Double Fantasy
It'll be just like starting over, starting over.
- John Lennon

he two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling - Chemistry (1954) and Peace (1962) - was the greatest scientist ever produced by America. In a list of the 20 greatest scientists of all time, the journal New Scientist included Pauling along with Galileo, Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin. The only other individual selected from the twentieth century was Albert Einstein.

Yet life was not always a bowl of cherries (or amino acids - see arginine articles in this issue, listed below) for Pauling. In 1940 he was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, an often fatal kidney disease affecting the basement membrane. According to associates, it is highly likely that he cured himself, although his interest in nutrition did not start in earnest until the 1960s. It is curious that a friend of ours cured herself of several serious diseases with the use of the amino acid arginine, a nutrient she first heard about from Pauling himself. (In this issue, we report on recent research regarding the value of arginine for maintaining healthy kidney basement-membrane function.)

Like other great individuals, Pauling reinvented himself again and again. Many believe that he also deserved the Nobel Prize for medicine for his discovery of the cause of sickle cell anemia - the first time that any disease was explained at the purely molecular level. And if he had been allowed to travel to England in the early 1950s - the U.S. State Department had revoked his passport because of his antiwar crusade - to view firsthand the x-ray crystallographic data on DNA obtained by Dr. Rosalind Franklin, he would surely have been the first to deduce the correct structure of DNA, and he would have won the Nobel Prize for medicine for that too. Two won, two lost.

In Pauling's famous paper on "Orthomolecular Psychiatry," published in 1968, he cited research reporting success in the treatment of patients with severe psychiatric symptoms through the use of moderate to large doses of the B-complex vitamins nicotinic acid or nicotinamide, in the range of 1.5-18 grams/day, together with 3 grams/day of ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

He stated that both nicotinic acid and nicotinamide are exceptionally nontoxic. Among the advantages of these compounds cited by Pauling are safety, cheapness, ease of administration, and the fact that they could be taken for years on end, if necessary, with only a small probability of unfavorable side effects.

It is another double coincidence that Linus Pauling, whose work established the foundations of modern chemistry and helped to unlock the secrets of the double helix, was also right about the value of nicotinamide, yet even he did not foresee where it would lead.


  1. Pauling L. Orthomolecular psychiatry: varying the concentrations of substances normally present in the human body may control mental disease. Science 1968 Apr 19;160(825):265-71.

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