Intravenous Vitamin C: The Historical Progression

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Jeanne Drisko

[Part 1 of 2]

Jeanne Drisko, MD, Director of Integrative Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, was a featured speaker during the public session of the Linus Pauling Institute’s Diet and Optimum Health Conference, held September 13-16, 2017.  She delivered a public lecture titled “Intravenous vitamin C and cancer treatment: Does it work?” Dr. Maret Traber, a principal investigator at LPI, introduced Drisko, describing her as a “leading expert on intravenous vitamin C.”

Drisko began her talk by tracing the history of vitamin C research, noting the ways in which previous studies had made her own research possible. The first person Drisko spoke of was Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Gyӧrgyi (1893-1986), who isolated ascorbic acid while working at Cambridge University and the Mayo Foundation between 1927 and 1930. Drisko then pointed out that, in the 1940s, vitamin C was used widely in clinical settings to treat pertussis, or whooping cough, along with other bacterial and viral infections. Importantly, these treatments were not administered orally. At the time, pharmaceutical preparations of vitamin C were not of a quality that could be administered intravenously, so they was injected into the muscles.

The use of vaccines was also on the rise during this period and Drisko pointed out that the development of the polio vaccine was particularly connected to the clinical fate of vitamin C. Albert Sabin (1906-1993), who had developed an oral polio vaccine, also carried out trials on the effects of vitamin C injections on primates. Sabin found no benefit and suggested that focus turn toward vaccines instead. It was at this point, Drisko explained, that the use of vitamin C injections went “underground,” drifting well outside of the medical mainstream.

One individual who remained interested in the promise of vitamin C was Frederick Klenner (1907-1984), who began using intravenous ascorbic acid at his North Carolina clinic in the 1940s. Drisko described Klenner as keeping “vitamin C use alive,” by administering both muscular and intravenous injections, while the broader medical community turned elsewhere. In particular, Klenner used vitamin C to treat children suffering from polio and found that even advanced cases could be approached successfully. During this time, Klenner also trained other practitioners in the methods that he was pioneering at his clinic.


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Ewan Cameron, Ava Helen and Linus Pauling. Glasgow, Scotland, October 1976.

Next, Drisko turned to Linus Pauling. To begin, Drisko noted that since Pauling was already well known, his interest in oral vitamin C was written off by many who were familiar with his prior work. Others, however, did look to Pauling as an authority, and among them was the Scottish surgeon Ewan Cameron (1922-1991), who contacted Pauling after reading some of his papers in the early 1970s. In his initial correspondence, Cameron informed Pauling that he had been giving about ten grams of vitamin C to cancer patients and had observed that they tended to live longer. As a result of their shared interest, Pauling and Cameron decided to collaborate on a series of papers investigating the potential clinical import of large doses of vitamin C.

As they delved deeper into this work, Pauling became convinced of the need to carry out more rigorous trials. Lacking the funds to do so, he instead turned to the National Institutes of Health. Fatefully for Pauling, Charles Moertel (1927-1994), an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic who was eager to debunk the effectiveness of vitamin C, agreed to lead the NIH investigation. Specifically, Moertel carried out a double-blind placebo-controlled trial in which ten grams of vitamin C were administered orally, and he found no benefit. (He was not aware that Cameron had been injecting vitamin C intravenously.) Moertel published his results in the New England Journal of Medicine and the press picked it up. Once the negative conclusion had been widely circulated, subsequent mainstream interest in the medical application of vitamin C suffered a near fatal blow.


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Mark Levine

Research on intravenous vitamin C began to re-emerge during the 1990s, led in part by NIH scientist Mark Levine. Levine’s nutrition experiments were novel, and did not emerge from the types of medical training that he could have been expected to received. For context, Drisko described her own education, wherein courses on nutrition were optional and held on Saturday mornings. She attended them because she was interested, but she also went along with the convention of the time; one emphasizing that nutrition was of lesser importance relative to other aspects of medical practice.

Levine, on the other hand, did not follow this line and decided to study vitamin C in depth. In the trials that he carried out at the National Institutes of Health, Levine tracked patients deprived of vitamin C and showed that they had indeed become vitamin C deficient. He followed this by administering oral doses of vitamin C, which demonstrated repletion. At the end of his trial, Levine also administered one gram of vitamin C intravenously. He was not allowed to administer a higher dose to his subjects, due to fears of toxicity, but it was his guess that ten gram doses would yield peak blood levels of vitamin C.

Ultimately, Levine demonstrated that oral vitamin C was not capable of yielding maximal vitamin C blood levels, because the body does not absorb oral doses well and excretes it very quickly. Intravenous administration, on the other hand, bypassed these metabolic processes, leading to higher blood levels. With Levine’s work in mind, Drisko summarized the difference between Cameron’s research and Moertel’s Mayo Clinic trial: “Cameron gave a drug and the Mayo Clinic gave a vitamin.”


