The native state of a protein molecule in aqueous solutions represents one of the lowest states of Gibbs energy [Anfinsen, C.B. (1973) Science 181, 223-230]. Much progress has been made about the rules of protein folding [King, J. (1989) Chem. Eng. News 67, 32-54] and the dominant forces in protein folding [Dill, K.A. (1990) Biochemistry 29, 7133-7155]. However, the quantitative contributions of different Gibbs energy terms to protein stability remains a controversial issue [Moult, J., & Unger, R. (1991) Biochemistry 30, 3816-3824]. A molecular thermodynamic model has been proposed for the Gibbs energy of folding a residue in aqueous homopolypeptides from a random-coiled state to either the α-helix state or the β-sheet state [Chen, C.-C., Zhu, Y., King, J.A., & Evans, L.B. (1992) Biopolymers 32, 1375-1392]. In this work, we present a generalization of the molecular thermodynamic model for the Gibbs energy of folding natural and synthetic heteropolypeptides from random-coiled conformations into α-helical conformations. The generalized model incorporates the intrinsic folding potential due to residue-solvent interactions, the cooperative folding effect due to residue-residue interactions, and the location and length of α-helices. The utility of the model was demonstrated by examining the stability of α-helical conformations of a number of natural polypeptides including C-peptide (residues 1-13) and S-peptide (residues 1-20) of RNase A (bovine pancreatic ribonuclease A), the Pa fragment in BPTI (bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor), and synthetic polypeptides (the copolymers of different amino acid residues) including alanine-based peptides (16 or 17 residues long) in water. The computed Gibbs energies correspond well with the experimental data on helicity. The results also accounted for the effects of amino acid substitution and temperature on the stability of a-helical conformations of the test polypeptides.