The Architecture of Molecules

arch-mol

[Part 2 of 2]

By the end of the 1950s, Roger Hayward had retired from his professional work as an architect at the same time that his career as an illustrator was reaching its peak. And with this came a new measure of security: having worked chiefly as a freelancer in the past, Hayward signed a contract in the early 1960s that helped to solidify his position as a technical artist.

The contract that Hayward signed was with W.H. Freeman & Company, a San Francisco-based publishing house that rose out of relative obscurity primarily by publishing Linus Pauling’s hugely popular textbook, General Chemistry. First released commercially in 1948 (with illustrations by Roger Hayward), General Chemistry went through two more stateside editions, the last appearing in 1970.

Such was the pedagogical import of General Chemistry that it was translated into at least eleven languages, including Gujarati, Hebrew, Swedish and Romanian. Indeed, for several years Pauling made more money off of royalties from his textbook than he did from his Caltech salary. The impact of the book was similarly lucrative for the publishing house and its success cemented a long and close connection between the Freeman firm and Pauling.

The Double Molecules of Acetic Acid. Pastel drawing by Roger Hayward.  As with all of the pastels used as illustrations with this blog post, the Acetic Acid pastel shown here was not the final version published in "The Architecture of Molecules."

The Double Molecules of Acetic Acid. Pastel drawing by Roger Hayward. As with all of the pastels used as illustrations with this blog post, the Acetic Acid pastel shown here was not the final version published in “The Architecture of Molecules.”

For many years W.H. Freeman & Co. had also collaborated with Scientific American, publishing a selection of the magazine’s articles as offprints. Roger Hayward often found himself in the middle of this collaboration as he frequently illustrated publications for both companies.

The partnership between the two organizations proved so fruitful that, in 1964, they decided to merge, the hope being that W.H. Freeman might grow into the nation’s leading publisher of scientific texts. The joining of these two companies that he knew so well was a positive turn of events for Hayward, in part because it led to the publication of what would become his most acclaimed work, The Architecture of Molecules. A beautiful and innovative book co-authored with Linus Pauling, The Architecture of Molecules ultimately sold over 15,000 copies and featured some of Hayward’s best-known scientific illustrations.


The structure of Diamond.

The Structure of Diamond.

In his papers, Hayward’s first mention of the book appears in a letter written in March 1964 to his long-time friend and colleague John Strong, then living in Baltimore, Maryland.  In it, Hayward mentions in passing

I have just signed up to illustrate a Molecular Architecture book with Linus. The Freeman & Co. are to publish and all the figures are to be in color. I expect something like 75 figures some of which I have already done.

The idea behind the new book was to use illustrations to attract audiences from all backgrounds to an informative work on structural chemistry. The volume also represented one of W.H. Freeman’s first attempts to step away from strictly academic subjects in favor of publishing a scientific work marketed to a non-academic demographic.

Though not a technical monograph, The Architecture of Molecules was scientifically exacting in its own way. The book features Hayward’s colorful pastel conceptualizations of molecules and basic chemical bonds, and presents them side-by-side with Pauling’s concise but informative explanations of what the reader is looking at. From the first, the publication was very much a joint Hayward-Pauling project and Pauling, as with his publisher, saw the book as a tool to broaden the public’s understanding of chemistry in “an atomic age.”

The Ferrocene Molecule.

The Ferrocene Molecule.

It stood to reason then that work on the book was divided, with each author showing off some of their best qualities in their respective contributions. Hayward, of course, made it his duty to illustrate molecules with the utmost geometric and proportional accuracy. Likewise, Pauling provided pithy descriptions of the molecules and bonds being depicted, and did so in the inimitable style that characterized so much of his writing.  Witness, for example, Pauling’s discussion of Left-Handed and Right-Handed Molecules of Alanine:

There are two kinds of alanine molecules, which differ in the arrangement of the four groups around the central carbon atom. These molecules are mirror images of one another. The molecules of one kind are called D-alanine (D for Latin dextro, right), and those of the other kind L-alanine (L for Latin laevo, left). Only L-alanine occurs in living organisms as part of the structure of protein molecules.

Other amino acids, with the exception of glycine, also may exist both as D molecules and as L molecules, and in every case it is the L molecule that is involved in the protein molecules of living organisms. Some of the D-amino acids cannot serve as nutrients, and may be harmful to life.

In Through the Looking Glass Alice said, ‘Perhaps looking-glass milk isn’t good to drink.’ When this book was written, in 1871, nobody knew that protein molecules are built of the left-handed amino acids; but Alice was justified in raising the question. The answer is that looking-glass milk is not good to drink.


Folding the Polypeptide Chain.

Folding the Polypeptide Chain.

“My major asset in my work,” Hayward once wrote,” is an interest in and skill in three-dimensional thinking. This is coupled with a great interest in how things are put together both as an arrangement in space and in the physical sense.” In this sense, The Architecture of Molecules nicely summarizes Hayward’s true passions.

And in Pauling, Hayward was teamed with a more than capable second set of eyes. Most notably, Pauling’s familiarity with the time period’s cutting edge research enabled him to make suggestions for updates to some of the illustrations that Hayward already had in hand. His urgings also resulted in the inclusion of crystal structures as a more significant part of the book than was originally envisioned.

At various points throughout its 120 pages, The Architecture of Molecules also stresses the importance of understanding how the basic principles of chemistry are part of every-day life. Structures like the heme molecule and the alpha helix are therefore presented as exciting examples of newly discovered molecular structures that play a central role in the lives of all beings.


