The Road to Oslo: Accolades from Allies

Handmade card honoring the Paulings, 1963.

Handmade card honoring the Paulings, 1963.

[Examining Pauling’s activities in November 1963, Part 2 of 2]

Away from the stress of managing his public image, Pauling’s response to the flood of supportive letters that he received was one of gratitude as he recognized that he would not have won the Nobel Peace Prize without the work of many others around the world. In the November issue of War/Peace Report, Pauling pointed out, “I share this prize with the major part of the scientific community and especially with Bertrand Russell.” As more and more letters came in, he began to expand his recognitions even further. In response to a telegram from the Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, L. John Collins, Pauling agreed that the Peace Prize

was a ‘richly deserved honor,’ as you say. In fact, I think that there was a good bit of luck involved – perhaps that the Norwegian Nobel Committee felt that I was a good representative of the organized and disorganized nuclear disarmament movement.

Additionally, the award was “having a great influence on the peace workers of the whole world,” as Pauling told the German theologian, Martin Niemöller. Ultimately, as Pauling would confess to the President of the Women’s Union of Argentina, the Peace Prize was “an honor not earned by me alone, but rather also by you and your associates, and by other peace workers throughout the whole world.”

The attention Pauling received from various organizations after winning the Peace Prize could only have made his indebtedness to other peace workers more apparent to himself. Teas and dinners were held in Pauling’s honor around Pasadena while the American Civil Liberties Union feted him at the Annual Bill of Rights Banquet in Los Angeles alongside Leroy Johnson, the first African-American state senator in Georgia since 1871. Pauling was surrounded by supporters and fellow peace advocates, assuring him he was not alone.


Pauling also garnered celebratory attention from the peace community with the establishment of the American Peace Prize. The October issue of the newsletter Peace Concern, published in Montpelier, Vermont, announced the formation of a prize which would match the $51,000 that came with the Nobel award. The American fund would be compiled through donations from individuals of one dollar each. By the end of the year, bolstered by organizational assistance from the group Women for Peace, over 1,000 people had made donations of varying amounts for peace work that would be administered by the Paulings. The controversy created by the editorial in Life also stirred the writers of Peace Concern to note that the American Peace Prize

does strengthen our feeling that the American peace movement can, through the American Peace Prize, avail itself of the pleasure of kicking in the face (nonviolently, now!) ‘Life’s’ assertion that ‘…the eccentric Dr. Pauling and his weird politics have never been taken seriously by American opinion.’

The American Nobel Memorial Foundation likewise emerged as an organization that wanted to honor Pauling, but they quickly aroused his suspicion. Pauling was first approached by the executive chairman of the foundation, Jacques F. Ferrand, in a letter dated October 21, in which he reminded Pauling that he had attended the foundation’s dinner in 1961 and requested that he join them again at their upcoming dinner at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Ferrand further proposed that, at this dinner, which would also be attended by senators and members of congress, they form a “committee for nominations” for Nobel Peace Prize candidates and recipients.

In just over a week, Pauling responded that he saw “no need for deliberation by such a Forum” since many people, including members of the Senate and Congress, could make nominations as individuals. Setting up a parallel forum for nominating and selecting recipients concerned Pauling. Pauling also sent carbon copies to others in hopes of alerting them to the activities of the foundation. Among these correspondents was Albert Szent-Györgyi, the discoverer of vitamin C and winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Physiology. Pauling pointed out to Szent-Györgyi that the American Nobel Memorial Foundation claimed him as Honorary Chairman.

Szent-Györgyi replied that he was surprised but presumed “that they have asked my permission to use my name and it is quite possible that I consented. In any case, I have forgotten about it.” What he did know about the foundation was that “the Nobel Committee, in Stockholm…disavowed all connection with the American Nobel Memorial Foundation,” something that Pauling would find out for himself as he had also written Gunnar Jahn of the Nobel Committee about the matter.

Ferrand “was not only surprised but most disillusioned” by Pauling’s response, and hoped that the two of them could work out a way for the public to be more directly involved in selecting Peace Prize recipients through their representatives in government. Pauling maintained his position, reiterating his suspicions of the foundation’s proposed actions and asking for copies of its legal documents, such as its articles of incorporation. This last move by Pauling seems to have silenced Ferrand. In April of the following year, New York State Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz brought charges against the American Nobel Memorial Foundation on behalf of the Swedish Embassy for using the Nobel name under misleading circumstances.


Amidst all of the accolades and controversy, Pauling still had to plan his trip, which he eventually decided to restrict to Norway and Sweden. It is customary for Nobel Laureates not to give any public talks between their nomination and acceptance, yet the Norwegian Student Association approached Pauling about speaking on the day of the Nobel ceremonies at a separate ceremony that combined the celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights with an anti-apartheid meeting.

August Schon, the director of the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament, had alerted Pauling to the possibility that he might be approached by the students and reminded him of the usual practice of laureates not speaking before the acceptance of their award. Pauling’s response to the Norwegian Student Association was much more straight forward: he simply was too busy, with a note to himself that he “shouldn’t do anything else.” Inundated by a flood of invitations, Pauling delegated the scheduling and planning of his post-acceptance speaking tour to Otto Bastiansen, a professor at Oslo University.

Fortunately, Pauling and Ava Helen were able to get away to their ranch for some peace and quiet at the end of November before leaving for Europe. While at the ranch, Pauling worked on his acceptance speech and his Nobel Lecture, “Science and Peace,” while Ava Helen likewise drafted speeches that she had been invited to give. Pauling had become so adept at writing his speeches, the draft that he left the ranch with, which he composed over six days, remained largely unaltered once he reached the podium in Oslo.

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