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Hugh Riordan

Drisko’s mentor, Hugh Riordan (1932-2005), was another individual responsible for keeping vitamin C research alive. The founder of what is now known as the Riordan Clinic in Wichita, Kansas, Riordan belonged to a group of orthomolecular physicians who saw vitamins as providing restoration of a healthy baseline in all humans.

After Levine published his paper on vitamin C absorption, Riordan went to visit him in Maryland to convince him to continue following this path of inquiry. The two ultimately collaborated on several case studies and welcomed others into their fold, a progression that helped incubate today’s group of researchers investigating the use of intravenous vitamin C.

As of 2016, the intravenous vitamin C group included Qi Chen, who works on basic research at the University of Kansas with Drisko; John Hoffer at McGill University, who explores the effects of high doses of vitamin C on cancer; Garry Buettner and Joseph Cullen at the University of Iowa, who looks at the redox capacity of vitamin C in patients undergoing radiation therapy; and Ramesh Natarajan at Virginia Commonwealth University, who is researching the use of vitamin C in the treatment of sepsis.

Drisko noted that there are differences in the lines of research followed within the current group. On the one hand, her cancer trials use megadoses of vitamin C at 75 to 100 grams. Natarajan, on the other hand, only uses 4 or 5 grams in the ICU for sepsis.  For Drisko, these differences emphasize that there is still a lot of research to be done to understand exactly what is going on.


At present, attitudes toward vitamin C within the medical community can be mostly lumped into two categories. One is comprised of “early adopters,” as Drisko defines herself, who continue to carry out research to refine vitamin C treatments. The other consists of those who adhere more closely to the conclusions of the Moertel study, and who thus believe that claims supporting the effectiveness of vitamin C have been disproven. The distance between these two groups was characterized by Drisko as a “gulf of disapproval.”

However, current trends suggest that the gulf is being bridged. While some state medical boards still restrict the therapeutic use of vitamin C, Drisko and others have succeeded in garnering increasing levels of support from both colleagues and institutions. Shifts in funding opportunities are also beginning to emerge: though Drisko was unable to secure federal dollars for her work on ovarian cancer, the Gateway for Cancer Research non-profit stepped in to provide crucial support. With evidence of the efficacy of the treatment building from a growing number of trials, the possibility of obtaining federal grants is becoming more realistic. Likewise, drug companies are now looking at ways to patent vitamin C therapy, and some vitamin C treatment patients have succeeded in receiving reimbursement from their insurance companies.

Next week, we will provide an overview of the science underlying this renewal in optimism about the potential to fight disease with intravenous ascorbic acid.

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Pauling’s OAC: Completing the Freshman Year

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President William Jasper Kerr speaks to members of the Students’ Army Training Corps, as assembled near the OAC bandstand, 1918.

[Part 4 of 4 in our series examining the Oregon Agricultural College that Linus Pauling knew during his freshman year, 1917-1918. Fall 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Pauling’s enrollment at his undergraduate alma mater, known today as Oregon State University.]

Linus Pauling’s freshman year at Oregon Agricultural was spiced up a bit by a little administrative drama. Beloved OAC President William Jasper Kerr, who been appointed ten years prior in 1907, was being courted by Kansas Agricultural College, at that point the largest “aggie school” in the United States. An “insistent” Kansas board of higher education offered Dr. Kerr the presidency of KAC and a salary of $9,000 per year, compensation far beyond anything that OAC could propose.

The Kansas offer was met with heartfelt concern from OAC’s students, one of whom stated in a Barometer article that “every friend of the College hopes the President may decline the offer.” Of this moment, Pauling later recalled

Directly after I arrived in Corvallis, in the fall of 1917, there was a big rally with a couple of thousand of students marching down to the President’s House, singing songs that had been made up for the occasion, urging him to stay here instead of going to Kansas State College, in Manhattan, Kansas….that was one of my memories of one of the exciting events during my first year.

In December, the campus shared a collective sigh of relief when it became public that Kerr had decided to stay. Speculating about this turn of events, The Barometer suggested that “President Kerr’s decision seems to have been made chiefly on the grounds of the splendid opportunities afforded in Oregon through the cooperation of the able and united forces that have supported his administration.”

Kerr’s presidency would continue for another fifteen years, coming to a close only upon his acceptance of the position of Chancellor of the Oregon State System of Higher Education. His leadership was key to the success of OAC, which grew significantly during his years of service.


Pauling at track practice, Bell Field, Oregon Agricultural College. 1917.

Pauling hurdling at Bell Field during his short-lived track career, 1918.

Pauling came away from his first semester of college with five A’s, two B’s, and a D in Mechanical Drawing. (Of Pauling’s one notably poor mark during the term, biographer Tom Hager writes, “he wasn’t patient enough to let the ink dry on his work, Pauling remembered, and kept smudging it.”)

