The Golden Years: Freeman and Co. in the 1950s

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Stanley Schaefer as photographed by the San Francisco Chronicle, 1962.

[Part 4 in our series examining Linus Pauling’s relationship with publisher W.H. Freeman & Co.]

As the 1950s moved forward, W.H. Freeman & Company sought to actively build on past successes. Objective number one in doing so was expanding the number of textbooks that the company published. Objective number two for Bill Freeman was to increase the firm’s staff in order to match editorial and publishing demands.

One of the first employees that Freeman hired when he started his company was Janet MacRorie, the head of marketing. MacRorie and Freeman first collaborated on the advertising and marketing campaign supporting General Chemistry in 1947In the early 1950s, Adam Kudlacik joined the firm as treasurer and secretary, thus beginning a lengthy tenure with the company. Harvey McCaleb also joined the team in 1953 to handle Midwest authors.

Perhaps the most significant addition to Freeman’s staff come on board in 1949, when Stanley Schaefer joined Freeman and John Behnke as one of the firm’s principal editors. The original intention for Schaefer was that he base himself in New York for purposes of recruiting and negotiating with East Coast authors, but Freeman was so impressed with Schaefer’s work that he invited him to move to the company’s headquarters in San Francisco not long after he was hired. Schaefer was pleased with the transfer and, in 1957, was promoted to executive vice-president. (He remained with the company for several decades, eventually becoming president and chairman.) With Schaefer’s promotion, another consequential hire was made when William Kaufman took Schaefer’s old spot on the editorial staff.


Though business had been been strong throughout the post-war period, by the late 1950s Freeman began to worry that the company’s competitors were gaining traction. Looking to bolster his catalog, Freeman decided to re-concentrate efforts to entice respectable authors to sign contracts with Freeman & Co. And while he continued to send outside manuscript proposals to Linus Pauling for the chemistry series that he edited, Freeman also began to query Pauling for ideas on scientific areas that did not currently have a well-written or modern textbook in circulation. He then used this feedback to pinpoint his recruitment of authors to publish within those areas.

Freeman also updated the editorial plan for the book series that Pauling was heading. In particular, Freeman began to push the idea that non-science students could be harnessed to promote what he called “the revolution in scientific education.” Likewise, because Pauling’s groundbreaking General Chemistry text had been so successful, Freeman wanted to publish more non-traditional and experimental books in Pauling’s line.

Pauling didn’t disagree with Freeman’s point of view, but he advised caution. Privately, Pauling was concerned that, in seeking to grow the company, Freeman might begin to adopt selection and recruitment policies that were employed by larger firms. Were he to do so, Pauling worried that Freeman might be tempted to sell the company if it grew beyond him. In Pauling’s opinion, Freeman was fundamental to the company’s success and this success could not continue – at least not in the same way – if Freeman allowed the company to pursue the same models as larger publishing firms.


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Despite the hand-wringing, W.H. Freeman & Co. flourished throughout the remainder of the 1950s. A new milestone was reached at the end of the decade, when Freeman announced plans to open a satellite editorial operation in London. The establishment of this branch in 1960 opened new markets for the company in England and elsewhere across Europe, and did much to increase the firm’s appeal among British authors.

Bill Freeman was beginning to receive recognition for his achievements as well. In 1960 he was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from his alma mater Hamilton College, and was also nominated by Pauling as California Industrialist of the Year. Though he didn’t win this award, it meant a great deal to Freeman to know that Pauling respected and admired him enough to nominate him for a prize that celebrated success through creativity and innovation.

Unsurprisingly, the company’s reputation in its hometown was quite strong. On one occasion, the San Francisco Chronicle called Freeman & Co. “a great big sensational success story,” and indeed this was so. At the time, textbook publishing was largely the domain of a handful of companies located on the East Coast. In fact, as the Chronicle article pointed out, there was only one reputable textbook publisher anywhere on the West Coast: W.H. Freeman & Co.

