The Paulings Trot the Globe

The Paulings and an unidentified man at the Kasuga Grand Shrine. Nara, Japan. March 3, 1955.

[Part 2 of 2]


Once all of the fanfare surrounding the Nobel ceremonies had ended, the Pauling family spent a few days sight-seeing around Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. As part of this, they were able to experience the traditional Santa Lucia day festival in Stockholm, which takes place on the 13th of December. The Luciafest began early in the morning when the family was awakened by a dozen robed girls who brought them coffee; the festivities continued with parades and other celebrations throughout the day. The Pauling children greatly enjoyed the holiday, seeing shows – including the opera Carmen – going shopping, dining out, attending parties and venturing around the cities.

Besides sight-seeing, Linus Pauling was also visiting local science institutions and giving lectures. As part of his scientific tour, he met with Nobel laureates Frederick Robbins and Thomas Weller to discuss their research on the polio virus. He also delivered four lectures on abnormal hemoglobins in Uppsala and Lund, Sweden and Oslo, Norway, and on another night spoke with a group of students at the Royal Institute of Technology.


Having completed the Scandinavian leg of their trip, the Pauling family then flew to the Middle East. In the Fall of 1953, Pauling had negotiated his passport trials for long enough to travel to Israel to dedicate the new Weizmann Institute for Scientific Research. On that trip, he met with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and famed physicist Niels Bohr, among others. However, later that year, another planned trip to Israel had to be cancelled on extremely short notice due, once again, to passport issues. Following that disappointment, Pauling stayed in correspondence with Michael Evenari and Gabriel Stein of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Gerhard Schmidt of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, both of whom he considered friends. And as Pauling’s travel circumstances improved, his Israeli colleagues gladly accepted his request to visit again.

David Ben Gurion, Niels Bohr and Linus Pauling, 1953.

The Paulings arrived in Rehovot in late December and proceeded to the Weizmann Institute where they stayed for a couple of nights in a guest house. They then ventured to Bethlehem and Old Jerusalem on Christmas Eve, returning through the Mandelbaum Gate, a former checkpoint between the Israeli and Jordanian sectors of Jerusalem. Next they made a day trip to the Negev, a desert in the south of Israel, also visiting Beersheba and Sodom on the Dead Sea, where Linus attended an annual meeting of the Israel Chemical Society. On the 27th they toured the medical school at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and were invited to a reception at the President’s house.

The following day, at Hebrew University, Pauling gave a lecture on the structure of proteins and toured the physical and inorganic chemistry departments. The family then set off for the city of Haifa by car where they stayed overnight. From there it was back to Europe for a few hours, where Linus and Ava Helen bid adieu to their children.  The couple rang in the new year in a Roman airport, where a reveler’s stray champagne cork broke the glass ceiling and where the Paulings made their last preparations for a journey to the Indian subcontinent.


Pauling at a gathering in Allahabad, India. February 9, 1955.

An overnight stay in Pakistan preceded the Paulings’ six-week journey through India. Having been denied in the past by passport troubles, Pauling was at long last able to attend the Indian Science Congress – he was the only American in attendance. After the meeting’s conclusion, Pauling made it to most of the major scientific institutions then established in India. He also met with a number of prominent political leaders along the way – most notably Jawaharlal Nehru, the nation’s prime minister and a key leader of the Indian independence movement. Linus and Ava Helen also did a fair bit of sight-seeing, visiting temples, caves and rural villages, and taking part in the Republic Day parade. [More on the Paulings’ tour of India will be published on the Pauling Blog in the coming weeks.]


From February 16-20 the Paulings made a brief stop in Bangkok. Pauling had written to a number of Thai colleagues, including Professor Thong Sook Bongsadadt of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, about visiting the capital city and delivering lectures. In his correspondence, he suggested that “Abnormal Human Hemoglobin Molecules in Relation to Disease” would be “of the most general interest, especially since one of the abnormal hemoglobins discovered in our laboratory, hemoglobin E, has been found to be rather widely distributed in Thailand, and I think that it may well have originated from a mutation in your country.”

After arriving in Bangkok, the Paulings met with Prof. Bongsadadt and a few other scientists to enjoy some local Thai cuisine for lunch. The next few days were spent in the city enjoying the culture: shopping, dining, and watching a Muay Thai boxing match. They also made a drive to see a stupa, which is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics. As promised, Pauling lectured on proteins and metals and toured the chemistry departments of two local universities. Their short stint completed, the Paulings said goodbye to their new friends and flew off to Japan.


The Paulings in Japan, February/March 1955.

From February 21 to March 11, the Paulings traveled all around Japan. They visited Tokyo University, Kyoto University, Osaka University, and a wide array of industrial plants. Pauling also gave his standard lectures on hemoglobin and the ways in which molecules relate to health and disease. Well-known for his work against the hydrogen bomb, Pauling was immensely popular in Japan – hundreds of people had to be turned away from his lectures.

During their travels, an advisor to the Japanese imperial family contacted Pauling to tell him that one of the Emperor’s sons was very much interested in chemistry and would like to speak with him. Pauling accepted and was looking forward to the rare opportunity of having an audience with the Emperor and his son Yoshi. However, the plans fell through when the U. S. State Department intervened.  The official perspective from Washington was summed up by Scott McLeod, Assistant Secretary of State for Security and Consular Affairs, who wrote

This Bureau is of the opinion that it is ridiculous for the Department to entertain ideas of official sanction to pave the way for an individual of Pauling’s background to be accorded such privileges by various chiefs of state in different parts of the world.

Government communications warned that there would be “adverse repercussions” were Pauling to meet with the Japanese royalty, and the invitation was, in due course, rescinded.

Despite the occasional difficulties encountered along the way, the world tour made a lasting and generally positive impression on Linus Pauling, who continued to speak out in increasingly troubled times. As he wrote upon his return home

My visits to Sweden, Israel, India, Japan, and other countries have helped to give me the strong conviction that there will never again be a world war. I believe that the problems of war – atomic war – or peace has been solved by the development of the hydrogen bomb. Government leaders and the people of the world know now that a world war would mean world-wide destruction, perhaps the end of civilization.


One Response

  1. […] land him and Ava Helen in Israel in mid-December of 1954. [More on this second visit to Israel is available here, in our second post on the Paulings' world tour.] The Paulings and Dr. Hakimelahi at the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: