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.”

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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.

Pauling at UC-San Diego

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[Part 1 of 3]

We have written previously about Linus Pauling’s affiliation with the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI), and also of the difficulties that he encountered in what ultimately proved to be a doomed attempt at securing a position at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1964. Over the next three weeks, we will focus on the years that Pauling spent at the University of California, San Diego, the institution where he began his experimental work in orthomolecular medicine. As we will see, Pauling’s tenure at UCSD, though short-lived, offered him the opportunity to pursue a mission that he had initially sought out, and failed to obtain, at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions: the application of scientific and medical research to political and social issues.


In 1966, UCSD Vice Chancellor for Research Fred Wall, an accomplished chemist who was eager to rectify the disappointment that Pauling had experienced with UC-Santa Barbara, invited Pauling to join the faculty at UC-San Diego. Pauling was initially hesitant. He remembered all too well the hostility that informed University of California Chancellor Vernon Cheadle’s refusal to consider his appointment at UCSB, a position that was fully supported by the UC regents. This history fresh in mind, Pauling saw no reason why he would be permitted to teach at UCSD; afterall, his political views hadn’t changed over the past two years and he’d become, if anything, even more vocal about them.

This time, however, Pauling’s case received far more support. For one, UCSD’s chancellor, John Galbraith, fought hard to garner faculty endorsement of a petition that aimed to

urge that every effort be made not only to induce him to accept the present appointment assured for one year, but also to press with all means possible for its renewal for whatever periods Dr. Pauling and the faculty involved agree to be appropriate.

Galbraith likewise went out of his way to praise Pauling’s excellent lecturing ability as being a potential asset to faculty and students alike. Similarly, he affirmed that Pauling’s appointment would prove valuable not only to the chemistry department, but to the physics and biology departments as well. In due course, faculty in all three departments signed the petition and the chemistry department unanimously voted in favor of Pauling’s appointment.

Pauling, buoyed by this strong show of support, accepted a one-year appointment with the university, a contract that carried with it the understanding that a tenured position might be offered in the coming years, so long as the UC regents didn’t interfere.


A letter from Ava Helen Pauling to her son Peter, as well as a statement made by Pauling in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Newsletter, indicate that his initial take on UCSD was a positive one. Perhaps most importantly, the university offered him the means to return to scientific research, a clear source of invigoration following two years at the CSDI, which was not capable of providing him with adequate lab space. In her letter to Peter, Ava Helen confirmed this new feeling of enthusiasm, particularly as it was coupled with exciting, if nascent, investigations on orthomolecular topics. Pauling himself called UCSD a “first-rate” institution and expressed his satisfaction with the top scientific and medical researchers who had made it their academic home.

It didn’t take long for Ava Helen to find a house to rent in La Jolla and shortly thereafter, in September 1967, Pauling arrived at his new office on the UCSD campus. In their initial meetings, Bruno Zimm, the chemistry department chairman at the time, encouraged Pauling to develop customized coursework that might explore specialized subjects of Pauling’s choosing over the upcoming terms. Pauling replied that it was his preference to focus predominantly on research, as his salary was coming entirely from research funds. He remained active on campus however, participating enthusiastically in a lecture series targeting first year students.


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Linus Pauling, 1967.

Shortly after settling in, Pauling began partnering with Arthur Robinson, a former student at Caltech, and now an assistant professor in the UCSD biology department. Together, the duo would tackle Pauling’s latest research quest: an exploration of orthomolecular medicine. This fruitful collaboration eventually led to their co-founding of the Institute for Orthomolecular Medicine, now known as the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Pauling’s research was being supported by UCSD as well as lingering funds from CSDI, but soon it became clear that his team would need additional resources. As he delved further into his orthomolecular program, Pauling estimated that the work that he had in mind would take at least five years, a length of time that was extended, in part, by the small size of his research team. In addition to Pauling and Robinson, the UCSD group consisted of two lab technicians (Sue Oxley and Maida Bergeson), a post-graduate resident (Ian Keaveny), and two graduate students (John and Margaret Blethen).