But amidst growth, change and strategic planning, for Freeman the mission statement remained the same. The company, he said, published “only those [books] it thinks are based on a new and advanced viewpoint.” And though the company’s mission was unchanged, its approach to publishing was becoming more experimental. Notably, as the 1960s moved forward, the firm entered into a joint venture with Scientific American to publish off-prints of older articles.


As we will see in our next post, Freeman was not on board with the Scientific American arrangement, a collaboration that emerged out of larger difficulties for the company. In fact, while at the conclusion of the 1950s Freeman could happily describe himself as director of the company but also “semi-retired,” change was very near on the horizon. Comforted for the moment by the glow of hard-earned achievement, the publisher may also have had an inkling of the troubles that would soon arise.

College Chemistry

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[Part 3 in our series examining Linus Pauling’s relationship with the W.H. Freeman & Co. publishing house.]

Linus Pauling’s landmark General Chemistry textbook hadn’t yet cooled from the press when he, along with publisher Bill Freeman and illustrator Roger Hayward, began planning for a younger sibling, College Chemistry.

Initially, Freeman had expressed high hopes that Pauling might consider writing a chemistry text for liberal arts students and other non-science majors. Pauling suggested another fundamental college text instead. He did so in part because he was troubled by several reviews that had dismissed General Chemistry as being too challenging for a freshman audience. Whether or not this was the case, Pauling felt that he could not adapt his existing book enough to adequately address this complaint. He also did not want to compromise his original intent, which was to give students who were passionate about chemistry a challenging and engaging textbook that would help them to build a strong foundation of core principles within the discipline.

The gap that resided between Freeman’s hopes and Pauling’s goals was ultimately filled by College Chemistry, a text that was specifically marketed as being for the average student. Intent on achieving this objective, Freeman insisted that Pauling’s process rely upon a stable of editors who had absolutely no background in chemistry. Only in this way could the firm verify that this second book would be truly accessible to students lacking in specialized knowledge.


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Freeman marketing materials for College Chemistry and General Chemistry, 1951.

As Pauling circulated the first fifteen and then the second fifteen chapters, Freeman became increasingly excited about their new project. Buoyed by these feelings and intent on using what he had learned from their experience with General Chemistry, Freeman laid plans for an early and aggressive advertising campaign.

He and Pauling, however, had different ideas about the specifics of a successful marketing strategy. In one instance, Freeman sent Pauling an ad that depicted nuclear fission with the following caption:

The above picture, of course, shows the process of nuclear fission. But it might also illustrate the way Linus Pauling’s College Chemistry has hit American colleges. Has this chain reaction hit you?

Upon seeing this, Pauling replied that the ad gave him the feeling of a text that had somehow disrupted American colleges, noting that “Whatever the disrupting effect is, it seems to be that it would be undesirable.” Freeman quickly learned his lesson and steered away from science puns in future marketing attempts.


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Hayward color plate included in College Chemistry, 1950.

Despite their hectic schedules and a few setbacks, Pauling and Freeman managed to get College Chemistry published by 1950. The new book succeeded in reaching a wider audience than had General Chemistry, and the reviews that it received were largely positive. Pauling dedicated the book to his doctor, Thomas Addis, with the epigraph, “who in supplying science to medicine kept always uppermost his deep sympathy for mankind.”

Shortly after sending the first edition off to press, Pauling was already working on revisions to College Chemistry. Though generally pleased with the work, he felt that there was room to further refine the writing and presentation of information. He also wanted to update the design. For instance, when he saw the color plate for a proposed illustration, Pauling was so impressed that he asked if they could print all of the second edition’s illustrations in color. Though the newer technology excited him as well, Freeman denied this request, citing cost as a barrier. Indeed, such was the state of publishing at the time that Freeman felt they were already ahead of their competitors with the inclusion of a single color plate.

