|The Xenon Conundrum
Rather, almost everything Pauling did turned out well. One daring prediction Pauling made based on his scale was that fluorine,
estimated to be extremely electronegative, would be able to form compounds even with an inert gas like xenon. Inert gases
of any sort were thought incapable of chemical combination, and the creation of a xenon compound would have made history.
Experiments were needed to test his prediction. Pure xenon gas was extremely rare, but Pauling managed to obtain a little
of it from a colleague and gave it to his colleague Don Yost, who worked through the summer of 1933 searching for the predicted
compounds. He could not find any — a failure that Pauling found both confusing and galling. The reasons for Yost's inability
to find what he was looking for are uncertain. But it turned out that Pauling was right. Thirty years later, another team
would make international news by producing the xenon compounds Pauling had said were possible.
Click images to enlarge
Don Yost, approx. 1930.
Pastel drawing of Xenon Hydrate. 1964.
"I should like to do some work (with Professor Yost) in an attempt to prepare certain compounds of xenon suggested by theoretical
arguments. No doubt your xenon is precious; if, however, you could lend us 10 cc or so (of not necessarily pure stuff), we
would try to return it to you either as such or in some compound (I hope), and we would be properly grateful."
September 13, 1932