When applying for grants, Pauling described his research as seeking to discover better diagnostic and treatment methods for mental illness. In his applications, Pauling asked mainly for equipment funds, and he usually received what he wanted. Pretty quickly, his team found that vapor-phase chromatography – a process that had been suggested by Robinson at the outset of the project – was the most effective technique for engaging in quantitative analysis, and the grant applications that followed sought to enhance these capabilities in the laboratory.

Pauling’s goal during these first years was to uncover and establish a link between mental illness and deficiencies of various vitamins. At the outset, the team specifically planned to look at the correlation between fluctuations in mental health and variations in intake of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), nicotinic acid (B3), cyanocobalamin (B12), and pyridoxine (B6). Pauling believed that the brain and nervous system were especially sensitive to molecular composition and structure, and that certain mental illnesses were actually a problem of localized cerebral deficiency. This was, in essence, the guiding principle behind much of the team’s work.

Pauling also felt that schizophrenia had not received adequate scientific study, and so the group decided to focus their primary research on schizophrenics. If all went according to plan, the following three years would be devoted to developing diagnostic tools to identify deficiencies as well as effective therapies for correcting the deficiencies. The researchers would also use this time to explore the impact and consequences of other vitamin deficiencies. Though enthusiastic about this program, in several of his publications and speeches on the topic Pauling took pains to present orthomolecular therapy as being an adjunct to, and not a replacement for, traditional methods such as psychoanalysis, antipsychotics, and antidepressants.


During the CSDI years, Pauling’s grant funding from the National Science Foundation had been continuously delayed, largely because he didn’t have a lab in which to conduct the work. Once he was established at UCSD however, the NSF was quick to award him the grant money that he’d long ago requested. Pauling also received funding from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and additional monies from the CSDI were likewise set aside, should he need them.

The group began working in earnest in late 1967, focusing on measurements of vitamin absorption, and by April 1968, Pauling had published his introductory paper, “Orthomolecular Psychiatry,” in Science. The article, which proved influential, drew from the existing literature, focusing especially on a study by Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond, who had reported improvement in mentally ill patients treated with a regimen of nicotinic acid and nicotinamide.

In short order, Pauling began to receive a growing volume of letters from community members who had been directly or indirectly affected by mental illness. Pauling took care in replying to these correspondents, often pointing them toward additional resources for more information and encouraging them to write again if they had further questions. The response from medical researchers and physicians to Pauling’s paper was mixed; on the whole, they remained largely unimpressed with Pauling’s work. Nonetheless, Pauling never failed to emphasize the importance of his research, and the general public responded favorably to this confidence.

A Visit to Abergwenlais Mill

[Ed Note: We recently learned about a film, The Golden Molecule, that was produced in 2002 and includes unique footage of Peter Pauling at his home in Wales. In today’s post, the maker of this film, Taslima Khan, shares her memories of Peter, his wife Alicia, and the home that they shared.]

Click here to view The Golden Molecule (2002) on Vimeo.

In 2001/02, I embarked on a Master’s course in Science Media Production in London. Part of that course involved making a science-related graduation film or radio programme. I chose to make a film. Since it was 2002, a year before the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, I thought a re-examination of that discovery would be interesting film to attempt to make. The first step was to identify some interviewees.

Back in 2002 the internet was around but it wasn’t as vast as it is now, and the information resources we have today did not exist. Pages on the discovery of the structure of DNA, etc. were few and far between, so the only way to seek any interviewees was to open James Watson’s book, The Double Helix, and page by page note the name of every person mentioned in it. A long list in hand, I returned to the internet and searched for them. Jim Watson, and the late Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, were alive, but my £50.00 budget wouldn’t stretch to a visit to the USA in the unlikely event Watson or Crick entertained the idea of an interview with me. So, I approached King’s College London several times to see if I could meet Professor Wilkins – it was a “no” when they eventually replied. I continued down the list without much luck: fifty years is a long time to try and relocate people. Eventually, Peter’s name was next on my list.

I found a reference to Peter working at University College London, and a photograph of a laboratory dustbin that had apparently been in Peter’s lab in the Department of Chemistry. And that was it. There was no more information.