The Tetragonal Boron Crystal.

The Tetragonal Boron Crystal.

After hitting the market late in 1964, The Architecture of Molecules received generally positive reviews, though some critics took pains to point out that the book represented “Pauling’s view of the universe at the molecular level.” At the time, knowledge of the structure of atoms and molecules remained mostly based in theory – microscopes of the era still could not see on the molecular level and x-ray diffraction remained a technique that required years of practice to master – and Pauling’s ideas on chemical bonds, while hugely influential, were not universally accepted.

The increased use of x-ray diffraction within the discipline, however, further pressed the need for a compilation of illustrated molecules to be used as a tool for teaching chemistry. Pauling was also a firm believer that students would learn better if they understood the physical characteristics of chemical compounds. Based as they were in the latest findings, the illustrations featured in Pauling and Hayward’s book represented a contemporary vision of molecular structure.

The Architecture of Molecules clearly fit a niche and it sold relatively well – over 12,000 copies purchased in the U.S. and another 3,500 overseas.  Part of the book’s foreign gross came by way of two translations; a Japanese version appeared in 1967 and a German edition was released two years later.

Today The Architecture of Molecules certainly stands as Roger Hayward’s highest profile publication, and arguably his most important. Hayward was a huge talent, remarkable in his ability to combine a desire for scientific development with a strong artistic aesthetic. Never formally trained as a scientist, Hayward’s work as an illustrator and as a colleague of some of the top researchers of his time earned for him a permanent place in the history of science communication and education.

Illustrating Science

Pastel drawing of the molecular structure of molybdenumdichloride. By Roger Hayward, 1964.

Pastel drawing of the molecular structure of molybdenumdichloride. By Roger Hayward, 1964.

[Ed Note: Of the thirteen books that Linus Pauling authored or edited, The Architecture of Molecules stands out as being very different. A slender volume of just over 100 pages, the 1964 publication consists almost entirely of beautiful and intricate pastel representations of molecular structures drawn by Roger Hayward and contextualized with short scientific descriptions authored by Pauling.  This is post 1 of 2 exploring the back story behind this unique book as well as its publication.]

It is not unusual to find pictures of Linus Pauling surrounded by three-dimensional molecular models or with drawings of molecules and their bonds covering his work space. Pauling believed that understanding the physical properties of molecules was crucial to understanding their chemical interactions. This guiding principle made Pauling an influential figure in his use of models and illustrations to explain the properties of substances.

Pauling’s 1947 textbook, General Chemistry, became a best-seller in part because because it presented novel new methods for teaching chemistry at the undergraduate level. The book incorporated quantum physics, atomic theory and real-world examples in explaining basic chemical principles, and a key feature of the text was that it used illustrations like nobody else had done before. Prior to the publication of General Chemistry, the properties of atoms and molecular bonding were described and taught in such a way that students were required to think abstractly about chemical reactions without a full understanding of the physical interactions that caused these reactions. General Chemistry changed all that.

From his high school years through his post-graduate studies, Pauling had experienced numerous approaches to teaching chemistry. Pauling, of course, had been asked to teach introductory chemistry while himself an undergraduate at Oregon Agricultural College, and it was during a similar stint teaching freshman as a graduate student at Caltech that Pauling began to devise a plan for his revolutionary textbook. He was certain that in this new project, illustrations and diagrams would serve an essential role in engaging students and helping them to understand the fundamentals of chemistry.

Luckily for Pauling, members of the Caltech faculty had already developed a close connection with an unusually skilled Pasadena artist, inventor and architect – Roger Hayward. His keen ability to illustrate scientific concepts in an accurate and accessible way made him the perfect choice to create the visuals for Pauling’s textbook.


Illustration by Roger Hayward of a high-vacuum apparatus as published in Procedures in Experimental Physics, 1938.

Illustration by Roger Hayward of a high-vacuum apparatus as published in Procedures in Experimental Physics, 1938.

A trained architect, Roger Hayward’s career path was unique, to say the least. A recent transplant from the East Coast when the Depression hit, Hayward was forced to expand his occupational enterprises well beyond architecture, as sour economic times dried up the building design market for several years running. While this was surely a difficult transition for Hayward, the period did grant him the opportunity to cultivate his creativity and his talents in many other fields of interest.

As he endeavored to make ends meet, Hayward’s artistic inclinations led him to explore broad new avenues, from painting to puppeteering. For a time, he even satisfied his interests in scientific experimentation by performing research in the field of optics and ballistics at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, studies which ultimately resulted in his attaining seven patents for optical devices and procedures. Indeed, Hayward had already made a place for himself in the sciences by the time that Pauling approached him with the offer to illustrate General Chemistry. Aside from his optics work, Hayward had already illustrated a number of scientific publications, including a textbook, Procedures in Experimental Physics.

The principal author of Procedures in Experimental Physics was Hayward’s close friend John D. Strong, a professor of physics and astronomy at Caltech. Strong felt comfortable collaborating with Hayward because he was very familiar with his friend’s interests in science and art, and he appreciated his strong aptitude in both disciplines. Procedures in Experimental Physics was a success, and both Strong and Hayward received good reviews for their work.

