Pauling’s Disengagement from the Guggenheim Foundation

The Paulings in India, 1955

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

In 1950, the Indian government invited Linus Pauling to spend six weeks visiting and lecturing at several of the country’s top universities and research institutions. Pauling and Ava Helen were planning to use the invitation as an opportunity to take a trip around the world during December and January, a circumstance that would seem to preclude Pauling’s service for the year on the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Committee of Selection.

Pauling still wanted to find a way though, and left open the possibility of his participation as he worked to finalize his plans. If Henry Allen Moe, the Foundation’s Secretary, would still have him on the Committee, Pauling wanted the applicant digests to be sent to him in India. To maintain confidentiality and avoid having to carry them around with him afterwards, Pauling would make his notes and then destroy the digests. An extra copy could then be sent to Pasadena, awaiting Pauling’s return.

Moe did not think it a good idea for Pauling to go to India and be on the Committee of Selection, because it would be too much to coordinate. Though recognizing that the India trip was a wonderful opportunity, he also held out hope that Pauling would stay put and continue to serve on the Committee.

As he thought about it some more, Pauling agreed that, were he to make the trip to the subcontinent, it would be best that he not serve on the Committee due to all of the possible mishaps that could arise. At the same time, he was also beginning to have doubts about going, in part because he would miss the opportunity of growing some proteins – presumably for research – in his garden. And while his curiosity about scientific life in India was overriding this desire to garden, Pauling’s delicate health would soon intervene.


As the Paulings delved deeper into the planning for their Indian adventure, Linus came down with the flu and several colds. In the midst of this run of illness, Pauling’s doctor, Richard W. Lippman, recommended that his patient not get the shots necessary for the trip, while also recommending that he not go unless he had the shots. In the end, Pauling decided not risk it and stayed home, but Moe still thought it best for him to not participate on the Committee that year because of his health.

That said, Moe was not shy about soliciting Pauling’s opinion on as many Committee-related topics as he could handle, resulting in one of the duo’s most intense periods of correspondence since Pauling first began serving on the Committee. In particular, Moe badly wanted to send Pauling all of the year’s physics applications because of suspected poor judgment from another adviser, but he managed to hold back.

Even though Pauling was not at the annual meeting, the Committee was grateful for his comments and he was still identified as a member in that year’s announcement of Fellows. That notice, however, would mark Pauling’s final participation on the Committee, though he continued to serve on the Foundation’s Fellowship Advisory Board.

This transition coincided with Pauling and Moe’s disagreement over aspects of the Foundation’s response to the House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations, also known as the Cox Committee. As noted in our previous post in this series, after Pauling supplied his criticisms of the response, Moe retorted with a lengthy justification that questioned Pauling’s judgments on social issues. Pauling did not respond to Moe’s criticisms, but continued to carry out his duties as a member of the Advisory Board.


Excerpt from Moe’s letter to Pauling of June 3, 1954

Following the Cox Committee dispute – and quite unlike the previous year – Pauling and Moe’s correspondence slowed to a trickle and was dotted with signs that their relationship had become strained. Much of their exchange focused on Pauling’s succinct comments on chemistry applicants, though mention is made of Pauling’s attempt to call Moe to provide feedback more efficiently. (Moe was not available to receive the call.) Later, Pauling delayed responding to Moe on a question concerning the conditions of one fellowship, because he agreed with what Moe had decided and did not think a response was necessary.

Some of the tension appeared to begin lifting in June when Moe asked Pauling for input on an applicant, and also relayed that he and his wife Edith were going to England. Pauling responded that he was happy that they were making the trip, but there was little in the way of follow-up. That fall, Moe informed Pauling that his son had returned from his military tour in Asia, was beginning graduate school at the University of North Carolina, and had become a father. The relationship seemed to be in a period of thaw.