Spring semester for Pauling revolved around a heavy course load that included Integral Calculus, Descriptive Geology, French, and Qualitative Analysis. It was during this semester that he also received his only failing letter grade, the product of an unsuccessful attempt to circumvent the physical education requirement by joining the school track team. His try-out was, evidently, a mess, and he did not make the team. Once this gambit had failed, Pauling chose not to return to the Gym class in which he was enrolled, as his course load was proving to be quite heavy. (He took, and passed, the required class later on during his OAC career.)

Though encumbered by significant responsibilities outside of the classroom – including the lack of a permanent address and the need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet – Pauling completed his first year with seven A’s, one B, and two C’s – one in Descriptive Geometry and the other in Camp Cookery. The grade scale that OAC used at the time included a letter grade “E,” meaning that OAC marks of B, C and D were comparable to contemporary grades of A-, B+, and B-. As such, Pauling’s freshman academic record was really quite superb, both within his major and across the military and liberal arts courses that were required of him.

As Pauling’s academic excellence mounted, so too did the invitations to join a number of honor societies. By the time of his graduation in 1922, Pauling was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honorary, and had served as secretary of the Sigma Tau engineering honor society, treasurer of the Chemical Engineering Association, and president of the Chi Epsilon civil engineering honor society.


 

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Two OAC classes battle in the tug of war, 1912. The competition was often held at the nearby millrace, with the losing class obliged to take a dip.

Socially, the 1917 school year broadly conformed to the calendars that had defined previous years, though a few changes were necessitated by World War I, particularly during spring semester 1918.

Because a significant portion of the men in the junior and senior class had left campus for Officers’ Training Camp, springtime saw a premature rendition of Junior Weekend. The commencing affair was “Junior Flunk Day,” while other happenings included the “Fresh-Soph Tug-of-War.” Pauling’s class, the freshmen, won this display of strength and, after watching this apparent disgrace, the juniors challenged the seniors and won. Junior Prom followed the tug-of-war and was treated as a sendoff for the young men leaving for the European theater. Previously a formal event, the conditions brought about by war rendered the 1918 Junior Prom more of an informal affair.

Outside of socializing on campus at dances and club events, students in Corvallis often entertained themselves with a night out. Popular activities included seeing movies at the Majestic Theater and ending the night with ice cream at Winkley’s Creamery. Another hot spot for spending time and grabbing a bite to eat was Andrews & Kerr, which served “Hooverized” waffles and offered a location where “seniors enjoyed high jinks.” Pauling was fond of A&K’s and frequented it when he could afford to, especially after seeing a show downtown.

The concluding social activities of the year transpired during Graduation Week and consisted primarily of events tailored to the graduating class. One notable highlight was the Senior Picnic Breakfast at A&K’s, complete with “bacon, coffee, oranges, eggs, buns, and doughnuts.” Other events included the dedication of the class monument and, as post-commencement exercises, an Alumni Ball and Banquet.

Overall, the 1917-1918 school year at Oregon Agricultural College was an eventful and productive one, if shadowed throughout by the specter of war across the Atlantic. The OAC to which Pauling had been introduced was a varied and multifaceted institution, buoyed by an enthusiasm for shaping students into engaged, innovative, and community-oriented citizens. These principles and this spirit left a mark on Linus Pauling, just as he made an impact on the college and, later, the world.

Rook Life

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Pauling outside his boarding house, first term of his freshman year at OAC.

[Part 3 of 4 in our examination of the Oregon Agricultural College that Linus Pauling came to know during his freshman year. Fall 2017 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Pauling’s enrollment at OAC, known today as Oregon State University.]

Each year, students arrived from around the state, country, and abroad to attend Oregon Agricultural College. For the 1917-18 school year, OAC boasted a student body of over 4,00 men and women. Long requested by the student body, the number of college personnel also began to rise that year, with totals nearing 200 faculty members. And despite the onset of American involvement in World War I during the previous spring, OAC’s fall 1917 registration was its largest ever. Contributing to this was the fact that more women had enrolled for the 1917-18 school year than had ever previously been the case at the college.

One member of this large first-year class was a sixteen-year-old Portland resident, Linus Pauling. Once arrived in Corvallis, Pauling, in his diary, described his living situation, a boarding house close to campus, noting that “I have a nice big room, much larger than two boys usually have. I will share it with a sophomore named Murhard.” He likewise recorded these observations of two other young men sharing a room in the same house

they are two rooks; one, a 20 yr. old talkative fellow, named Hofman, weight 175# and always talks about his girl, Millicent, nicknamed “Titter.” The other, Henry, is a very quiet, small young man, but slightly deaf.  He will take Commerce, and Hofman will take Forestry.

Pauling left the boarding house after Fall semester and, because he was unable to find a permanent place of residence, he often wound up staying with friends during the Spring. Viewed through a modern lense, it would not be a stretch to say that Pauling was effectively homeless for this period of his studies at OAC.


Early on, Pauling expressed a great deal of insecurity in his potential to excel at the college. It did not take very long, however, before he discovered that his merit in academics had very clearly carried over from his high achieving ways in high school.

