For 30 years, the prevailing view has been that the hydrophobic effect contributes considerably more than hydrogen bonding to the conformational stability of globular proteins. The results and reasoning presented here suggest that hydrogen bonding and the hydrophobic effect make comparable contributions to the conformational stability of ribonuclease T1 (RNase T1). When RNase T1 folds, 86 intramolecular hydrogen bonds with an average length of 2.95 A are formed. Twelve mutants of RNase T1 [Tyr----Phe (5), Ser----Ala (3), and Asn----Ala (4)] have been prepared that remove 17 of the hydrogen bonds with an average length of 2.93 A. On the basis of urea and thermal unfolding studies of these mutants, the average decrease in conformational stability due to hydrogen bonding is 1.3 kcal/mol per hydrogen bond. This estimate is in good agreement with results from several related systems. Thus, we estimate that hydrogen bonding contributes about 110 kcal/mol to the conformational stability of RNase T1 and that this is comparable to the contribution of the hydrophobic effect. Accepting the idea that intramolecular hydrogen bonds contribute 1.3 +/- 0.6 kcal/mol to the stability of systems in an aqueous environment makes it easier to understand the stability of the "molten globule" states of proteins, and the alpha-helical conformations of small peptides.