Pauling at Leisure

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, 1924.

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, 1924.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I’m not a surf-boarder nor a bird watcher.  I suppose my latest hobby would be collecting and reading dictionaries.  And I like to wander in the out-of-doors.

Q: Do you read funny papers?

A: Oh, yes, I read many of them.  My favorites are Andy Capp, Peanuts and Out Our Way.

Q: With your vast knowledge of math, do you believe there is a slide rule computation capable of eliminating the golfers’ hooks and slices?

A: I’ve only been on a golf course once, and then it was to collect air samples. I’d have to study that question a bit.

-Linus Pauling, interview with The Oregonian, 1966.


I read detective stories.  I’ve soured on Agatha Christie.  She lost me when she mentioned ‘the foul odor of carbon monoxide’ which is an odorless gas.

-Linus Pauling, 1987.

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, 1948.

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, 1948.

I watch a moderate amount of television, mainly the news but, on occasion, if I can find an old Doris Day movie I watch it.  My favorite is Lover Come Back, which has in it a character named Linus, who is described as the greatest chemist in the world.  In the movie, an advertising man gets himself in a pickle because he’s been advertising the unveiling of some great discovery.  He doesn’t have a great discovery so he goes to the greatest chemist in the world, Linus, who’s not interested – he’s only interested in pure science.  Unfortunately for the advertising man, he’s very ethical, but not after the guy pulls out thousand-dollar bill after thousand-dollar bill.  Linus say’s he’ll take over.  In the laboratory, various things are bubbling.  Outside, a great cloud of green smoke comes out.  Inside, he is at the black board doing calculations.  Finally, all the reporters come in to see the greatest chemist in the world’s new invention and there are trays with red and green cookies.  It turns out each one is the equivalent of a double martini.

-Linus Pauling, 1987.


Usually I eat two eggs in the morning, sometimes bacon, but I happen to be lazy enough not to cook more than one thing for a meal.  The last two days I was eating oxtail soup with vegetables.  I don’t know what I’ll have today.  Perhaps some fish.  In my book [How to Live Longer and Feel Better] I say you shouldn’t eat sweet desserts, but I also quote a professor who says that this doesn’t mean that if your hostess has made this wonderful dessert you should turn it down.  My wife used to say I always looked for that hostess.

-Linus Pauling, 1987.

For more Facets of Linus Pauling, see Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker, now available in paperback from the Oregon State University Press.

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