Perhaps feeling comfortable again, Pauling decided to reiterate concerns that he harbored about the low stipends attached to Guggenheim Fellowships; concerns he had first broached while Moe was working on the Cox Committee response. Prefaced with a hope that Moe would not mind him bringing up the topic again, Pauling commenced to relay the story of A. H. Livermore, a faculty member at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Livermore had received a Fellowship to study Molecular and Cellular Biology and had planned to use these funds in conjunction with a Fulbright award to study in England. As it happened, Livermore’s Fulbright application was unsuccessful, thus rendering the trip impossible for him to make with the accompaniment of his family. Pauling felt that the Foundation should pay enough so that a whole family could make the trip and not place any burden on the Fellow.

Moe responded by informing Pauling that Livermore had already planned on deferring his Fellowship and reapplying for a Fulbright the following year. And while he appreciated Pauling’s suggestions on the fellowship amounts, he believed them to be financially unrealistic. Personally, Moe thought that funds would be better split between two equal scholars rather than awarding a larger amount to only one of them. He also thought that it was valid for Fellows to have to invest some of their own money into their work or, if they had none, to find a way of getting some.

Moe’s point of view though, was slipping into the minority. Two years later, in 1956, the Foundation appeared to assimilate Pauling’s opinion – which Committee of Selection Chairman Louis B. Wright also held – and changed the wording of its call for applicants to state that awards would no longer adhere to a firm $3,000, but instead be adjusted to meet a Fellow’s needs.


After this more recent disagreement, Pauling and Moe’s relationship appears to have cooled again, but Pauling’s successful trip to India at the end of 1954 and beginning of 1955 seemed to snap them out of it. Notably, Moe was the first person to whom Pauling wrote upon his return to the U.S. Pauling used this letter to tell the story of his trip, but also to express concern that Moe was working too hard and that he look into hiring another assistant. Moe replied that he had been on the lookout for one and that he hoped to hear a fuller account of Pauling’s travels the next time the two saw each other in person.

The following year, Moe was invited to deliver the commencement address at the California Institute of Technology’s graduation ceremony. Eager to see his old friend, Moe expressed disappointment when he found out that Pauling would be in Rome during that time.

After returning to New York, Moe wrote that the trip had reminded him of the last time he had been in southern California and, in particular, his conversation with Pauling about the lack of water emerging as a limiting factor for additional development of the area. At the time, Pauling told Moe that he was not too concerned since he assumed that, at some point, fresh water could be made from sea water, possibly by using nuclear power. Moe was curious to know if Pauling thought that desalination had become a more feasible option since then.

Pauling responded that he had not kept up with research on the subject, but he believed that experiments related to ionic transfer through thin exchange resin barriers might prove promising. He also noted that the Von Kleinschmidt method of distillation by compression had been used in Boston, but at five cents per ton, it was still more costly than freshwater. A few days later, Pauling wrote again to say that he had been hearing good things about Moe’s speech and was glad that he had suggested him as the speaker. Moe suspected Pauling had been behind the invitation and was pleased to hear that he approved.


Several years later, Moe agreed to serve as a character witness for Pauling in his 1963 suit against the New York Daily News. Pauling, however, left Moe wondering for several months about what was happening in the case. When he finally wrote to thank Moe for testifying, Pauling explained that, according to his attorney, that they done too good of a job in making their case for Pauling’s character. Towards the end of the trial, Pauling wrote, the jury agreed that the paper had committed slander, but they did not think it had succeeded in damaging Pauling’s reputation. The jury then asked the judge for clarification on whether they could still find the paper guilty. The judge told them that they could not and so they found in favor of the paper.

With his background in law, Moe had suspected a turn of events along these lines and committed to testifying again if needed. But when solicited once more, this time for a suit against the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Moe had to decline since he was too busy. Because Pauling’s attorney thought Moe a very important witness, Pauling made one final pitch, hoping that Moe might fly in and out in a single day. Moe still could not do it.

That year was also Moe’s last at the Guggenheim Foundation. He had begun his tenure as President of the American Philosophical Society four years prior and he stayed in the position until 1970. During this time, contacts between Moe and Pauling further diminished, though their occasional exchanges were friendly in tone. Moe died in 1975 at the age of 81.

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