After publication of The Nature of the Chemical Bond, Pauling, his place in chemical history assured, focused his attention away from physics and toward biology. Over the next
15 years he made vital advances in immunology, genetics, and determining the structure of proteins. During World War II he
helped to perfect new explosives and rocket propellants and invented a more effective oxygen meter for submarines. After the
war he won a string of prestigious awards, including a host of honorary degrees and most of the highest honors and medals
vailable for scientific work.
But the highest award of all, the Nobel Prize, seemed to elude him. His name was often mentioned among possible Nobel candidates
in chemistry, but the award itself always went to someone else (one of Pauling’s former students even won it in 1951). Pauling
reasoned that he was being ignored because Alfred Nobel’s will said specifically that the prizes were to be given for a single
important discovery, while Pauling had reshaped chemistry through a series of discoveries, creating an edifice of structural
chemistry composed of many parts. "That was the trouble," he later said. "What was the single great discovery I had made?"
Then, while lecturing at Cornell the fall of 1954, Pauling received a phone call from a newspaper reporter. "What is your
reaction to winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry?" came the question. Pauling asked what it was for. "Chemistry," came the
reply. "No, what does the citation say?" Pauling asked. He wanted to know which of his many achievements was being honored.
"For research into the nature of the chemical bond," the reporter read from the newswire, "and its application to the elucidation
of complex substances." Pauling gave a wide grin. The Prize was being awarded to him for everything he had done from 1928
on. The Nobel officials had found a way to give him a lifetime award.