Despite the warm reception that College Chemistry received, Freeman warned that Pauling would have to make substantial revisions to further improve the accessibility of the text and to integrate new scientific developments that had come about between editions. Pauling heeded this warning and saved $300 of his royalties to recruit Fred Allen – then of Purdue University but formerly his professor at Oregon Agricultural College – to assist with the editing. At Freeman’s request, Pauling also circulated his manuscript to non-science professionals, once again seeking to ensure that the text would reach its target audience.

Another key change between the first and second edition was the royalty agreement governing Pauling’s work for Freeman. As the company was still in its early years and in the midst of growing pains, Freeman proposed that Pauling receive a royalty of 10% for the first 10,000 copies (as opposed to their earlier contract, which stipulated a 15% royalty for the first 5,000 copies), 15% for the next 5,500 sold in a year, and 19% on all other copies sold in a year.

Pauling agreed to these new terms for two reasons. First, it was his desire that the company’s success continue. And second, the lower royalty rate meant that Freeman could sell the book at a lower list price. These compromises worked to increase distribution potential and, indeed, both author and publisher saw a satisfactory number of copies leaving the shelves.

Roger Hayward at Freeman & Co.

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Roger Hayward, ca. 1930s.

[An examination of the history of the W.H. Freeman & Co. publishing house as viewed through the lens of Linus Pauling and his colleagues. This is part 2 of 8.]

As Linus Pauling’s chemistry series at W.H. Freeman & Co. moved forward, a third member of the team proved to be of crucial importance: illustrator Roger Hayward.

As we’ve covered previously, Bill Freeman initially employed Hayward to create the illustrations for Pauling’s General Chemistry textbook and, suitably impressed, wound up commissioning him for a number of other projects. Freeman quickly saw that Hayward was an incredibly talented illustrator and the two formed a close friendship that lasted through the years.

Freeman even recruited Hayward to design his new office when the company moved from Market Street. Freeman was colorblind and admitted that he needed help when it came to outfitting a space. In the past, he had relied upon a “Vice-Presidents-in-Charge-of-Decoration” committee made up of several female colleagues, but ultimately decided that Hayward’s insights were a better fit. In particular, Freeman commissioned Hayward to create an illustration meant specifically to hang in his office. Hayward gladly obliged and, a few weeks later, presented Freeman with a large illustration of molecules that – as Freeman’s staff informed him – were a lovely shade of apricot.


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A Hayward illustration used in the first edition of General Chemistry, 1948.

Professionally, Hayward was a fundamental asset to the company, and in more ways than one. For example, when Freeman was courting John D. Strong, then at Johns Hopkins, for a book on optics, Hayward played a crucial role in convincing Strong to sign with the San Francisco firm rather than a larger publishing house on the East Coast. Once secured, Hayward and Strong worked well together, engaging in lively discussions as they collaborated on the manuscript.

As their relationship flourished, Freeman became a strong supporter of Hayward and his work. On one noteworthy occasion in the early 1950s, a textbook published by Houghton-Mifflin came under scrutiny because it contained a number of illustrations that closely resembled those that Hayward had created for use in General Chemistry. Hayward noticed immediately and brought the matter to Freeman’s attention. In his reply, Freeman suggested that

No one can copyright an idea. One can copyright the expression of an idea. This last applies, not only to the use of words…but to illustrations as well.

Believing that Houghton-Mifflin had indeed committed a violation of this type, Freeman became aggressive. In the end, he negotiated a deal with the president of the company stipulating that Houghton-Mifflin would pay a $0.04 royalty fee to Hayward for each copy sold.


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Betty and Roger in 1956.

Hayward’s value was such that Freeman ultimately thought it wise to offer him a contract with the company, rather than enlisting him periodically as a freelancer. While beneficial to the company, this contract also offered the promise of a steady wage and a new era of financial security for Roger and his wife Betty.

