Paradowski’s Pauling Chronology

Ava Helen, Linus Jr. and Linus Pauling, 1930.

Ava Helen, Linus Jr. and Linus Pauling, 1930.

According to Zelek S. Herman ‘the best biography in my opinion is the short one by Pauling’s only authorized biographer, Robert J. Paradowski who has extensively studied Pauling’s scientific work and who knew him for many years.’ Unfortunately this biography/chronology, though written in English, was published in a hard-to-find Japanese volume. Paradowski’s 1972 University of Wisconsin Ph.D. thesis titled The Structural Chemistry of Linus Pauling is the only compulsively readable thesis that has come my way in a lifetime of sitting on M.S. and Ph.D. final orals. Subsequently Paradowski got to know Pauling intimately, was anointed as his authorized biographer, and has spent the last 20 years accumulating a unique store of knowledge concerning his subject. Since Paradowski writes well and has unusually catholic interests, the book – or rather books, since it will be in at least three volumes – should be well worth waiting for. But for how long? Paradowski tells me he definitely expects completion by the centennial year, 2001…. I hope I live to read it!

Derek Davenport, “The Many Lives of Linus Pauling: A Review of Reviews,” Journal of Chemical Education, 73 (9): A210.  September 1996.

Every year, in celebration of Linus Pauling’s birthday anniversary, we try to release a new project either on or near February 28th.  Nine years ago, we participated in the mounting of a small plaque in Oregon State University’s Education Hall Room 201, which identified the location where Linus and Ava Helen Pauling first met in 1922.  The next year marked the Pauling Centenary and a large day-long conference was held in honor of the occasion.  Since then, most of our birthday releases have come in the form of websites – Linus Pauling Research Notebooks in 2002, The Race for DNA in 2003, Awards, Honors and Medals in 2004, and an expanded version of Linus Pauling and the Nature of the Chemical Bond in 2008.

The 2009 release is Robert Paradowski‘s The Pauling Chronology, a 27-page TEI-based web resource, the content of which Derek Davenport referenced in the 1996 quote above.  The Chronology is being advertised as “the most detailed overview of Linus Pauling’s ancestry, life and work available on the web,” a statement that we feel can be made without hesitation.  As Davenport notes, Paradowski enjoyed the most-unfettered access to Pauling of any of his at-least four biographers, and has compiled what is surely the most extensive compilation of biographical interviews conducted with Pauling and his associates.

Consquently, it is chiefly Paradowski upon whom we must rely to fill in certain scarcely-documented eras of Pauling’s life, particularly his early years as a boy in Condon and Portland, and as a young man at Oregon Agricultural College.

As a web resource, the Chronology likewise addresses certain major topics that have yet to be properly explored by other members of the Pauling online collective (ourselves, of course, included).  Pauling’s historic program of research on the structure of proteins, for instance, while touched upon in The Race for DNA, has not yet received the attention that it deserves, at least in terms of an Internet presence.  The Chronology helps to remedy this situation.  Even moreso, Pauling’s controversial infatuation with vitamin C, as well as the unsteady early history of the institute which bears his name, receive a fair and thorough treatment in Paradowski’s write-up.

Paradowki’s knowledge of subject and skill as a writer shine through in his Chronology, traits which lend ever-increasing urgency to Davenport’s crucial question, “But for how long?”  The centennial year has clearly come and gone with no major biography published and no hints that it might soon be on the way.  No hints, that is, except, perhaps, this passage that Dr. Paradowski used to close the talk that he gave at the 2001 Centenary conference:

Toward the end of [Pauling’s] life, someone had sent him a Bible with gigantic print.  He was having trouble with his vision, but because this book had such gigantic print he was reading the Bible again….  And perhaps he ran into this passage in Ecclesiastes, and I’d like to quote it as my finish:  “Let us search then like those who must find, and find like those who continue to search, for it is written the man who has reached the end is only beginning.”  And that’s the way I feel about my work on Pauling – no matter how much I do, it seems like I’m just beginning.

The Pauling Chronology and the transcribed video of a 1995 talk by Dr. Robert Paradowski are both available via the Linus Pauling Online portal.

2 Responses

  1. […] very pleased to announce that the Pauling Chronology, written by biographer Robert Paradowski and published online in 2009, is now available in […]

  2. […] Paradowski’s chronology of the life and work of Linus Pauling, which we’ve written about in the past, is surely one of the most useful accounts of Pauling’s story available anywhere and almost […]

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