Like previous efforts, I felt there was no great hope of success, but I emailed the Chemistry Department at UCL requesting contact information for Peter, or details of anyone who knew him. Amazingly, a few days later, I received a reply. I was so happy. And relieved. An Emeritus Professor from Peter’s old department emailed me Peter’s telephone number. I telephoned the number and Peter answered…

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The road to Abergwenlais Mill.

Peter and Alicia lived in a rural part of Wales, the kind of place where you go down long and narrow winding country roads with severe corners. If another car is coming the other way, you clench everything hoping the car would miraculously shrink in size too. It is also a Welsh speaking part of the country where they can spot a stranger a mile away, so locals, though friendly, could be a little intimidating.

I have to admit I was nervous as we approached Peter’s home and my mind was focused on getting a good interview. Consequently, I didn’t really notice the Mill itself where Peter and Alicia lived, except that it looked like a large, white, old, rural farmhouse, beautifully nestling in the Welsh countryside. Inside, Peter sat next to a large inglenook fireplace containing a huge wood burner and many logs. I seem to remember too, a spiral staircase that Peter went up to get some photographic plates of his research to show me.

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The mill where Peter and Alicia Pauling built their home.

From our first meeting, I found Peter to be a gregarious, funny, serious, smart, and pleasant man. He had a lot of conversation and was quite mischievous. There was a definite twinkle in his eye highly suggestive, to me, of an exuberant past. Unfortunately he didn’t, or wouldn’t, elaborate. I did ask. To give you an idea, I noted this down:

Peter Pauling: “I think I’ve said but never printed, that Cambridge was full of English men and consequently there was a shortage of males! But it certainly was full of au pair girls.”

There was also mention of him enjoying Peterhouse College life in Cambridge:

Peter Pauling: “My academic career, scientific research career, was almost terminated in 1953 because Bragg was unhappy with me. The undergraduates at Peterhouse, it was their fault, because instead of being in the lab doing something, I was out rowing the bow in the gentlemen’s eight. The Peterhouse fifth boat!”

He chained smoked pretty much throughout our interview. He mentioned cancer and hospital visits and his lungs, and maybe even chemotherapy, but that was in passing. It wasn’t the main topic but it was something that was there. He didn’t complain but only mentioned tiredness. He was certainly a character.

Alicia was quieter. A very able lady, she demonstrably kept her eye on Peter as she looked after him and attended his needs. Sometimes she sat in on the interview or stayed mainly in the kitchen. She appeared used to Peter getting visitors from here, there and everywhere and took it in her stride; such as Jim Watson and his wife, who visited them every summer. They seemed a very content partnership.

Peter had kindly arranged overnight accommodation for me and my colleague at a local Inn, and it was there we had dinner together before a big interview session the next day. As we walked in, the locals raised their heads to see who was arriving. Established members of their community, there was a murmur of recognition for Peter and Alicia, and some customers raised their glasses in greeting. My colleague and I as strangers, I felt, aroused general interest, but as we were with Peter and Alicia, our presence didn’t seem an uncommon occurrence. Our meals were huge and both Alicia and Peter ate, and drank, and conversed, joyfully. All in all, they were entertaining and welcoming company.

Looking back, I am conflicted in a way. It remains of great regret that when I met Peter I knew so little about him outside of the DNA story. Having read more about his research and life since on the Pauling Blog, it would have been interesting ask him about those memories. Conversely, I interviewed the man I met and not the man I’ve since read about, and that is possibly a good thing too. Although our meetings were brief, Peter was an entertaining, joyful and erudite interviewee who liked a drink, to smoke, and to recall stories from the science world he inhabited, and perhaps (he’d admit) somewhat luckily, been a part of.

The Case of the Black Dog of San Pasqual

Linda Pauling and her father enjoying a calmer moment with a dog in 1934.

[In honor of the dog days of summer, we present here a fictional “L.A. noir” retelling of real events documented by Linus Pauling on July 19, 1961.]