The agreement seemed simple on paper. Hayward would continue to receive royalty payments for relevant books published prior to the contract, but for future work, he would receive an annual salary of between $4,500 and $7,500, ($40,000 to $67,000 in today’s dollars) depending on how many hours he logged. And though he would be on salary, Hayward would not be asked to be physically present at the office as long as he kept track of the time that he spent working on projects for the company.

The contract specifications were satisfactory for Hayward, particularly because of the royalties language, as continuation of these payments would insure some degree of income for Betty were Roger to pass away suddenly. Indeed, perhaps the most significant benefit of the contract was the health insurance that the company offered to Hayward, who suffered from asthma. Importantly, the insurance agreement stated that Hayward and his family would receive health benefits during the run of the contract and also for two years after any event that led to his incapacitation or death. The only new requirement of Hayward was that he commit to completing illustrations for the exclusive use of Freeman & Co. and a partner publication, Scientific American magazine.


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Hayward illustration used in Concepts of Classical Optics, by John D. Strong, 1958.

After a period of negotiation, Hayward agreed to terms and, in 1958, began working as a contract employee. His first task was to experiment with alternatives to color printing and texturing. While Freeman knew that color printing might help set his firm apart from its competitors, he worried that the costs were too high. With Hayward, Freeman tinkered with screen tone and half-tone techniques, but neither proved especially successful.

Other professional complications emerged not long after. A year into his contract, Hayward began to feel that he was being treated more as a draftsman than an artist, and was too often compelled to engage in what he described as “uncongenial work.” Freeman was sympathetic to Hayward’s lament, but only to a point:

The boys around here certainly have tried to see that each of us doesn’t have to misuse his talents or have a disproportionate amount of the uncongenial. How in the world could we keep this spirit if we had an exception, one sharing in the perquisites but able to rule (by himself) that he would not do some share of the work because he decided it was uncongenial?

But drudgery wasn’t Hayward’s only concern. Increasingly he felt that authors were overly critical of his illustrations and unwilling to give him the respect that he deserved. As Hayward grew more and more unhappy, Freeman found himself spending a great deal of time mediating. This wasn’t necessarily out of character; he often referred to himself as “Old Man Freeman,” a persona of wisdom and benevolence that he felt he needed to embody as director of the company.

In Hayward’s case however, this persona began to wear thin. Circumstances reached a boiling point when George Pimentel, who published The Hydrogen Bond with Freeman in 1960suggested corrections to drawings that Hayward had provided. Upon learning of these suggestions, the illustrator took immediate offense and refused to complete the project. Freeman intervened to remind Hayward that authors greatly respected his skill as an artist but that his job as a company employee was to take direction from the authors or, at the very least, to negotiate with them. In response, Hayward wrote

I see nothing in that [contract] which commits me to the philosophy that the author or any other person is always right. I certainly would never sign a contract which would require me to satisfy any person or persons who are not a party to that instrument.

Growing impatient, Freeman’s reply was terse

We and our authors are the sole judges of what goes into a book and you legally must abide by that principle or you do not fulfill your part of the bargain with this company.

Suitably chastened, Hayward apologized to both Freeman and Pimentel and resumed illustrating.

With enough of these conflicts however, Freeman saw that a contract was no longer benefiting the authors, the company, or Hayward. Eventually he offered to terminate the agreement and allow Hayward to revert back to freelance status, receiving additional payments on a royalty basis. Hayward accepted and his relationship with the company, as well as his friendship with Freeman, quickly returned to a mutually respectful and co-productive state.

W.H. Freeman: The Man, His Company, and His Star Editor

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[Ed Note: In November and December 2017, we explored Linus Pauling’s connections with the publishing house W.H. Freeman & Co. as viewed through the lens of Pauling’s groundbreaking textbook, General Chemistry. Today we begin a new series that delves more deeply into that relationship, exploring Pauling’s interactions with Bill Freeman the man and W.H. Freeman the company. This is part 1 of 8.]

