of this complex, fascinating man.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pauling (1901-1994) won fame for his pioneering and prolific studies concerning the natures of chemical bonds and structures, then for his activist leadership against atmospheric nuclear testing and the consequent McCarthyist inquisitions he weathered. In his later years, he was an advocate of ``orthomolecular'' medicine and a champion of megavitamin therapy. The first person ever to receive two unshared Nobel Prizes (Chemistry, 1954; Peace, 1963), he was a preeminent personality in mid 20th-century science and intellectual politics. This biography represents a novel collaboration by three generations of the Goertzel family-parents Mildred and Victor (psychologists and biographers), son Ted (professor of sociology at Rutgers) and grandson Ben (a cognitive scientist at the University of Western Australia). Although the biography was not authorized, the authors utilize unique interviews with Pauling and research spanning four decades; they achieve a coherent integration of descriptive biography, character study and history of scientific thought. The influential currents in Pauling's intellect, personality and politics are well characterized in this definitive work, which lay readers and scientists alike will find enlightening and rigorous. Illustrations. Library of Science alternate. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Pauling's scientific career spanned nearly the entire 20th century, from his revolutionary Nobel Prize-winning theories on the chemical bond to his controversial work on orthomolecular medicine and vitamin therapy, which continued up to his death in 1994. To many, however, he is best remembered as an ardent peace activist and a crusader for human rights, which brought him his second Nobel. Throughout his career, he was called a genius, a visionary, a Communist, and even a crank. Nothing about Pauling was simple or obvious. For a biographer, writing the life story of so enigmatic a figure is a great challenge and requires an almost epic effort. Neither of these two new biographies is strictly authorized, although Pauling cooperated to some degree in the writing of each. Hager's massive work invokes the broadest context and best portrays Pauling as a man of insight and conscience and a major player in science, politics, and society throughout some extraordinary times. A journalist, Hager made extensive use of Pauling's official archives in the library at Oregon State University and also drew upon reams of other primary sources, including formerly classified materials from the FBI and State Department. Hager does a superior job of fleshing out the details of Pauling's influences and motivations. He also interprets freely, especially in sections describing Pauling's political convictions, and, while some historians might quibble with certain interpretations, Hager backs them up with reference to primary literature. By contrast, the Goertzels' rendering is more factual and straightforward, and it is probably less vulnerable to being criticized for subjectivity. Like Hager, however, the authors (Ted, the father, is a sociology professor; Ben is a lecturer in cognitive science) can be both laudatory and critical of Pauling. Their book's greatest virtue is the lucid and methodological way it expounds Pauling's science, compared with Hager's somewhat discursive technical passages. The Goertzels' work might be the better choice for pedagogical purposes, but, overall, Hager's is better for the majority of general and informed lay readers. Either book is better than Anthony Serafini's Linus Pauling: A Man and his Science (LJ 3/15/89. o.p.). Of the third of these new releases, Linus Pauling in His Own Words, Pauling wrote, "This book will take me as close to writing my memoirs or autobiography as I shall ever get." The editor was a lifelong associate of Pauling and an employee at his Institute for Science and Medicine; her selections, arranged in four chronological sections, are both forceful and enlightening and full of resonant quotes, and her transitional text makes for smooth reading. The tone is openly deferential to Pauling (the book is dedicated to him); accordingly, it might appeal to fans and admirers, but its academic usefulness is minimal. Being released in tandem with Hager's book, however, it might ride on the latter's coattails.Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib.
Booknews
A scientific biography of the double Nobel Prize winner. It details his early life and family, his founding research in molecular biology, his political activism against McCarthyism and nuclear testing, and conflicts at the Linus Pauling Institute, and explains some of his scientific breakthroughs for the general reader. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465006731
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
11/28/1996
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 9.26(h) x 0.78(d)

What People are saying about this

Thomas H. Jukes
"A great contribution to scientific history."

Meet the Author

Ted Goertzel is a professor of sociology at Rutgers University. His books include Turncoats and True Believers and Three Hundred Eminent Personalities. Ben Goertzel is a lecturer at the University of Western Australia. His books include The Structure of Intelligence, The Evolving Mind, Chaotic Logic, and From Complexity to Creativity.

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