During the fall semester, Pauling registered for a typical collection of first-year classes, including Modern English Prose, Drill, and Gym. In addition, he began working through the core curriculum for Chemical Engineering majors, taking courses like General Chemistry, Mining Industry, and Calculus.

As he moved forward through his coursework, Pauling found that his high school education, though incomplete – he had not taken a required history class and did not graduate from Washington High School – was more than satisfactory. So pleased was he by the preparation that he had received for college, that he wrote a letter thanking his high school math teacher, Virgil Earl, for having done an exceptional job.

Earl replied to Pauling with gratitude and encouraging words, saying, “you have the ability and the disposition to work so I feel sure that you will succeed in your chosen work.” Earl’s point of view would soon be reflected by waves of praise and admiration extended by many of Pauling’s OAC professors.


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Pauling wearing his “rook lid,” ca. 1917.

Student functions played an outsized role in the undergraduate experience at Oregon Agricultural College. Activities and meetings were held each week and larger gatherings, such as dances, were hosted with great frequency.

Socially, the school year was underway once the YWCA-YMCA welcome reception had been hosted. This event, which was basically a dance, was put on by the two clubs to familiarize first-year students with the social dynamic of their new home. The 1917 welcome dance took place in the Men’s Gym (now Langton Hall) where the College president, William Jasper Kerr, kicked off festivities by addressing the assembled student population. The rest of October saw Mask and Dagger theatrical auditions, a senior reception held for the “frosh,” and an informal band dance. Class and student body elections also took place at the end of October.

In addition to cultivating a culture of of student involvement, the college did its best to stoke long-running social traditions. Pauling took these rituals seriously and commented on how they had strengthened his school spirit. By the end of his first month in college, he noted in his diary that “I am getting along alright. Have lots of beaver pep.”


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The Burning of the Green, 1925.

Central to many of these traditions was one’s class standing. First-year students were colloquially called “rooks” and “rookesses,” and were made to wear green caps (for men) or ribbons (for women) to denote their status. At the end of the year, students burned their “frosh” paraphernalia in a bonfire held just south of the Women’s Gymnasium.

Beyond hats and ribbons, amicable competitions and friendly rivalries between grade levels was an aspect of life at OAC which continued year round. Many of these events were staged during Homecoming, which took place annually during a fall weekend and focused intently on the college’s athletic teams as well as class rivalries. Sophomores and freshmen went head to head in both a bag rush and a football game, while all class levels participated in a three mile cross-country race. Intercollegiate sporting events during the 1917 Homecoming weekend included a soccer game between OAC and the University of Oregon, which O.A.C won, as well as a 6-0 home loss in football to Washington State College.

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The 1914 OAC Freshman-Sophomore Bag Rush.

The culminating event of the weekend was Sunday’s open house, during which undergraduates met and talked with alumni who had returned to campus. Of this experience the Beaver yearbook recounted, “all in all, it was a great success and the old fireplaces again welcomed familiar faces, and the undergraduates listened to stories of the ‘Good Old Times.'”

Another annual happening, The Co-Ed Ball, was held solely for the women of the college. Unsurprising, given the rising number of women attending OAC, 1917’s Co-Ed Ball was the largest in school history, with “four hundred women being present.” The supervisors of this specific occasion included Mary Fawcett, the Dean of Women, and Ida Kidder, the college’s beloved librarian, known to many as “Mother Kidder.”

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Performers in the Women’s Stunt Show, 1925.

The women of the College also sponsored the “Women’s Stunt Show,” for which every women’s organization on campus prepared and performed a skit. In addition to competing for a trophy, the Fawcett Cup, the ultimate goal of the Stunt Show was to raise funds. The 1917 edition succeeded on this front as a total of $400 was collected, with $200 apportioned to the YWCA.

In December, as the end of the term neared, the Intercollegiate Oratorical and Debate Society won its Annual Dual Debate against the University of Oregon. Other notable winter events included two Mask and Dagger shows: “Why the Chimes Rang” and “The Magistrate.” The Military Ball and the Interfraternity Informal rounded out a busy fall calendar for Linus Pauling and his fellow students at Oregon’s land grant college.

Study and Social Life at the Oregon Agricultural College

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OAC students in the Chemistry Lab, 1916. Note the student in military dress – during Linus Pauling’s undergraduate tenure, two years of ROTC were required of all males enrolled at the College.

[Post 2 of 4 examining Oregon Agricultural College during the years contemporary to Linus Pauling’s studies there as an undergraduate. These posts have been written in celebration of the centenary anniversary of Pauling’s enrollment at OAC (now Oregon State University) in Fall 1917.]

