We recently completed and uploaded two more years of the ever-expanding Linus Pauling Day-by-Day project. With the addition of 1961 and 1962, more than three decades of Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s lives are now chronicled in exquisite detail. The mammoth site currently includes summaries of over 92,000 documents and features 1,851 illustrations and 2,289 full-text transcripts.
The years 1961 and 1962 bore witness to the Paulings’ continuing tilt away from scientific research in favor of a pitched agenda of peace activism. Both were likewise incredibly busy years littered with international travel, worldwide acclaim and periods of heavy tumult. The energy that the Paulings expended over this period of time surely took its toll – in their letters to colleagues, both Linus and Ava Helen commonly remark of being overwhelmed with work and on the brink of exhaustion. Their labors did not go unnoticed, however, and their frenzy of activity in 1961 and 1962 surely added to the dossier for which Linus Pauling would receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963.
Many of the Paulings efforts during these years have been chronicled on this blog or on our Documentary History sites. Among them, in 1961 Linus Pauling published his theory of anesthesia, worked with Ava Helen in organizing the Oslo Conference against nuclear testing, and continued to dialogue with both John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev about matters of nuclear weapons policy. The next year saw more of the same, including the famous “White House incident,” many more awards (including an honorary high school diploma) and nearly 2,700 unsolicited write-in votes for U. S. Senator from California. In the midst of it all, the Paulings traveled almost non-stop, from Toronto to Honolulu, Paris to Cleveland, Moscow, Chile, Dallas and many points in between.
Linus Pauling Day-by-Day documents this blizzard of activity while simultaneously attempting to shed light on some of the lesser-known components of the Paulings’ personal and professional matters. Indeed, one of the true delights of working in an archive of such breadth as the Pauling Papers is the opportunity to uncover and make available documents of a more esoteric nature. And so it is that we find Pauling hazarding a guess in response to a question about birds losing their sense of direction when flying through a radar area. Likewise, readers may be interested in a short discussion about a treatment for catatonic schizophrenia, his notes on Albert Einstein’s belief in God, and his gratitude upon receiving a particularly thoughtful birthday gift. The illustrations selected for the Day-by-Day project are full of such nuggets.
Work is completed on the Day-by-Day project on a nearly continuous basis here in the OSU Libraries Special Collections. The data for 1963 and 1964 is close to complete and should be launched sometime later this year, with plenty more to come shortly thereafter. For those interested in the background and technical mechanics of this ambitious effort, see this series of blog posts published in 2009.