William Hazen Freeman, Jr. was born in New York state in March 1905. Though information about his early life is scant, we do know that his father, William Hazen Freeman, was a doctor who specialized in gastrointestinal issues. The younger Freeman attended Hamilton College in New York and graduated in 1926, a member of the same class as famed behaviorist B.F. Skinner.

Macmillan Publishing Company had already hired Freeman by the time of his graduation and, over the next few years, he rose to an editorial position within the company’s textbook department. In the midst of this, Freeman relocated to San Francisco, where he began work at the company’s newly opened satellite branch.

Not long after arriving on the West Coast, Freeman met with Linus Pauling for the first time. Macmillan was keen to publish a series of textbooks in chemistry, and Freeman felt that Pauling would be the ideal editor for such a series. Furthermore, Freeman saw any potential partnership as mutually beneficial: Macmillan would enlist the skill, expertise, and reputation of a prominent scientific figure who had built a strong reputation as a teacher and Pauling could use the association with a large publishing firm to develop his own series of textbooks.

Though Pauling couldn’t deny that this sounded appealing, he hesitated. For one, he disliked the idea that he wouldn’t retain authority over the direction of the series. Rather, Macmillan planned to select the books that would be published and then pass them on to Pauling for his input. Moreover, the publisher wanted Pauling to coordinate closely with a team of Macmillan editors throughout the process. The company also suggested that they would likely terminate the series after just a few years. Taking all of these factors into consideration, Pauling thanked Freeman for his time and declined the offer.

In 1941, when Pauling began circulating early drafts of General Chemistry, Freeman approached him again, this time to express Macmillan’s interest in the manuscript. Though Pauling chose not to publish with Macmillan, the two stayed in contact through the war years, even though Pauling had postponed work on all major writing projects.


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While Freeman was working in San Francisco, he met Verne Kopplin, a young lawyer who was specializing in tax law. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Kopplin was the 106th woman to practice law in the state. She subsequently passed the bar in Massachusetts and California, and was ultimately hired by the prestigious San Francisco firm of Rogers and Clark, which had previously abstained from employing women as attorneys. Indeed, by the time that she became involved with Freeman, Kopplin had already challenged discriminatory gender practices in three states.

Freeman and Kopplin married in 1946, the same year that W.H. Freeman & Company opened for business. In each other, they recognized a mutual determination to succeed, even if they had to challenge powerful institutions to do so. For Freeman, this ambition meant leaving Macmillan when it failed to show enough genuine interest in Pauling’s General Chemistry manuscript. Freeman also fiercely believed in small, independent presses and the importance of developing a trusting and intimate relationship between authors and publishers. He once remarked to illustrator Roger Hayward, with whom he shared a deep personal friendship for many years, that “the relationship between an author and a publisher is something like a marriage.”

Macmillan’s lackluster interest in Pauling’s text was indeed the spark that led Freeman to create his own publishing house, and it was a gamble that paid off. In 1947, W.H. Freeman & Co. published its first book, General Chemistry, now regarded to be a classic of the genre. That same year also brought success for Verne, as it marked the beginning of her practice at Rogers and Clark. She remained there for eight years before establishing her own practice. During her time in California, she also acted as a consultant for Freeman & Co., typically providing guidance on matters related to stockholders.


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Freeman set up shop on Market Street, a major San Francisco thoroughfare that promised high visibility for his fledgling company. Freeman’s boldness of vision matched well with the prominence of his chosen location. As he stated in his first corporate mission statement: “We say first of all that we want each book we publish to be something that hasn’t been done or that has not been well done.” As a first order of business in pursuing this objective, he revived the idea of a chemistry series for which Pauling would be the sole editor.

Once Pauling was officially on board, Freeman began sending his new editor several manuscripts each month, curating Pauling’s feedback about each submission’s potential for success. In addition to providing suggestions on whether or not a given book should be published, Pauling’s responsibilities as editor of the series also included bringing new manuscripts to Freeman’s attention. Once a proposal was accepted, Pauling provided further suggestions as the text went through the process of development. He did all of this while also writing and editing his own books.

