PNAS papers by Linus Pauling, Robert Corey, and Herman Branson in the spring of 1951 proposed the -helix and the -sheet, now known to form the backbones of tens of thousands of proteins. They deduced these fundamental building blocks from properties of small molecules, known both from crystal structures and from Pauling's resonance theory of chemical bonding that predicted planar peptide groups. Earlier attempts by others to build models for protein helices had failed both by including nonplanar peptides and by insisting on helices with an integral number of units per turn. In major respects, the Pauling-Corey-Branson models were astoundingly correct, including bond lengths that were not surpassed in accuracy for >40 years. However, they did not consider the hand of the helix or the possibility of bent sheets. They also proposed structures and functions that have not been found, including the -helix.