In 1908, Oregon Agricultural College adopted a semester system, which remained in place until the quarter system was reinstated in 1919. To graduate with a degree, 136 credits were required, and though an OAC student could not major in any liberal arts discipline at the time, all four-year degrees did require classes in the liberal arts. Linus Pauling fulfilled this requirement largely through foreign language study, taking coursework in French and German throughout his time at OAC. In addition, all students were required to take a gym class as well as an additional class in “Hygiene.”

As a Land Grant school, OAC offered a rich and varied curriculum that offered opportunities for both degree-seeking students as well as those wishing to bolster their practical skill through shorter vocational courses. The College was organized into seven schools: Agriculture, Commerce, Engineering, Forestry, Home Economics, Mining, and Pharmacy. The College also offered an affiliated but financially self-supporting School of Music, which was created at the behest of OAC students in 1908.

Some of OAC’s schools offered a wide breadth of options for their majors while others, such as Pharmacy, focused on a sole course of study. In the main, however, the variety of classes offered for students in most disciplines was staggering. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was especially true of Agriculture, which offered seventeen “areas of specialty,” or majors. Included were emphases in Animal Husbandry, Bacteriology (the forerunner to modern-day Biology), Botany and Plant Pathology, Farm Mechanics (now Bioengineering), Soils and Farm Management, and Zoology.

Engineering was another popular course of study, perhaps second only to Agriculture, at least among male students. Within the School of Engineering, majors included Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Highway Engineering, Industrial Arts, Irrigation Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. In addition, other Schools offered engineering-centric degrees that pertained to their respective fields. For example, the School of Forestry advertised a degree in Logging Engineering and the School of Mines housed both the Mining Engineering degree as well as the Chemical Engineering curriculum.

Linus Pauling entered OAC with a particularly keen interest in chemistry, but he could not major in the discipline as, per state edict, the only School of Science operating at the time was located at the University of Oregon. Instead, Pauling chose the next best option, chemical engineering, as administered by the School of Mines. As he began his introductory coursework, Pauling may have found the classroom to be a bit more crowded than did previous first-term freshmen — the OAC Barometer, reporting on a bump in Engineering majors, hypothesized an invigorated interest “due to the demand for engineers in military service.”


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OAC Home Economics students posing with children outside of the Withycombe “practice house.”

Women at the college predominately gravitated towards Home Economics, though a smaller number sought out degrees within the School of Commerce, majoring, more often than not, in Secretarial Studies. The School of Home Economics was organized into four degree paths: Domestic Art, Domestic Science, Home Administration, and Institutional Management. Specific Home Economics courses included Home Nursing, Sanitation of the Home, Dress Making, and Costume Design. The school also offered a year-long vocational course to men in Camp Cookery.

For additional scholastic development, women seeking degrees could hone their domestic skills in the college’s “practice house.” Opened in 1916, the Withycombe House was made available to interested Home Economics students who lived in the building for two months at a time, rotating through a variety of assigned duties during that time.

As mandated by the Morrill Act of 1862, men attending the College – including those enrolled in shorter vocational courses – were required to participate in military training. A ROTC program was officially established in 1917, Pauling’s freshman year, replacing the Cadet Corps that had existed previously. By the time that ROTC was implemented, the military organization at the College consisted of “one regiment of infantry, a hospital corps, signal corps detachment, and a band of fifty instruments.” Heading into 1918, as the U.S. ramped up its involvement in the Great War, OAC became a military hub of consequence for the state of Oregon, a scenario that repeated itself in the early 1940s.


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The pool housed in the basement of Shepard Hall, home to OAC’s YWCA operations.

Beyond scholarly inquiry and military training, the College strongly encouraged student involvement in extracurricular activities. This sentiment was echoed in advice that Pauling transcribed into his diary before he started college, wherein it was suggested that he “not take a number of extra [class] hours, but should try to do something for the school.”

OAC promoted a vibrant social environment for its students by fostering the creation and growth of student clubs and organizations. Most prominently, OAC was home to a number of Greek letter societies – one of which Pauling joined during his sophomore year – and other living organizations. Each dormitory and department as well as, in certain cases, specific majors, also sponsored their own club. As an incoming student studying in the College of Mines, Linus Pauling was naturally a member of the Miner’s Club.

The YMCA and the YWCA were also prominent organizations on campus, holding sway over many areas of campus social life and volunteerism. The YWCA, for example, organized the Campus Auxiliary of the National Red Cross so that the women of the College could fulfill their patriotic duty to “do their bit” in support of the war effort. To provide a base of operations for the YMCA and the YWCA, the College built Shepard Hall, which the two Y-organizations eventually shared with the Student Employment Bureau.

The College also housed organizations such as the Mask and Dagger – responsible for campus theatrical performances – the Oratorical Association, and the Intercollegiate Debate and Oratory organization. Likewise supported were location-based clubs that enabled students to connect with others who hailed from similar geographic backgrounds, especially California and Washington.

Central to the flow of information on campus were student publications, in particular the student newspaper, The Barometer. Published bi-weekly, students could find information in each edition on current events happening within the state and beyond, as well as notices of upcoming activities and meetings at the College. During Pauling’s time, the newspaper also regularly reported on humorous social slights in a column titled “We Have Observed That.”