Pauling was an exacting reader and often much sterner than Freeman in his evaluations. Indeed, he rejected most of the manuscripts that Freeman and, later, Stanley Schaefer sent to him. For one physical chemistry proposal that Pauling judged to be particularly poor, he told Freeman, “If you have any thought of publishing this, send it back to me and I’ll tear it to pieces for you.” Freeman replied sympathetically, noting that he found life as an editor to be mostly unsatisfactory, except in cases where he encountered writing like Pauling’s.

Those few manuscripts that did receive Pauling’s blessing were generally qualified with a long list of criticisms. For a general chemistry text authored by Arthur Campbell, Pauling sent four to five pages of revisions per single manuscript page — the book took several years to publish. It wasn’t Pauling’s intention to be unduly harsh. Rather, his thorough critiques reflected his steadfast commitment to improving the quality of scientific education. It was important to Pauling that his series only release texts that were current, unique, and highly effective. In this, he did much to reinforce Freeman’s mission statement.


However, as the 1950s moved forward and Pauling became busier, he found that there was far less time to devote to editorial responsibilities. By 1956, Freeman had become fairly concerned and, in one instance, he pressed Pauling to take a look at a book on hydrogen bonding. In doing so, he reiterated that, “I am very anxious to publish something worthwhile and of a specialized nature in your series, for it is not good to have your series show as little activity as it has.” Thus motivated, Pauling refocused his efforts and returned the manuscript a short while later, offering few critical comments.

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Roscoe Dickinson, 1923.

Though the series was overall a success, not every project worked out. One particularly tantalizing idea that Freeman put forth was for Pauling to collaborate with Caltech colleagues Richard Badger, David Shoemaker, and Stuart Bates to compile and contextualize a series of notes written by Roscoe Dickinson. (Pauling’s major professor and the first person to earn a Ph.D. from Caltech, Dickinson died in 1945 at the young age of 51.) Freeman’s idea came from requests that a book be written on Dickinson’s unpublished work in chemical thermodynamics. Unfortunately, the project never came to fruition for a number of reason, including lack of access to Dickinson’s papers.

Another possibility that went unrealized was an idea that Pauling flirted with from time to time: writing a high school textbook. Freeman successfully dissuaded Pauling from pursuing this notion by enlisting the help of his personal secretary, Margaret Cooper.

Freeman hired Cooper in 1953 and quickly came to respect her opinion on all sorts of matters. Based on her experience as a former high school teacher, she explained to Pauling and Freeman that the American education system had inadequately prepared high school students and instructors alike. In making this suggestion, she pointed out that, while a degree in education technically qualified individuals to teach all fields, in certain instances she felt that she had been forced to provide instruction in subjects for which she lacked the necessary skill set. This anecdote helped Freeman to convince Pauling that writing a text for high school students wasn’t a good use of his time as the content would too often fall upon deaf ears.

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But most of Freeman & Co.’s projects found a happy medium between the sensational success of General Chemistry and the trapped potential of the Dickinson text, and overall Bill Freeman was pleased by his company’s success. Notably, at the end of 1949, the publisher was able to put out its first catalog of books. Freeman was quick to point out that most publishing houses were “in the red” for their first five years, but this was not the case for Freeman & Co. Rather, after only three years, the firm had published eight titles and favorably impressed numerous colleges with their small but successful operation.


Outside of their professional association with each other, Pauling and Freeman also formed a close personal friendship. They visited one other as frequently as their busy schedules allowed, and their respective families also became close. In a letter to Pauling, Freeman remarked, “I gather that Lin [daughter Linda Freeman] fell in love with Crelly [son Crellin Pauling] even as Verne fell in love with Peter [son Peter Pauling]. I’ll have to watch the women in my family around your boys.”

(Like Pauling, Freeman had a daughter named Linda. He and Verne also had a son.)