The sun beat down on Pasadena in the middle of the Summer in California, and the pavement was so hot you could cook an egg, if you liked your egg full of broken glass and cigarette butts instead of salt and pepper.

Linus Pauling didn’t, so he had gone out to lunch instead. It was just after 1 o’clock in the afternoon on an entirely typical Wednesday, and the professor was headed back to the campus of the California Institute of Technology, where he was teaching chemistry. He did it mostly for the chemistry, which was why he had met a girl he eventually married as an instructor back in Oregon, but the teaching was the part that paid (at least, in legal American tender).

California agreed with Pauling, though he didn’t always agree with it. The back yard of a house on San Pasqual Street he was walking past was quite the example. The professor shook his head in despair. Some people just don’t know how to take care of the world we live in. The place was overgrown, the grass was dead, and there was a trash bag next to the road and… Wait a minute, Pauling scratched his head in wonderment. Is that dog off its leash?

A large black French Poodle ran up to a wire fence and barked at him. Strange, Pauling considered. I’m not whistling or doing anything to provoke this animal in any way… why would this dog be so agitated? But, with his mind still buzzing over questions of atomic valences he had been puzzling over back at the lab, he quickly put the thought away as the dog ran off farther down the fence line behind some hedges.

Pauling had only gone another five or six strides down the sidewalk when suddenly, in a flash of white blinding pain, his arm was seized. Good God! Has it been lying in wait for me? The sleeve of his shirt tore and was speckled with blood, and he howled in agony as the dog’s gleaming teeth sank back behind the fence while the thunderous barking continued. Pauling, clutching ineffectually at his mangled appendage, staggered from the scene of the crime in a blur. Wounded though he was, his keen scientific mind analyzed the situation with precision and clarity. The sidewalk was only five feet wide. The animal approximately four feet long. For it to place its hind legs on the fence and lean over half its body out over the edge to attack me in such a way, it must have learned this behavior over many repeated attempts…

The dog had almost certainly seen him coming, barked at him, and noting his direction, had retreated to farther down the sidewalk where it could hide behind a hedge row and launch a surprise attack. The professor’s mind has honed by the adrenaline now coursing through his veins, and he took stock of the situation.

Two gashes on the left arm, each between one-half and five-eighths of an inch long, two puncture wounds made by the dog’s teeth, and one torn shirt which Mama will most likely be thankful not to press again. She’s always complained about the color ‘mustard’ on a man… said its the sort of thing that should only be on a shirt if you’re a sloppy eater. He almost smiled in spite of himself.

At least I wasn’t wearing my favorite coat…

But even Pauling’s trademark optimism quickly disintegrated as the dark nature of the event dawned on him: After all, there were no witnesses.

This was no accident. The dog had purposely prepared to attack him, lurking in the shadows, just biding its time, waiting to jump him. Obviously the whole thing was a set up. Pauling felt dizzied with his failure to see it coming. But who was behind it all? Though there were no witnesses to the savaging he had received, Pauling brazenly approached the house in question and found two women within. It was high time he got some answers.

Continue reading

Stylish to the End

[An examination of Linus Pauling’s sense of style during the 1980s and 1990s. Part 4 of 4.]

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At Deer Flat Ranch with Ava Helen near the end of her life, 1981.

 

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A professional portrait shot on the ocean adjacent to the ranch, 1983. Credit: Joe McNally.

 

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In black tie with Jill Sackler and Andy Warhol, New York City, 1985.

 

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Posing for yet another bust, 1986.

 

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Taking a moment at the ranch, 1987.

 

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In his study at the ranch, 1987.

 

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On the deck at the ranch with Werner Baumgartner, a fellow chemist. 1987.

 

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The red jacket makes another appearance, 1989.

 

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Seated in the original Special Collections reading room at the Kerr Library, Oregon State University. 1990.

 

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Celebrating his 92nd birthday with his sister Pauline, 1993.

 

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Later on in 1993. By now, Pauling’s health had begun to deteriorate as his cancer worsened.

 

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With son-in-law Barclay Kamb, grandson Sasha Kamb, and a new grandchild, 1994.