Buoyed by this strong critical reception, Hayward’s continuing interest and understanding of architecture, art and science positioned him well within the community of scientific illustrators. As with others, Hayward was adept at creating an aesthetically appealing yet technically precise illustration. But the trait that really set him apart was the pleasure that he took in researching the science behind his assignments. In many respects, Hayward was as much a scientist as he was an artist.


Roger Hayward, ca. 1960s.

Roger Hayward, ca. 1960s.

Published in 1938, Procedures in Experimental Physics marked the beginning of a new and prosperous chapter of Hayward’s unique career. During this period, scientific illustration would be the main focus of his energies, with architecture and the fine arts slipping well into the background. As his reputation grew, he found regular work with Scientific American, a popular science magazine, and was commonly sought out by professors at Caltech. It was during this time as well that Pauling became acquainted with Hayward. Not surprisingly, when Pauling needed to find an illustrator for his first college text book, his thoughts immediately turned to Hayward.

Working with Pauling, however, was not the same as working with John Strong. Strong had such a high appreciation for Hayward’s work as both a scientist and an artist that he split royalties on basis of space coverage. This meant that Strong assigned as much monetary value to Hayward’s illustrations as he did to his other co-authors’ written work. Strong’s perspective, however, was rather unique and when Pauling first asked Hayward to illustrate General Chemistry, he did not expect the illustrations to cost as much as Hayward billed.

Most scientists, including Pauling, believed that the training, research and experimentation from which a text results have more merit than do illustrations. Though he placed a premium on visual depictions, in Pauling’s mind it seemed fair to assign more value to the text than to the illustration. Pauling’s publisher, William Freeman of W.H. Freeman & Co., agreed with Pauling and referred to Hayward as “a bit of a prima donna” because he believed that Hayward overestimated the value of his work. In his correspondence with Pauling, Freeman also revealed that Hayward had regularly come into conflict with his firm over compensation issues. The company, however, continued to contract with Hayward simply because his illustrations were unsurpassed.

After settling their differences, Pauling and Hayward began to bond over their similar interests. By then, John Strong had taken a position in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University. His closest science-minded friend now on the other side of the country, Hayward increasingly came to use his connection with Pauling to further discussions on scientific advances.

Hayward’s background as an artist and architect also enabled his exploration of three-dimensional molecular models, a pursuit of special affinity for Pauling, and once again, the two began discussing each other’s ideas. Pauling suggested that Hayward use models to convey recent findings in structural chemistry, especially regarding crystal structure. Gradually, through many conversations, Pauling too came to recognize Hayward as a scientist, rather than merely a skilled artist.

Alexander Rich, 1924-2015

Alexander Rich. Photo by Donna Coveney.

Alexander Rich. Photo by Donna Coveney.

Today we remember Dr. Alexander Rich, a student and colleague of Linus Pauling who passed away in April at the age of 90. Rich and Pauling were among the group of scientists who embarked on one of the most exciting scientific quests of the 20th century – the so-called “race for DNA.” Rich’s friends and colleagues also remember him for his endless desire to know more about the processes propelling life, a trait that is evident in his career as a biochemist. According to Pauling, this holistic interest in and understanding of science allowed Rich to make invaluable contributions to multiple disciplines.

Nucleic acids – the carriers of genetic information within a cell’s nucleus – were first identified in 1868 when Friedrich Miescher isolated the DNA compound for the first time. For some eighty-five years, however, the structure of DNA remained undescribed. In the 1940s and 1950s, scientists around the world began to focus more on the problem, working to build an accurate model of the DNA molecule in hopes of fully understanding its role in the process of gene expression.

In 1953, using Rosalind Franklin’s experimental data, James Watson and Francis Crick published their proposal of a double helical structure for the DNA molecule, and quickly became scientific celebrities once their model was deemed correct. Like Rosalind Franklin and, indeed, Linus Pauling, Alexander Rich was among the many researchers whose work and contributions to the understanding of proteins and nucleic acids abetted Watson and Crick’s discovery of the DNA molecule’s structure.


rich-young

Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1924, Alexander Rich served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, then went on to Harvard University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences in 1947 and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1949. Soon after receiving his medical degree, he moved to Pasadena, where he worked as a research fellow in Linus Pauling’s lab at the California Institute of Technology, and where he lived with future Nobel laureate Martin Karplus, a fellow student of Pauling’s.

Blessed with a nimble mind, Rich was able to jump back and forth between chemistry and biology as his research interests progressed, all the while paying close attention to the broader implications of his research for the field of medicine. Rich became particularly well-known for his work on the structure and chemistry of fiber compounds, research which quickly became useful to the study of nucleic acids. By isolating strands of nucleic acids within fibrous compounds, Rich was able to produce images of their structure.

Though his pictures were not as clear or impactful as those captured by Rosalind Franklin, many have since posited that his work could have been of equal significance to Franklin’s had Caltech housed more fine-focus x-ray equipment.  Regardless, Rich was held in high esteem by Watson and Crick who, before publishing their DNA structure, asked that Rich review their work and corroborate their ideas.

Collagen model built by Alexander Rich and Francis Crick. September 1955.

In the wake of Watson and Crick’s triumph, the structure of nucleic acids continued to intrigue Rich. This time around however, it was RNA that caught his attention. Like DNA, RNA carries genetic material and is vital to the formation of proteins. It is thus necessary to understand the structure and function of RNA to fully comprehend DNA’s role in protein formation.

