Pauling and Chomsky

Noam Chomsky in the original Special Collections reading room, Kerr Library, 1995.

Noam Chomsky in the original Special Collections reading room, Kerr Library, 1995.

The latest addition to the rapidly-expanding volume of transcribed video on the Special Collections website is a two-hour presentation by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dr. Noam Chomsky. Titled “Prospects for World Order,” Chomsky’s talk was delivered on the Oregon State University campus on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, October 24, 1995.

As is typical of the prolific and highly-controversial social critic, Chomsky’s presentation is a sprawling discourse filled with historical data points that jump all over the map (both figuratively and literally) in support of his central thesis – namely (in simplest terms) that the wealthy and powerful have become so largely by way of the often-ruthless exploitation of most of the world’s inhabitants. While many may object to various aspects of what Chomsky has to say, the talk undeniably provides a great deal of food for thought.

So what is the connection to Linus Pauling? Well, for starters, Chomsky was speaking as the fourteenth Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Lecturer for World Peace. Initiated in 1982 as a joint effort by Linus Pauling and the OSU College of Liberal Arts, the annual lecture was founded in memory of Ava Helen Pauling, whose peace work is well-documented on this blog and elsewhere. In 1995, the year of Chomsky’s presentation, the lecture was renamed to include Linus Pauling, who had died a little over one year before the event.

Flyer for a joint Chomsky-Pauling presentation, Montreal, 1967

Flyer for a joint Chomsky-Pauling presentation, Montreal, 1967.

Pauling and Chomsky also knew one another, if not particularly well. The Pauling Papers contain one letter from Chomsky and, as can be seen here, the two presented together at least once during the Vietnam War era.

Over twenty hours of fully-transcribed events videos – featuring, among others, Nobel Prize-winners Francis Crick, William Lipscomb, Dudley Herschbach and Roderick MacKinnon – have been released on the OSU Libraries Special Collections website since the beginning of 2008. Click here to access all of this intriguing content.

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