Dorothy Hodgkin and Ava Helen Pauling

Ivan Zupec, Dorothy Hodgkin, Linus and Ava Helen Pauling, 1977.

[Part 2 of 2]

Amidst the huge number of Linus Pauling’s publications, speeches, personal books, and letters held in the Pauling collection, you will also find a section dedicated to Ava Helen Pauling. Although much smaller in size than her husband’s treasure trove, the series still contains a sizable number of items documenting Ava Helen’s own pursuits as a peace activist of some renown. Within her correspondence section, one finds the subject matter for part two of our post on Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. Today, we’ll be discussing Hodgkin’s friendship with Ava Helen.

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was a prominent X-ray crystallographer and a long-time friend of both Linus and Ava Helen Pauling.  Although Linus Pauling and Hodgkin may have initially been drawn together because of their shared interest in chemistry, they quickly became friends – a relationship which spilled over to include both of their spouses.

Correspondence specifically between Ava Helen and Hodgkin is sporadic, but does demonstrate very well the friendship that they fostered. For example, in a letter written to Ava Helen on December 27, 1957, Hodgkin writes:

It is lovely indeed to have the memory of our time spent with you. It seemed almost a miracle that Thomas [Hodgkin – Dorothy’s husband] and I should come together to visit you. I think your home is one of the most beautiful places I know in the world in every sort of way. And we do thank you more than I can properly say for having us and looking after us and cooking and washing and all the things I feel that I ought to be doing for you and not the other way around.

Similarly, Ava Helen immensely enjoyed the time that she and Linus spent with Dorothy and Thomas. On September 23, 1960, in noting Dorothy’s appointment as the first Wolfson Research Professor of the Royal Society, Ava Helen writes:

It gave me great happiness to write on this envelope this lovely address. I have regretted that I did not have time to congratulate you properly in London. We are always so filled with joy at seeing you and Thomas that we forget to say all of these proper and expected things.

At times, Ava Helen and Hodgkin discussed more serious matters in their lives. In the same September 23 letter, Ava Helen talks about Linus’ experience with the Internal Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate.

It is no light matter to be cited for contempt by the Senate and many lives have ruined in just this way. You must know, too, that there are a good number of people in prison right now in the United States for the exact reasons that they were citing Linus, namely, the refusal to produce names. The First Amendment protects people in this regard and it is absolutely against our Constitution to ask for these names and to put people in prison when they refuse to divulge them. But, nevertheless, this goes on all the time.

The correspondence between Ava Helen Pauling and Dorothy Hodgkin continued up until Ava Helen succumbed to cancer in 1981. Afterward, Hodgkin wrote a heartfelt letter to Linus Pauling, in remembrance of her friend.

I walk about this lovely garden thinking about you and her and your life together, always in such beautiful places too.  Pasadena where first we met, the Ranch, Portola Valley. In the early days, at Oxford.  She was so troubled about your health and then, so much involved with you in efforts for world peace.  I cannot think of her as old, she seemed so bright a spirit, so courageous to the end.  I think of her when last I spoke on the telephone to her, saying ‘I am quite well.’

Yesterday marked the centenary anniversary of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin’s birth. Read more about her relationship with the Paulings in this post.

One Response

  1. […] Pauling, Thomas Hodgkin, vitamin B12, x-ray crystallography « Louis Budenz, Informant Dorothy Hodgkin and Ava Helen Pauling […]

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