Rich began research in this area during James Watson’s brief stay at Caltech, and some now speculate that Rich’s interest in RNA images led Watson to focus entirely on RNA. While in Pasadena, Rich and Watson collected different images of RNA in an attempt to understand its physical structure, but the x-ray crystallographic photographs available at the time were not sufficient enough to discern a conclusive model.

Rich’s stint at Caltech came to an end in 1954 and he subsequently moved into his own laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). While there he continued to delve into questions regarding the structure and composition of RNA. At the NIMH Rich was, at long last, successful in creating an image of RNA that provided hints about its structure. Rich concluded that RNA consists of a single-stranded nucleic acid that binds with complementary strands of RNA to form a temporary double helix – a process he described as molecular hybridization. Many were skeptical that a single-stranded nucleic acid could temporarily form a double helix, but Rich was able to show that this is made possible by the shedding of water molecules that comes about when the two strands bind.

Not only did this finding contribute enormously to the understanding of RNA’s structure and function, but Rich’s contributions to the understanding of molecular hybridization in nucleic acids has opened up many more possibilities. For example, polymerase chain reaction, a process used to identify genes, is based on the principle of hybridization. Today, methods of this sort are fundamental to all sorts of work in biotechnology and to the analysis of DNA.

Alexander Rich with Linus Pauling, among others, at a scientific meeting in the Soviet Union.  Image Source: Alexander Rich Collection.

Alexander Rich with Linus Pauling, among others, at a scientific meeting in the Soviet Union. Image Source: Alexander Rich Collection.

Following his tenure at the NIMH, Rich became a professor of Biophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, beginning in 1958 and lasting until his death. His investigations there included the discovery of Z-DNA, which is a type of DNA molecule that takes a zigzag form and follows a left-handed wind rather than the more common right-handed wind. His work at MIT also showed that protein synthesis occurs in a polysome – the name given to a cluster of Ribosomes that work together.

Alexander Rich received high honors for his contributions, including election to the National Academy of Sciences and receipt of the 1995 National Medal of Science – the highest scientific honor bestowed by the U.S. government.  It is no wonder then that Linus Pauling recalled his former pupil with great pride. “Of the several men with MD degrees who have worked with me,” he once noted, “I think that Dr. Rich may well be the one with the broadest grasp of science as a whole.”

Pauling’s Senior Class Oration

Illustration for the Forensics Club section of the 1923 OAC Beaver Yearbook.

Illustration for the Forensics Club section of the 1923 OAC Beaver Yearbook.

[Continuing our examination of the culture of oratory at Oregon Agricultural College during Pauling’s undergraduate years. Part 2 of 2]

This coming Saturday, Oregon State University will host its 146th commencement exercises.  As the campus buzzes with students finishing their finals and seniors looking forward to the pomp and circumstance that awaits, we turn our attention back to Linus Pauling, and a noteworthy speech that he gave just five days before he completed his undergraduate studies in Corvallis.


It is not given to every man to be unusually successful, to be extraordinarily talented, or to be exceptionally gifted to render services to the world. We can do no more than we are able, but by doing as much as we are able, by doing our best, we shall be accomplishing our task, and repaying our debt. For our college has given us something which will allow us to do more than we otherwise could; and we must do more than we otherwise would.

-Linus Pauling, Senior Class Oration, May 31, 1922

As we learned in our previous post on oratory at Oregon Agricultural College (OAC), forensics was an art form held in high esteem by the culture of the early in the twentieth century. The presence of a reputable orator at an institution symbolized a high level of cultural competence. For this reason, most colleges and universities of the time prioritized this activity and provided their students with the necessary tools to become competent public speakers. Consequently, being chosen to deliver a speech at any given event was considered to be an honor, and especially so at a high profile event.

During Linus Pauling’s years at OAC his close and lifelong friend, Paul Emmett, was heavily involved in the school’s forensics club, a likely reason why Pauling chose to join during his junior year. That year, Pauling entered competitive oratory for the first time and was chosen to represent his class in the inter-class competition, where he finished as a runner up for the title of college orator.

Although he came in second, Pauling’s achievement was impressive for a beginner, as oratory’s popularity and competitive nature was rapidly increasing at the time. Indeed, the year before Pauling joined the forensics club, the college had established a speech department and went from training only a handful of public speakers to a group of fifty to seventy-five orators per year, participating in ten annual competitions.

After 1921 Pauling no longer shows up in OAC’s forensics club records, but his participation in oratory at the school surely continued. Most notably, Pauling was chosen to deliver the senior class oration, an indication that his status as a prominent and respected speaker remained intact.

"Seniors Attend Farewell Convo," OAC Barometer, June 2, 1922.

“Seniors Attend Farewell Convo,” OAC Barometer, June 2, 1922.

Delivered on May 31, 1922, six days before commencement, the speech that Pauling prepared urged his fellow classmates to use the knowledge that they had gained at OAC to attack the problems facing society. Where his junior year oration, titled “Children of the Dawn,” felt simplistic and perhaps overly optimistic, Pauling’s senior class talk was characterized by its emphasis on personal responsibility and the “problems of the state,” a term that referred to the social and political issues that had emerged from the destruction of World War I. “Our lives are to stand as testimonials to the efficacy of the work that our college is doing,” Pauling said. “Education, true education, such as our own college gives us, is preparation both for a life of appreciation of the world and for a life of service to the world”

Another point that Pauling stressed in his address to the senior class was that of “repaying OAC.” It this, one might surmise that Pauling was speaking both of value gained from OAC and from the system of higher education as a whole. It is important to point out that the systematic killing of troops that characterized World War I had fractured the public’s feelings about research in the sciences. As noted by Pauling biographer Thomas Hager, a common argument at the time was that science was the cause of the war’s deadly nature. Out of this experience, numerous questions lingered. Should education work to propel science and technology? Was further development of science potentially harmful to society?