This same lightheartedness permeated the final pages of the 1919 Beaver Yearbook in a section titled “The Disturber,” in which editorial staff ruthlessly poked fun at Greek letter organizations, other student publications, and the ROTC. While OAC prided itself on maintaining a serious scholastic environment and participated vigorously in the war effort, it is clear that the College’s students, in time-honored fashion, were intent on seeking out fun during their college years.

Through careful consideration and development of infrastructure and community principles, OAC provided a productive and agreeable setting for Oregon’s students to pursue a higher education. From diverse coursework to copious social opportunities, the College “within the vail of western mountains” provided students and professors with ample support to enrich themselves and their communities. These values clearly made an impact on the young Linus Pauling and continued to permeate his world view in the years that followed his departure from Corvallis.

Pauling’s OAC

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OAC rooks running through a large O at Bell Field, 1914.

[Ed Note: Today is the first day of Fall classes here at Oregon State University, and this month also marks the one-hundredth anniversary of Linus Pauling’s enrollment at what was then known as Oregon Agricultural College. Today’s post is part 1 of 4 examining the school that Pauling attended for his undergraduate education as well as the ways in which Pauling navigated life as a “rook” on campus.]

In the fall of 1917, a newcomer to Oregon Agricultural College, such as incoming freshman Linus Pauling, would have encountered a lively student population housed in commanding buildings. This same newcomer would likewise come into contact with a campus bustling with wartime activity and on the cusp of precipitous change.

From humble beginnings, OAC had, by 1917, developed into an institution admired by the bulk of Oregon’s residents — even those supporting the College’s rival, forty-five miles to the south. The College, by now steeped in the Land Grant tradition that had energized state schools across the country, sought to educate students, conduct research and, importantly, foster a connection with Oregon’s communities.

By the time that Pauling arrived, the campus infrastructure consisted of 349 acres, 91 of them constituting the main campus. The remaining acreage, located just outside the Corvallis city limits, formed areas for studying and maintaining livestock, poultry, and horticulture. At the time, the community boasted of 6,000 residents, “free mail delivery…many churches and no saloons.” Living in a city that derived its name from the Latin for “heart of the valley”, members of the OAC community took great pride in their scenic surroundings.

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The OAC campus as it looked in 1911.

During this period, the Administration Building (known now Benton Hall) served as the centerpiece of campus. Funded by the local townspeople as a show of support once OAC had received its federal land grant, the Administration Building was completed in 1889 and still stands today, the oldest building on Oregon State’s campus.

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Present-day Benton Hall, 1889.

To accommodate growing numbers of students and faculty, the number of buildings populating OAC’s campus increased each year, with 1917 being no exception. Specifically, the fall of 1917 saw the unveiling of the Forestry Building, now known as Moreland Hall, and its completion brought the total number of buildings on the OAC campus to thirty-six. Other notable structures of the era included the Agriculture Building (now Strand Agricultural Hall)—the largest edifice on campus at the time—the Dairy Building (now Gilkey Hall), the Home Economics Building (now Milam Hall), and Science Hall (present-day Furman Hall), all of which had been constructed in recent years.

The College was clearly growing. And yet, despite these developments, Corvallis remained a rural community in spirit, while Oregon Agricultural College, as the name suggests, was largely agrarian in its focus, with secondary emphasis paid to all manner of practical skill-building.


 

Tuition at Oregon Agricultural College did not exist. Indeed, in a technical sense, the school was free to all, including out of state and international students. That said, there were certain fees dispensed throughout a student’s college experience. Some fees were assessed yearly while others were collected for one-time events, such as graduation.

There were also fees or additional costs associated with particular courses. For example, students were required to purchase “gymnasium suits” for their PE classes, and other fees were mandated for courses incurring laboratory expenses. Between yearly fees, semester fees, and a diploma fee, early twentieth century undergraduates could count on spending at least sixty-one dollars during the time that it took to complete a four-year degree.

With the cost of attendance so low, the principle fiscal concern for students came in the form of room and board costs. Women, who were required to live with family or on campus in either Cauthorn Hall (now Fairbanks Hall) or Waldo Hall, could expect to pay ten to twenty dollars per semester for rooming, depending on whether they chose a single or a double room. Male students, for whom no campus housing was available, could find lodging in private homes for approximately sixteen to twenty dollars a month, culminating in a yearly expense that might approach two-hundred dollars at the high end. Excluding funds for transportation, amusement, and other needs, such as clothing, a year at OAC was estimated to cost men between $346.20 – $401.20, and women $107.00 – $227.00.

Linus Pauling, 1917.

