Two More Years in the Life

We’re pleased to announce the addition of two more years to the ever-expanding Linus Pauling Day-by-Day project.  Now in its fifteenth year of production and growth, the website seeks to document as many days of Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s lives as possible – painstaking work that has been carefully mined, by a cast of hundreds, from our holdings in the Pauling Papers.  With this latest release, the project now covers four full decades, from 1930-1969.

The new years in question are 1968 and 1969 – awkward years for the Paulings and difficult ones for the world at large.  While the war in Vietnam escalated, activism in the streets turned violent and cultural shifts accelerated, the Paulings found themselves well within the nomadic period that had defined their lives ever since Linus Pauling’s departure from Caltech in Fall 1963.

Prior to arriving at some measure of stability at Stanford University, where he began setting up a small laboratory in the summer of 1969, Pauling had bounced from the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions to the University of California, San Diego, never with fully satisfactory results. Partly because of the uncertainties surrounding his institutional affiliation, Pauling found it increasingly difficult to attract the sort of research funding to which he had been accustomed during his glorious run in Pasadena.

The situation deteriorated to the point where he was compelled to appeal to a private source for support: his ex-daughter in law.  Anita Oser, an heiress to the Rockefeller and McCormick fortunes and, by 1968, long since divorced from Linus Pauling Jr., had provided funding for Linus Sr.’s work in the past.  By Spring 1968, the elder Pauling’s financial footing had deteriorated to the point where he was asking Anita for nearly half of the estimated $100,000 that he needed to keep his program afloat. Fortunately the other half had already been pledged by Chester Carlson, a founder of Xerox and a former student of Pauling’s.

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling among a group drinking coffee in a Wilson College laboratory. April 14, 1969

The gloom that surrounded Pauling’s professional concern permeated other aspects of his and Ava Helen’s lives.  Both Linus and Ava acknowledged that La Jolla, where the Paulings lived while based at UCSD, was not to Mrs. Pauling’s liking, (“I have felt uprooted and purposeless here,” she wrote to her son, Peter) and it was a welcome turn of events indeed when the couple purchased a new home in Portola Valley, California, not far from the Stanford campus, once the move north had been finalized.

Of far greater consequence though, was the tumult that defined world events during the time period.  On multiple occasions, the Paulings reveal themselves in their correspondence to be burdened by the pressures of the day: “we are going through a terrible time,” Pauling admits in a letter to Prof. Carroll Richardson; “The times are horrible here in the U.S. and I’m sure they will get much worse…one could cry,” Ava Helen lamented, again to her son Peter.

Though relatively conservative in their own habits, it was clear that the Paulings were in near full support of, at least, the sentiments of the student uprisings of the era.  In a stirring letter dated July 3, 1969, Linus Pauling made his feelings readily apparent

I agree with the statement in your letter that some of the university students fail to act in accordance with my statement that we must bring law and order into the world as a whole. I do not think that their actions have been nearly so violent and basically unlawful as those of their elders. The war in Vietnam and the institution of the draft for the military service are probably the most significant reasons for the present student unrest. I myself feel strongly that a young man who does not want to kill any of his fellowmen should not be forced by the government to do so.

I estimate the ratio of the violence done by the government to that done by the revolting students as about one million to one.

The rhetoric that Pauling employed in certain of his speeches also intensified with the times.  See, for instance, a commencement address that he delivered at Windham College in May 1969:

We are trying to stop the REVOLUTION of the miserably poor, the starving, the economically exploited people of the world, by use of our military might….

I have confidence in you young people, who are revolting against the greed, the hypocrisy, the immorality of your elders….

Linus Pauling in lecture at the Second International Congress of Social Psychiatry. August 1969

Likewise, Pauling’s thinking on matters of peace and world affairs was steadily moving in new directions.  While still focusing on the dangers of the atomic age, he increasingly began to speak more on issues of economic equality, decrying with fiery rhetoric the global maldistribution of wealth. Whereas his previous activism – especially with respect to radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons tests – had been largely borne of scientific interests, later talks were based in a more thorough study of the material world; of the conditions world-wide that were dividing rich and poor. By 1969 he had developed a logarithmic “wellbeing scale” and was advocating “a great decrease in the amount of human suffering…effected by only a moderate redistribution of the world’s wealth.”

Pauling’s first love was forever science and scientific inquiry surely did not disappear during this time.  While work continued on more abstract investigations into structural chemistry and molecular architecture, the defining publication of this period was “Orthomolecular Psychiatry,” Pauling’s theory that optimum mental health is dependent upon achieving an ideal chemical balance within the body – a balance attained through nutrition and nutritional supplementation.

The paper, which was published in Science in April 1968, generated a great deal of discussion and, for Pauling, a large volume of mail.  So it is that we are able to tease out interesting subcomponents and offshoots of the theory: the possibility that niacin may help to control anxiety; the potential for treatment of brain damage through nutrition; the likelihood that criminal activity is caused by a “diseased or injured brain.”  It was not much longer before Pauling became more fully infatuated with the idea of orthomolecular medicine and launched head on into his crusade in favor of vitamin C.


Thanksgiving Day photo used in a Kamb family greeting card. From left are Linda Pauling Kamb, with Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, and Linda’s four boys.

Linus Pauling Day-by-Day presently consists of over 118,000 document summaries, nearly 2,300 scanned documents and over 3,000 full-text transcripts.  The larger themes of Pauling’s life are, of course, easily traced within the resource.  But the project has also allowed us to play a little bit, posting notice of lesser known items from the collection: Pauling’s favorite book as a child; a patient reply to the concept of a “love bomb“; thoughts on alternatives to shaving.  It’s these little nuggets that bring a smile to our face and help to keep us energized as we continue to move forward with the project. We’re glad to make it available to our users, whatever their research interest may be.

One Response

  1. […] we’re in an announcing mood, it gives us great pleasure to pass along word of another new Pauling resource recently made […]

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