In this context, Pauling’s calls for individual responsibility and service to society can be viewed as a reaction against the negative connotations then being ascribed to various educational pursuits. And so it was that Pauling took pains to point out that OAC, Oregon’s land grant institution, “has contributed in a wonderful way to solving the multitude of problems arising in the state.” Likewise, near the conclusion of his talk:

This, then, is the way we can repay OAC – by service. Our college is founded on the idea of service, and we, its students, are the representatives of the college. It is upon us that the duty falls of carrying out that basic idea. We are going into the world inspired with the resolution of service, eager to show our love for our college and our appreciation of her work by being of service to our fellow men.

In emphasizing the idea that knowledge acquired at OAC was a tool that could be used for the benefit of society, Pauling’s speech makes the argument that the development of knowledge in any field cannot be intrinsically evil. Rather, each educated individual has the opportunity to render their knowledge in either beneficial or harmful ways to the greater population and, in Pauling’s view, bears a responsibility to use their talents for the improvement of society.


Pauling's senior class photo (lower left) and inscription (upper right), 1923 OAC Beaver Yearbook.

Pauling’s senior class photo (lower left) and inscription (upper right), 1923 OAC Beaver Yearbook.

The contents of his two major orations at OAC suggest that, even at the earliest stages of his career, Linus Pauling had developed a sense of the values that he intended to promote. For one, he was sure that the pure and applied sciences were important to improving the quality of life of all people. Pauling was also conscious of science’s potential for harm however, and as an undergraduate he began to promote the idea that the privileges of education carry with them with a responsibility to contribute to the greater good.

As Pauling’s career advanced, so too did his positive view of the future of science. After winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963, Pauling took the opportunity, during his Nobel address, to once again exclaim that those who have received the opportunity to study the physical world should devote themselves to becoming responsible citizen-scientists. An extension of ideas first expressed in the OAC Men’s Gymnasium in 1922, Pauling pointed out that scientists who were conscious of the possibilities that their knowledge opened up were morally obligated to share their knowledge of the physical world in ways that benefited humankind.

Children of the Dawn

children-dawn

[Post 1 of 2 focusing on the culture of oratory at Oregon Agricultural College during Pauling’s undergraduate years.]

Early in the 20th century, Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) – the institution now known as Oregon State University – was in the midst of rapid expansion and development. As new buildings sprung up and the student population steadily increased, the college was gradually acquiring all the markings of a venerable institution.

Prior to 1920, however, one such marking was still missing: a speech department. Viewed through a contemporary lens, it may be difficult to imagine the extent to which colleges of Pauling’s era prioritized and emphasized their linguistics departments. It is nonetheless true that, through the first half of the 20th century, the presence of eloquent orators on campus was a symbol of an institution’s cultural status.

Indeed, the focus on both oratory and debate at O.A.C. was, at this time, at least equal to the campus’ focus on athletics, music or drama. The college’s Forensics Club was regularly featured in the annual Beaver yearbook, with several pages dedicated to narrating club competitions. Likewise, the Barometer, OAC’s student newspaper, would at times publish up to six columns reporting on oratorical competitions in a single issue of the paper.

Oratory was so widely followed and competitive that an insert in the 1907-1908 Rooter’s Club booklet featured a cheer specifically created for OAC’s orators. Finally, in 1920, OAC established a speech department for the first time and thus was able to prepare a forensics team than was stronger than ever before.

"O.A.C. Yells" included in the 1907-1908 Rooter's Club book. Note the second  cheer written specifically for competitors in speech competitions.

“O.A.C. Yells” included in the 1907-1908 Rooter’s Club book. Note the second cheer written specifically for competitors in speech competitions.

The new speech department was a major asset to the college in part because speeches were used for more than oratorical competitions; oratory was a convention used to enhance the experience of nearly all campus events. Orators, for instance, might address the general student body or the college’s athletes before an athletic event in order to raise confidence and excitement in competitors and spectators alike. As stated in The O.A.C. Alumnus, a 1920s publication of the college alumni association, “forensic men and women [gave] athletics every ounce of support” by delivering lengthy and spirited pep talks. Once the game had started, oratory was also used to engage in “verbal combat” with students from other institutions.


Beaver Yearbook page devoted to a 1920 "triangular debate" between OAC, Reed College and the University of Oregon. Paul Emmett is pictured at right.

Beaver Yearbook page devoted to a “triangular debate” between OAC, Reed College and the University of Oregon. Paul Emmett is pictured at right.

The early 1920s coincided with Linus Pauling’s final years as an OAC student. Not surprisingly, his early experiences as a public speaker were heavily influenced by the high value that was placed on oratory within the student culture that surrounded him.

