Linus Pauling is known as the twentieth century’s greatest chemist for his work integrating the fields of chemistry and quantum physics. The description of the nature of the chemical bond was only one of Pauling’s many significant contributions to science, and his prolific career made him the only person to have won two unshared Nobel Prizes.
The Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History is a digital history project of the Special Collections Division of Valley Library at Oregon State University, where Pauling was a 1923 graduate. In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Pauling’s first Nobel, the project documents the events surrounding Pauling’s most phenomenal discovery.
The site is well organized and divided into three sections. The first, narrative section of the site tells the story of Pauling’s development as a young scientist influenced by other greats such as Bohr and Schrödinger. The story is interesting and informative and the writers have done well presenting the chemistry with emphasis on the meaning and importance of each development without confusing those who lack a chemical background. This section boasts 49 “chapters” detailing Pauling’s history, but these chapters are, in some cases, little more than a couple of paragraphs. Still, the amount and depth of information available is substantial.
In the second section, a visitor will find a mountain of primary manuscripts and correspondence as well as one of the jewels of the site--a list of “key participants.” Throughout the previous narrative, the names of the most famous or important people who worked with and influenced Pauling are linked to pages that give extra information about these individuals. The information includes the years the person lived, one or more quotes about his relationship to Pauling, and links to any audio or visual clips available. But most importantly, there is a record of the location and contact information for the archive that holds the papers of each supplemental characters. Researchers thus find references to information about the key figures surrounding Pauling at the peak of his career.
Other resources available in the document section of the site include digital images of Pauling’s published works, Pauling’s correspondence from 1925-1939, manuscripts totaling more than 300 pages of notes and lectures, pictures, illustrations, and quotes. Audio and video clips are forthcoming and will enrich the site by allowing visitors to hear and see Pauling speak about his work. All told, the site contains more that 800 digital documents.
The final section, “Linus Pauling Day-By-Day,” offers calendar-style pages that place the scientist’s correspondence, work, and travel into an easy-to-follow timeline. Users can click on each day to find all of Pauling’s known activities for that date including entries as obscure as making a payment to the DMV.
The site is well designed, attractive, and easy to navigate. The sections are cross-linked so that related information is quickly at hand. A list of links and a well-developed bibliography also contribute to the success of the site. Overall, The Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History is a fitting tribute and resource for a truly important scientific personality.
George Mason University
February 3, 2005