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Robert Brainard Corey (August 19, 1897 – April 23, 1971) was an American biochemist, mostly known for his role in discovery of the α-helix and the β-sheet with Linus Pauling. Also working with Pauling was Herman Branson. Their discoveries were remarkably correct, with even the bond lengths being accurate until about 40 years later. The α-helix and β-sheet are two structures that are now known to form the backbones of many proteins.

Academic training

A childhood polio victim, Corey received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Cornell University (Marsh, p. 52-53).

The findings of α-helix and β-sheet

At Caltech, the trio (Pauling, Corey and Branson) published a series of 8 articles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The most revolutionary of the 8 articles in PNAS is the one written on February 28, 1951. That date was also Pauling's 50th birthday. It was called "The Structure of Proteins: Two Hydrogen-Bonded Helical Configurations of the Polypeptide Chain". In the paper, one odd thing is that the trio diagrammed the α-helix as a left-handed helix, although it is really a right-handed one. Another odd thing in the paper is that the 3(10) helix is almost never mentioned, although it is very common, while the γ-helix, which was another focus of the paper, is almost never found in nature.

See also