Even before entering any competitive event, Pauling had gained significant experience speaking to groups while teaching entry-level chemistry to fellow OAC undergraduates. During this same time period, Pauling’s close friend, Paul Emmett – later to become one of the world’s great catalysis chemists and, later still, Pauling’s brother-in-law – became quite active in the OAC Forensics Club and subsequently introduced Pauling to the thrills of competitive oratory. Emmett represented OAC in the 1920 triangular debate, an annual competition involving three colleges. The following year, both Emmett and Pauling were featured in the forensics section of The Beaver yearbook, Emmett as a debater and Pauling as a runner-up in the college-wide oratorical contest discussed below.

By founding a department dedicated to public speaking, OAC was able to provide members of its Forensics Club with a better training infrastructure. Importantly, Professor George Varney served as coach of the Forensics Club starting in 1920. Varney was a new arrival to the college but was known for having trained orators at different institutions, including a state champion. However, when Linus Pauling decided to compete in the annual inter-class oratorical contest, he sought the help of his own personal coach, an English professor whose past experience as a preacher qualified him to train students in the art of public speaking.


Pauling (bottom row, second from left) as depicted in the Beaver yearbook with fellow members of the class of '22.

Pauling (bottom row, second from left) as depicted in the Beaver yearbook with fellow members of the class of ’22.

Competing for the Juniors in OAC’s inter-class speaking competition, Pauling presented a grand interpretation of the status and future of civilization in the 20th century. Titled “Children of the Dawn,” (which he meant to refer to members of his generation) Pauling’s speech contained both analysis of the past and speculation on the future.

The piece opens with a poetic description of a dream, one in which humanity and Earth are only specks within the greater universe. In Pauling’s dream, humanity had developed so effectively as to reach beyond Earth to understand the entire universe. This dream, Pauling reveals, is an allegory for the possibilities that he saw as lying ahead for his generation.

From there, the speech chronicles the development of science and thought since ancient times in order to demonstrate the talk’s main argument: that Darwin’s theory of evolution can be applied to society, science and civilization. In this, Pauling describes the developments of the past as necessary steps to completing a “Great Design,” by which he means an entire universe that is progressing in accordance with the principles of evolution.

Pauling’s optimism and use of poetic language makes for an inspiring oration. The speech concludes on an even more hopeful note by suggesting that the youth of the day were privy to only the germs of unimaginable achievements yet to come. “It is impossible for us to imagine what developments in science and invention will be witnessed by the next generation,” Pauling wrote. “We are not the flower of civilization. We are but the immature bud of a civilization yet to come.”

William Black

William Black

Impressive as Pauling’s first competitive oration was, he wound up tying for second place in the OAC competition, losing top honors to William Black, a senior and three-time participant in the event. Contrary to Pauling’s idealistic and relatively simple premise, Black’s oration, titled “Our Tottering Civilization,” presented an elaborate and frankly racist view of the times. Black’s main argument was that interactions with “peoples of color” would be the demise of civilization as a whole. Black further suggested that in order to safeguard its civilization, the white race needed to secure its natural resources and keep people of color at bay. Black likewise worried that European culture could be lost forever if other cultures were to gain further sway over world social, political and economic affairs.

At the time, China and Japan had undergone periods of rapid modernization and immigrants from east Asia were very well established as active participants in the U.S. economy. The arguments issued in “Our Tottering Civilization” largely stem from a fear that further development of these cultures, both in and beyond the United States, could eventually lead to the subjugation of Western ideals. Black’s oration concludes by exhorting white nations to join forces against the further development of “colored” nations. Despite the fact that Black’s speech is overtly racist, it eventually won second place in the state-wide intercollegiate oratory contest, perhaps because of the complexity of the issues that it dealt with, or maybe because Black was an especially compelling speaker in person.


This episode in Linus Pauling’s life, in which he battles for the crown of top college orator, offers an interesting glimpse into the culture of the early 20th century. While many elements of the era would appear almost foreign in a contemporary context, they do offer important evidence of the values and training that Pauling was exposed to long before becoming a world-renowned peace activist and public speaker.  Next week we’ll examine another important talk that Pauling gave as an undergraduate; one that has special relevance to events happening right now on the OSU campus.

Pauling and the Moon

Herblock editorial cartoon published in the Washington Post, November 1963.

Herblock editorial cartoon published in the Washington Post, November 1963.

[Post 2 of 2 marking the centenary of Jerome Wiesner’s birth]

When Linus Pauling traveled to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1963, he stepped off the plane and was filled with indignance. At first he couldn’t be sure, but after a few minutes it was clear: contrary to well-established convention, no representative of the U.S. government had arranged to meet him at the airport.

Pauling participated in the ceremonies as scheduled, but he did not forget this slight. On December 13th, two days after he delivered his Nobel lecture, Pauling wrote to his friend, Jerome Wiesner

The Nobel Ceremonies were fine. They were marred only by the boycott by the American Embassy. Usually the ambassador of the country of the Laureate is at the airport to greet him, at the prize ceremony, at the banquet, and at the Nobel Lecture. Day before yesterday Director Gunnar Jahn, the chairman of the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament, told me that a member of the U.S. Embassy staff had come to see him (about another matter), and that he (Jahn) had said, ‘You go back and tell your Ambassador that his behavior this year has been an affront to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.’

Wiesner had just concluded a three-year stint as Chairman of the President’s Committee on Scientific Affairs (PSAC) and Pauling thought that Wiesner might possibly have access to information about the government’s failure to acknowledge Pauling’s prize.

Wiesner, however, could only offer a guess that the government officials were too busy with other affairs to greet Pauling at the airport, a notion that Pauling had already dismissed out of hand. Rather, Pauling was convinced that the embassy simply chose not to acknowledge his efforts to promote world peace because these activities often led him to denounce the government’s projects and ambitions.