Pauling on campus, 1917

For Linus Pauling, who came from a humble background, finances were a great and continuing concern throughout his first year of college. In the diary that he maintained for much of the year, he meticulously tracked his spending habits in an effort to make every penny count. Before the school year began, he estimated that his expenses would sum to $297. However, by late October – just a month into his first term – he revised his initial approximation, noting

I have spent about $125 already. Board will be $175 more – 300 altogether. Then my numerous expenses will mount up. I do not expect to get off for less than $325.

In its annual catalogs, OAC emphasized that students could earn money for food and housing by working for a few hours every week. More specifically, according to the College, a student could work three hours a day for room expenses and four hours a day to cover both room and board costs. Administrative work and stenography were preferred by students, rendering these jobs in high demand.

To aid in the job searching process, the College provided a Student Employment Bureau. In highlighting this service, the College catalog took pains to stress that “no student should come expecting to earn money if he can do nothing well; skill is essential, as competition is quite severe in the College community as elsewhere.”

Leaving La Jolla

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Ava Helen and Linus Pauling near the beach at La Jolla, 1969.

[Pauling at UCSD, part 3 of 3]

In early 1969, Linus Pauling announced that he had accepted an appointment at Stanford University, and that he would be leaving the University of California, San Diego, where he had been on faculty for the past two academic years. In making this announcement, Pauling explained his feeling that Stanford would be a better fit for his orthomolecular research, in part because of the Palo Alto school’s well-established department of psychiatry. (Stanford was also significantly closer to the couple’s home at Deer Flat Ranch, which pleased Ava Helen Pauling immensely.)

Though Pauling and his colleagues had made significant progress on their psychiatric studies at UCSD, one problem that they had yet to conquer was the ability to control for other variables – especially those introduced by diet – that could contribute to variations in the levels of nutrients observed in test subjects’ bodies. Because of this, the group was not able to accurately track what Pauling called “individual gene defects.”

Moving the project to Stanford meant that the researchers would be afforded the opportunity to work with mental health patients at Sonoma State Hospital, all of whom were consuming the same diet, as provided by the Vivonex Corporation. Intrigued, Pauling coordinated with Vivonex to obtain copies of the diet that the company had tailored, the idea being that his control group could follow it as well.

By now, Pauling and his team felt confident that they had uncovered evidence of abnormal patterns of ascorbic acid elimination in individuals suffering from acute and chronic schizophrenia. He and his colleagues planned to continue their analyses of these abnormalities as they moved toward the identification of genetic defects, the creation of diagnostic tools, and the promotion of effective therapies for sufferers of mental disease.


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San Francisco Chronicle, May 27, 1969

Pauling’s final act at UCSD was appropriately radical. Shortly after the student occupation of People’s Park at UC-Berkeley and the subsequent death of James Rector, a Berkeley student who was shot by Alameda County Sherrifs in May 1969, UCSD students and faculty gathered to decide how they would respond to the tragedy at their sister school. Most of the faculty in attendance expressed a desire to simply mourn the death and voice their solidarity with Berkeley, but not to disrupt daily operations.

Pauling, on the other hand, stood in front of the hundreds of students who had gathered and encouraged them to go on strike in protest of recent actions taken by the National Guard, the police, and Governor Ronald Reagan. In so doing, Pauling claimed that the violence at Berkeley was

part of a pattern—the pattern of the war in Vietnam, the increasing militarism of the United States, the growth of the military-industrial complex, the suppression of the human rights of young men and others.

He further explained that those who held power would do whatever was necessary to protect and move forward with a deeply cynical plan. And in detailing his point of view, Pauling made it clear where he stood with regard to the next appropriate actions.

The plan is the continued economic exploitation of human beings. The purpose of the plan, which has been successful year after year, is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer…Everyone in the whole University of California, all the students, the faculties, the employees, should strike against the immorality and injustice of the act at Berkeley.

Less than a week later, Pauling participated in a march and rally at the State Capital in Sacramento, where he gave an impromptu speech that echoed his remarks in San Diego. “The university is not the property of Governor Reagan and the other regents,” he exhorted. “We must protest until the police and the National Guard are removed from the campus of the University of California…the university belongs to us, the students, the faculty, and the people.” So concluded Pauling’s final remarks on the UC system and its regents while a member of the UC faculty.


Although Pauling never worked within the University of California again, his short time at UCSD was undeniably productive and useful. For one, his two years in La Jolla marked a reemergence, of sorts, into the scientific realm following his frustrating tenure at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

UCSD also provided the opportunity for Pauling to incubate his partnership with Arthur Robinson. This relationship later proved key to the creation of the Institute for Orthomolecular Medicine, known today as the Linus Pauling Institute. The collaboration also provided a strong foundation from which Pauling worked doggedly to expand his research on all manner of topics related to orthomolecular medicine. Though the work ultimately proved to be very controversial, as he left La Jolla, Pauling had every reason to be optimistic about the bold new direction that his research was taking.

Pauling at UCSD: Season of Tumult

 

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[Part 2 of 3 in a series exploring Linus Pauling’s years on faculty at the University of California, San Diego.]

