Sunday, August 28, 2016

Alpha Helix

The next public art we're looking at is Alpha Helix, a red sorta-corkscrew in front of an old house at SE 40th & Hawthorne. It looks like yet another random abstract sculpture, but there's a bit more going on this time.

Alpha Helix is a tribute to Nobel-winning chemist Linus Pauling, who grew up in the house here, and an alpha helix is a fundamental protein structure that Pauling co-discovered in 1951. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954, primarily for this discovery. I have never been accused of being a biochemist, but my understanding is that this was a key building block leading up to figuring out the structure of DNA in 1953. (Pauling narrowly missed out on that acrimonious discovery.) Pauling went on to win the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his nuclear disarmament work, and he spent his later years promoting eccentric ideas about Vitamin C as a universal cure-all.

In any case, the house is now home to Portland's Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy, which runs an annual Linus Pauling Memorial lecture series. The sculpture was created for them by Portland-based sculptor Julian Voss-Andreae.

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