Tax Day, Linus Pauling-style

Income Tax Notes. August 24, 1941.

Income Tax Notes. August 24, 1941.

I have become rather like King Midas except that everything turns not into gold but into a circus.” -Albert Einstein.

In honor of April 15 – the dreaded Tax Day – we here at the PaulingBlog would like to share a brief anecdote regarding Linus Pauling’s own experiences with the Internal Revenue Service. In 1954 Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. In celebration, Linus and Ava Helen Pauling decided to embark upon a two-month trip around the world immediately following the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. In a letter to his eldest son Linus Jr., Dr. Pauling described their upcoming adventure, which would include stops in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Letter from Linus Pauling to the Collector of Internal Revenue.

Letter from Linus Pauling to the Collector of Internal Revenue.

As might be expected of an organized and thorough man, Pauling spent the days preceding his departure tying up loose ends at home. He prepared his Nobel address, packed his formal wear, finalized travel arrangements with his children and, of course, contacted the “Collector of Internal Revenue.”

Always the conscientious American citizen, Pauling wished to ensure that his taxes were paid in full and, as such, sent a letter to the IRS, complete with an explanation of his trip, and a $2,500 check (nearly $20,000 of buying power in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) with assurances that, if necessary, more would be paid upon his return to the U.S.

For more on Pauling’s 1954 Nobel trip, see the website “Linus Pauling and the Nature of the Chemical Bond.”

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