North Mankato (Minnesota) Free Press, May 6, 1963.

North Mankato (Minnesota) Free Press, May 6, 1963.

Regardless of the justifications that Pauling was given regarding this incident, it is interesting to note that he had a friend in the White House during some of the most tumultuous years of his public life. The year 1963 was one during which Pauling both received perhaps the highest-profile award that an individual can receive – the Nobel Peace Prize – and also decided to end his tenure of over four decades at Caltech, all due to resistance to his political views and activism.

And while he was recognized around the world as an outspoken critic of nuclear weapons testing and proliferation, Pauling also made headlines in 1963 for a reason that is less well-known to most: his failure to support space exploration. It is thus ironic that one of the few people who agreed with him was precisely Jerome Wiesner, a high-level advisor serving in the White House that Pauling so commonly criticized.

Indeed, Wiesner and Pauling’s friendship was centered on policy issues of mutual interest; despite the fact that each lived on opposite sides of the country, they kept in contact primarily through sharing ideas on nuclear weaponry and space exploration. Both Pauling and Wiesner believed the two issues to be of paramount importance. And while each man had slightly different reasons for taking this shared position, both also strongly believed that the federal government needed to change course.


One of Jerome Wiesner’s core beliefs was that the national government should place an emphasis on providing a robust funding infrastructure – post-graduate fellowships, for instance – for scientific minds to pursue their own research agendas as they progressed through their careers. Doing so, Wiesner felt, would secure the importance of scientific endeavors and technological advances in the United States.

Pauling agreed with Wiesner’s position, but as an activist not formally affiliated with the government, he was much more free to parse the details of where the money was going. He could see, for example, that there were benefits to be gained by exploring outer space and developing nuclear technologies, but he was very uncomfortable with the fact that these technologies would being developed for use in war. Likewise, he took issue with the fact that the federal government continued to spend money on weapons that put the public at further risk, when that same money could be used to fund research that, in his view, would improve quality of life for many.

bio6.008.440-1

In October 1963, news reporters across the country published articles describing one of Pauling’s more public declarations of opposition to the U.S. space program. During a lecture commemorating the National Academy of Sciences’ 100th anniversary, Pauling stated that “Something is wrong with our system of values when we plan to spend billions of dollars for national prestige.”

Pauling’s comment referred to the common understanding that a driving force behind American space exploration was a perceived need to match and surpass the Soviet Union’s achievements. In this, Pauling expressed agreement with Wiesner’s own criticisms of the moonshot efforts. Both believed that the moon project alone was absorbing too much money and that, although useful, these efforts would not provide the same volume of proportional benefits that other forms of scientific research could.

Pauling couched his criticism of the space program by emphasizing his opinion that the U.S. government needed to reject the perceived need to match or stay ahead of the Soviets’ technological advances. Instead, the U.S. should focus on decreasing human suffering, a core principle of Pauling’s own belief system. Pauling’s personal interest in medicine also led him to state, perhaps hyperbolically, that it would be possible to “answer 1,000 interesting and important questions about the human body for every one question answered about the moon.” News reporters further noted that, at the National Academy of Sciences celebration, Pauling had suggested that scientists had the knowledge to combat many diseases but simply lacked the money to test their ideas.

bio6.008.440-2

It is both important and interesting to note that Pauling’s critique of the moonshot at the NAS celebration was actually a very small detail of his evening. In fact, Pauling’s talk, which was on chemical structure, did not mention the moon initiative at all, though he did bring it up immediately following the conclusion of his formal remarks. Nonetheless, reporters focused on the critique and rapidly disseminated Pauling’s ideas. And after his talk, Pauling was chided by NAS President Frederick Seitz, who told Pauling in a private meeting that the event was “a birthday party and not a forum for a political discussion.”

As with Wiesner before him, Pauling’s stance on the moon project was met with significant criticism. And, of course, the U.S. did continue to move forward with the project, famously landing an astronaut on the moon’s surface in July 1969. Their criticisms of the space program proved to be another instance in which Wiesner and Pauling were forced to accept the government’s decisions. But this disappointment did not stanch either man’s desire to make their ideas known as both pursued public platforms for their activism for the remainder of their lives.

Remembering Jerome Wiesner

Science Advisor Jerome Wiesner sits in his office, 1 February 1963.  Photograph by Cecil Stoughton in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Scanned from original 2 1/4" neg.

Science Advisor Jerome Wiesner sits in his office, 1 February 1963. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton. Original held in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

[Marking the one-hundredth anniversary of Jerome Wiesner’s (1915-1994) birth. Post 1 of 2]

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy spoke at a joint session of Congress to request funds for sending an American to the moon. During his memorable speech, the president stated his belief “that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” In an era of heightened patriotism, the president received staggering support from Congress and the people of the United States alike.

Kennedy’s speech was delivered at the height of the Cold War, a time during which the Soviet Union’s own ambitions to explore outer space were making many Americans uncomfortable. For the most part, Americans believed that it was necessary to match and surpass the Soviet Union’s achievements in space in order to secure the United States’ geopolitical power.

In addition to staying ahead of the Soviet Union’s efforts, Kennedy also hinted that there could be additional benefits to the United States’ space program even beyond Cold War positioning.  The President went so far as to state that space exploration could very well be “the key to our future on Earth.”


Jerome Wiesner, Joseph McConnell, John F. Kennedy and Harlan Cleveland in the Oval Office. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton. Original held in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Jerome Wiesner, Joseph McConnell, John F. Kennedy and Harlan Cleveland in the Oval Office. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton. Original held in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Kennedy’s remarks added fuel to an already heated debate over the proper relationship between science and federal policy. Following a trend that had begun during the First World War, Cold War scientific efforts had become particularly linked to national defense and, in Kennedy’s words, science had “emerged from a peripheral concern of government to an active partner.”

In 1951, well before Kennedy was known to most Americans, President Harry S. Truman had set up the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) to provide counsel on issues regarding science and technology. The committee was charged with conveying a refreshed scientific perspective to the top levels of political decision-making, but its members sometimes found themselves in an awkward position if they disagreed with the established views of those in office.

In February 1961 President Kennedy appointed Jerome Wiesner to the PSAC chairmanship. Wiesner was unique among the roster of past committee chairmen in that many of his ideas proved incongruous both with politicians in Washington and with many Americans at large. Of particular importance, and contrary to the President’s optimistic vision for the future of space travel, Wiesner was not at all convinced that sending a man to the moon would yield great advantages for the U.S., be it in terms of technological development or national defense.

Wiesner agreed that sponsoring technological development was a key to the success of the nation. However, he suggested that a more efficient and more effective mechanism for the government to adequately support science and technology was to provide stipends for post-graduate education. A more educated society, Wiesner argued, would be better equipped to meet its own scientific and technological needs.

The Cold War, however, developed within its own unique historical context, one defined in part by widespread anxiety. One outcome of this pervasive fear was an acceleration by which technologies could be advanced. Beginning with the instruments of war developed during World War II – most notably the atomic bombs – the perceived needs of national security propelled the creation of new technologies at a rate never seen before.

The Soviet Union’s launch into orbit of the Sputnik satellite in October 1957 racheted the levels of American cultural insecurity to new heights. With Sputnik, the American public peered into the night sky and literally saw tangible proof that its main enemy had created technologies that would allow it to surveil the country like never before. The seemingly endless possibilities of this breakthrough convinced many that a failure on the part of the U.S. to invest in science and technology would put the nation at grave risk. This fear ultimately created the cultural context by which it proved possible for President Kennedy to allocate an unprecedented amount money for the Apollo Space Program, now estimated to have cost over $170 billion in contemporary U.S. dollars.

Although the President and a significant portion of the American public were convinced that the space program was key to national security, Wiesner and others held firm in their belief that there existed better alternatives for protecting the nation from potential Soviet threat. Nonetheless, as chair of the PSAC, Wiesner was compelled to accept Kennedy’s determination to pursue the moonshot, and continued to advise the chief executive on other issues of science and technology.


Portraits of participants in the Second Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, March-April, 1958. Jerome Wiesner is depicted at bottom.

Portraits of participants in the Second Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, March-April, 1958. Jerome Wiesner is depicted at bottom.

It was at this time that Wiesner turned to an old friend, Linus Pauling, to inquire into the development of his opinions regarding issues of peace and world affairs.

Wiesner was especially interested in receiving Pauling’s counsel on the issue of nuclear testing. Like Pauling, Wiesner was an advocate of a test ban treaty and he wished to use his committee chairmanship to shade President Kennedy thinking in favor of an international agreement of this sort.

Indeed, Wiesner’s unique position gave him powerful influence over federal science policy for the years of his chairmanship, 1961-1963. These years happened to coincide with a period during which Pauling’s main professional focus was his peace activism, and having a strategically placed ally in the White House proved very beneficial to his many causes.

In corresponding with Wiesner, Pauling articulated his argument that the radiation released by nuclear weapons tests was a clear threat to the environment and to human health. Moreover, on a humanitarian level, Pauling felt strongly that the nuclear arms race, if left unchecked, would inevitably lead to new tragedies on the scale of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if not worse. Through their exchange of letters, Wiesner and Pauling thus built a relationship rooted in discussion of issues that interested them: both believed in nuclear disarmament and both were interested in sharing their scientific and political arguments with broader audiences.

Page one of a handwritten letter from Linus Pauling to Jerome Wiesner, March 17, 1962.

Page one of a handwritten letter from Linus Pauling to Jerome Wiesner, March 17, 1962.

Once his formal involvement with the PSAC concluded (he was relieved of his position not long before Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963) Wiesner became more vocal in his opinions. In 1965 he published a series of essays, titled Where Science and Politics Meet, that were written during his tenure in the White House and that serve as evidence of Wiesner’s strong belief in nuclear disarmament, among other topics. Later, in the 1980s, Wiesner turned to the media and once again laid out his ideas on disarmament in two articles published in The New York Times.

Pauling and Wiesner continued to discuss the issues that they valued through letters and over the phone well into the 1980s. And while they did not ever formally join efforts – each lived on opposite sides of the country – the documentary evidence indicates that they kept one another in mind. At one point, Pauling even nominated him for an award, the Family of Man Award, because he thought of Wiesner as having played a key role in President Kennedy’s signing the partial test ban treaty, an act which directly led to Pauling’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963.

Colleagues and friends for many decades, Linus Pauling and Jerome Wiesner died within months of one another. Pauling passed away on August 19, 1994 and Wiesner died just over two months later, on October 21st.

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