As his program on orthomolecular psychiatry began to take off, Pauling’s work as an activist moved forward with as much zeal as ever. Despite criticism that his association with the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI) and his protests against the Vietnam War made no sense in the context of his scientific career, Pauling had stopped viewing his interests as an activist and his scientific research as being separate branches of a single life.

Pauling happened to be at the University of Massachusetts a mere five days after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Invited to deliver a series of lectures as the university’s first Distinguished Professor, Pauling fashioned his remarks around the topic of the human aspect of scientific discoveries. Reflecting on the tumult of the previous week, Pauling told his audience that it was not enough to mourn the fallen civil rights leader. Rather, individuals of good conscience were obligated to carry King’s legacy forward by continuing the work that he began.

In keeping with this theme over the course of his lectures, Pauling emphasized the scientist’s responsibility to ensure that discoveries be used for the good of all humanity and society, rather than in support of war and human suffering. Scientific inquiry should also emphasize solutions to current issues, he felt, pointing to the lack of equality in access to medical care in the United States as one such issue. Pauling saw his work in orthomolecular medicine as potentially solving this problem: vitamins were fairly inexpensive, more accessible, and could, he believed, significantly improve one’s mental and physical well-being.


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Notes used by Pauling for his talk, “The Scientific Revolution,” delivered as a component of the lecture series, “The Revolutionary Age, the Challenge to Man,” March 3, 1968.

Pauling made similar connections to his work on sickle cell anemia.

Though he was no longer involved in the daily operations of the CSDI, he continued to participate in a public lecture series that the center sponsored throughout his time in San Diego. In one contribution to a series titled “The Revolutionary Age: The Challenge to Man,” Pauling put forth a potential solution to sickle cell disease. As science had succeeded in identifying the gene mutation responsible for the disease, Pauling believed that forms of social control could be used to prevent carriers of the mutation from marrying and procreating. Over time, Pauling reasoned, the mutation would eventually be phased out.

Pauling specifically called for the drafting of laws that would require genetic testing before marriage. Should tests of this sort reveal that two heterozygotes (individuals carrying one normal chromosome and one mutation) intended to marry, their application for a license would be denied. Pauling put forth similar ideas about restricting the number of children that a couple could have if one parent was shown to be a carrier for sickle cell trait.

In proposing these ideas, Pauling aimed to ensure that his discovery of the molecular basis of sickle cell disease was used to decrease human suffering. Likewise, he felt that whatever hardships the laws that he proposed might cause in the short run, the future benefits accrued from the gradual elimination of the disease would justify the legislation.

Partly because he called this approach “negative eugenics,” Pauling came into harsh criticism for his point of view; indeed, his ideas on this topic remain controversial today. In a number of the lectures that he delivered around the time of his CSDI talk, however, Pauling took pains to clarify that his perspective was not aligned with the broader field of eugenics, a body of thought to which he was opposed. On the contrary, Pauling’s focus was purely genetic and his specific motivation was borne out of a desire to eliminate harmful genetic conditions.


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Bruno Zimm. Credit: University of California, San Diego

At the end of February 1968, Pauling turned 67 year old, and the University of California regents used his age as a mechanism to hold up discussions about his obtaining a permanent appointment in San Diego. Sixty-seven, the board argued, was the typical retiring age within the UC system. Moreover, the UC regents were empowered to veto any age-related retirement exceptions and, given his radical political views, Pauling was unlikely to receive any support at all from the group, much less an exception.

One of the stated reasons why the regents harbored concerns about Pauling’s politics was his increasingly strident rhetoric. Pauling frequently commended student strikes and demonstrations, and although he emphasized nonviolence as the most effective means to foster social change, he encouraged students to recognize that authorities may incite violence through tactics of their own. In these cases, he felt that retaliation was justified, even necessary.

Pauling also believed that the regents and their trustees wielded too much power; for him they were part of a system that largely inhibited social progress and took power away from students. For their part, the regents saw Pauling in a similar light: a dangerously powerful radical who was constraining the university’s capacity to grow.

Realizing that, in all likelihood, Pauling was soon to be forced out, his UCSD colleagues Fred Wall and Bruno Zimm began searching for a way to shift the governing authority for his reappointment to the university president, Charles Hitch, with whom Pauling had maintained a positive relationship. After months of negotiations, Zimm succeeded in winning for Pauling a second year-long appointment.

Pauling expressed gratitude to Zimm for his efforts, but the slim possibility of a permanent position at UCSD had emerged as a source of lingering dismay. Looking for a longer term academic home, Pauling began considering other universities that might also provide better support for his research.

Over time, Ava Helen had also found herself frustrated with UCSD and La Jolla in general. In particular, she disliked their rental house and missed their previous home in Santa Barbara, where she had been able to tend a beautiful garden. As 1968 moved forward, the couple began spending more and more time at Deer Flat Ranch, with Ava Helen hinting that she would like to make the ranch their permanent home in the coming years.