Lawrence Badash, 1934-2010

Lawrence Badash speaking at the 2007 Pauling conference held at Oregon State University.

We were very sorry to learn of the death of Dr. Lawrence Badash, professor emeritus in the history of science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Dr. Badash died on August 23, 2010 after a short bout with cancer.

It was our good fortune to work with Dr. Badash on a handful of occasions.  Most recently he participated in our 2007 conference “The Scientist as Educator and Public Citizen: Linus Pauling and His Era,” held in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Pauling’s publication of the seminal text General Chemistry.  Badash’s contribution to the proceedings was a typically thoughtful and intriguing talk titled “Science in the McCarthy Period: Training Ground for Scientists as Public Citizens.”  In it, he argued that

Demagoguery functions much like a preemptive strike: ‘Flag wavers’ paint those who may be effective opponents as unpatriotic. This occurred during the period 1945-1960, as Joseph McCarthy and others stirred fears of Communist influence in the United States. At first lauded for their creation of the atomic bomb and other World War II activities, scientists increasingly were criticized for their international orientation and left-leaning politics. American scientists were sometimes denied passports, foreign scientists were often deprived of visas, barriers were erected to prevent the exchange of information, jobs were lost. But scientists fought back, occasionally changing policy or at least embarrassing officialdom. Such efforts reinvigorated a flagging sense of the need for political participation among scientists.

Several years before the 2007 conference, Badash conducted extensive research in the Personal Safe series of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers.  Badash was specifically interested in investigating the near-appointment of Linus Pauling at UC-Santa Barbara in 1964.

As published in Physics in Perspective 11 (2009): 4-14, Badash found that Pauling himself actively solicited an appointment at UCSB.  Having left the California Institute of Technology following the organization’s chilly reaction to Pauling’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, and dissatisfied with the resources available to him at his next stop, the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Pauling began looking toward UCSB, which was located not far away from the CSDI.

Pauling’s offer was to work without salary, (Xerox inventor and Caltech physics alum Chester Carlson had agreed to provide financial support for Pauling’s work) spending three-quarters of his time on scientific matters and one-quarter on “peace work.”  He would occupy an office at Santa Barbara and act as “essentially a full-time Professor of Chemistry…. but not present any regular courses of lectures.”

This offer was met with resistance from UCSB Chancellor Vernon Cheadle, who did not inform the university’s chemistry faculty of Pauling’s proposal and ultimately refused to even file the paperwork necessary for the offer to come under preliminary review by the University of California.   Though the era of McCarthy had passed by 1964, fears of controversial individuals with supposedly radical ties were still heavily prevalent in certain circles.  Badash notes

Throughout 1964, minutes of meetings of the UC Regents contain a number of references to academic freedom, while urging that speakers at the university be acceptable.  Clearly, the board was uncomfortable having Communists speak on campuses.  Ronald Reagan, who would run for governor in 1966, was making a name for himself condemning the recklessness of the free-speech movement and, by implication, the Regents.

Pauling fought for an appointment for nearly a year, even appealing to then-Governor Pat Brown to intercede on his behalf.  His pleas fell upon deaf ears though – in this climate, there would be no position at Santa Barbara.

One year later, however, Pauling did find an advocate in chemist Joseph E. Mayer, who invited the double Nobel laureate to join the staff of a different UC school – the University of California, San Diego.  Backed by signed petitions submitted by the university’s departments of chemistry, physics and biology, Pauling was appointed professor in residence and research chemist beginning July 1, 1967.  He would stay at UCSD for two years, before resigning in protest of Governor Reagan’s educational policies and moving on to Stanford.

Badash saw UC-Santa Barbara’s failure to hire Pauling as a “bungled opportunity.”  In concluding his 2009 article he suggests

Since UCSD was able to appoint Pauling for at least the first year, without needing regential approval, UCSB must have had the same authority.  Chancellor Vernon Cheadle may not have wished to exercise that authority, or, more likely, the idea of a one-year appointment was not raised in 1964.  Both UCSB and UCSD were relatively new campuses, with chancellors who were sensitive to the political climate in the state and especially among the Regents.  As might be expected, on both campuses the faculty members seemed more concerned with the quality of their departments.  Some faculty, recalling that period, felt that Pauling was a disruptive person who would not necessarily have been a good colleague.  Yet, his presence would instantly have raised the UCSB Department of Chemistry’s stature, then and now the bottom line.

Lawrence Badash’s papers have been deposited with the UC-Santa Barbara Special Collections.  The finding aid is available here.  An excellent obituary published by the Santa Barbara Independent is also online.

One Response

  1. […] Lawrence Badash, 1934-2010 (remembering a good man and the story of what almost […]

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