Return to Oz

Ava Helen Pauling with a group of women at a restaurant overlooking Sydney Harbor. Australia trip, May 1973.

[Part 2 of 2]

In early 1964, China conducted its first nuclear test, an event that catalyzed the second Australian Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament, which took place in Sydney from October 25-30, 1964.  Organizer and Australian peace leader Professor Sydney Wright extended an invitation to the Paulings to attend this gathering which they gladly accepted, hoping to arrive early to sight-see around Australia’s less populated northern and western regions.

As in 1959, the second conference was shrouded in controversy. This time the Australian federal government refused to grant visas to the two delegates that were from Iron Curtain countries, Russian Orthodox Church Archbishop Alexei and Mayor of Leningrad Mr. Isaev. While it was no secret that Pauling already did not hold the Australian government in high regard, the barring of the Soviets from the conference caused his opinion to go “right down because of this action,” saying “there is no excuse for this backwards attitude.” By this point in Australia, certain smaller-scale social events had become political in nature too: the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, for one, outright refused to hold a civic reception for overseas guests of the congress.

At the meeting itself, the Paulings gave two key lectures. Ava Helen delivered a seminar about international cooperation at the citizen level and Linus spoke of the threat of nuclear and biological war, with much of his talk centering on the heightened risk of cancer resulting from nuclear testing. Around the time of the congress, France had forthcoming nuclear tests planned for locations in the Pacific Ocean. According to Pauling’s estimates, the radiation emanating from these proposed tests would deleteriously affect 500,000 unborn children. This was a hot topic for discussion and inspired the congress to organize a large rally. Ultimately, an official count of 4,000 people (Pauling estimated 6,500) marched through the streets of Sydney, representing diverse groups including trade unionists, educators, writers, academics, and churchmen. Noticeably absent were representatives of Australia’s political parties.

After the conference in Sydney, the Paulings headed north to the Queensland territory for a stay in Brisbane. They had actually already made a stop in the city two weeks prior, when Linus lectured on the molecular theory of anesthesia. This second visit was a busy one, filled with rallies, lectures, dinners, and receptions. On their first day, a local television station filmed “An Evening with Professor Pauling” special, a round table discussion with Pauling chaired by the Dean of Brisbane. Later that afternoon, the couple attended a Lord Mayoral reception, delivered addresses at a public rally and attended a supper party. The next day had them meeting with executive members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the local Trades and Labor Council, and ended with Dr. Pauling lecturing at the University of Queensland. Before departing Brisbane, the couple picnicked in a rainforest.

From there, the duo traveled to the other end of the country to visit Adelaide, in the southern region. In Adelaide, Pauling met with the South Australian Peace Committee and caught up with others involved in the Pugwash Conferences. Meanwhile, Ava Helen spoke at town halls and addressed a Women’s Luncheon.

Also a part of their itinerary were stops in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Canberra. At the University of Melbourne Linus was awarded an honorary degree, which he accepted with his “Science in the Modern World” stump speech. It was a hectic time for Pauling as he’d given three lectures in Perth the day before and was bound for Sydney to deliver another lecture later that night. In Canberra he was recipient of a Key to the City. He also gave a highly technical lecture on nitrogen-oxygen bond lengths and the diffusion of ions through oxides.  All par for the course for a man of many interests.


The Paulings returned to the region a final time in the spring of 1973 on a trip organized by the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. The Institute had previously invited Linus to visit in the early 1960s but Pauling was unable to accept the invitation. The 1973 tour had two main purposes: to help inaugurate a new chemistry foundation and to give a series of lectures about recent advances in orthomolecular medicine. As with before, this trip saw the Paulings visiting a number of universities, namely in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and Hobart.

Pauling posing with sixty-seven glasses of orange juice, which would provide the equivalent of his daily vitamin C intake at that time. The Age (Australia), May 18, 1973.

The couple arrived at a townhouse in Sydney at the end of April where they spent the following two weeks. On their first day they kicked off their visit with newspaper, radio, and TV interviews. Over the course of their stay, Pauling delivered several lectures on orthomolecular medicine and met with the Sydney Group for Social Responsibility in Science.

After a busy few weeks in Sydney, the Paulings arrived in the capital city of Canberra. While there, Pauling, who at that point in his career was heavily promoting the use of vitamin C, met with the Mister of Health. Then in Melbourne, Ava Helen lectured at a luncheon held by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She spoke on “The Quest for Peace in America” to the many different NGOs, peace and conflict resolution societies, and service organizations in attendance. While in town the couple also reunited with members of the Australian Congress for International Cooperation and Development.

While the purpose of Pauling’s visit was not necessarily political, French nuclear tests were at the forefront of current issues and Paulng’s opinion on the matter was often queried. Unsurprisingly, he voiced his support when Australia appealed to the International Court of Justice to halt the tests taking place in the Pacific. He also spoke to the Attorney General, Senator Murphy, and announced that he would back Australia’s case at the World Court. This favorable opinion of the government’s actions was a turn-around from previous years, during which the government’s knee jerk fear of communist influence was a consistent source of consternation for the Paulings.

The last leg of the trip consisted of a few days in Tasmania, Australia’s small island state. The couple arrived there in the city of Hobart, where Pauling delivered a university lecture, and after which he and Ava Helen were whisked off to the Tasmanian wilderness. They toured the remote area of Strathgordon and stayed a couple nights in a chalet on Lake Pedder. Strathgordon is located in the Southwest National Park, an area known for its natural beauty and attractiveness to tourists looking to fish, bushwalk and rock climb, among other activities. It was a lovely way to end their visit, the final one that they would ever make to Australia.

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