Pauling’s immense faith in Freeman’s abilities matched Freeman’s deep respect for Pauling’s life and work. The two often brought potential projects to one other, with Freeman suggesting at one point that Pauling star in a series of instructional science films. Who knows? Had he taken Freeman’s suggestion to heart, Linus Pauling could have been the Bill Nye of the 1960s!

One World Away: Kiang’s Great Unity and Pauling’s Press for Peace

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[Ed Note: With the conclusion of the academic year here at Oregon State University, we say goodbye to Student Archivist Ethan Heusser, who has written extensively on the Special Collections and Archives Research Center’s rare book collections at our sister blog, Rare@OSU. Today and over the next three weeks, we will share three Pauling-related posts that Ethan wrote over the course of his tenure working for us.]

Many Americans – and people around the globe – experienced the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s as an age of political uncertainty and social turmoil. It was a powerful time: everywhere the specter of disaster loomed, yet that fear brought with it a unique capacity for change enabled by commonplace desperation. In the United States alone, mounting resistance to the Vietnam War built confidence among grass-roots activist organizations for their efficacy in up-ending the status quo. And while mutually assured destruction terrified the world, the threat of nuclear war also inspired many thinkers and activists to strive for equally bold solutions. In the light of world chaos and potential mass destruction, the idea of building a global government and abolishing nationalism seemed especially promising – far more promising than what the United Nations seemed ultimately able to provide.

It’s no surprise, then, to see a large proliferation in world peace literature in the Cold War era. Some publications were mild and innocuous, but many took the form of bold declarations and manifestos about the urgent need for radical change.

An excellent example of the latter is One World: The Approach to Permanent Peace on Earth and the General Happiness of Mankind by John Kiang. Self-described as “a manifesto of revolution for world union with the evolutionary law of group expansion as a guiding theory,” it examines shifting technologies and living conditions to build a larger argument in favor of a unified humanity. From that perspective, nations and nation-states can only be seen as counter-productive: the deep-seated but fundamentally arbitrary veil of nationalism impedes sincere appeals to common humanity and mutual accountability.

Although the core text is fairly concise, this copy of One World is a scholarly edition from 1984, replete with extensive sources, commentary, and analysis:

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In this work we see the role that cultural context can play in international movements: though not explicitly outlined, One Worldcontains thematic and rhetorical ties to the utopic vision of “Great Unity” in China. Great Unity represents the goal of creating a Chinese society of mutual accountability and selflessness – a cohesive community where people work to help others rather than harm them.

First described in classic Chinese texts going back millennia, Great Unity was popularized by Sun Yat-Sen in the early 20th century. In doing so, it was used to help build a cultural momentum in favor of a shift towards a communist ideal. The Great Unity message was adopted overtly in China’s national anthem in 1937; though later supplanted with another song in the People’s Republic of China during the Chinese Civil War, it remains in use by Taiwan to this day.

John Kiang left China in 1949 in the wake of the earth-shattering Chinese Civil War. It seems fair to suggest that he nevertheless brought the culturally-specific vision of world peace, prosperity, and harmony with him stateside. It’s hard for those of us living in our countries of birth to imagine the inner turmoil he must have felt during that time, working for global peace a world away while his homeland was experiencing such complete upheaval and division. Perhaps that effort helped him, in some way, to bring his home with him and improve the world as a result.

These efforts manifested in One World. Though a relatively obscure book, One World at last found some degree of traction once it found its way into the hands of two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling – surprisingly, Pauling was willing to attach his name to it in the form of a guest introduction.

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As a famous peace activist, Pauling was a prime recipient of unsolicited manuscripts, book ideas, calls for action, and reference requests. But of all of the texts he received and was asked to endorse, why would he choose one such as this?

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A large factor was undoubtedly Kiang’s persistent correspondence with Pauling. He wrote with Pauling repeatedly between 1983-4, praising Pauling’s efforts and experience and asking for an introduction to One World. Pauling consistently refused, citing his lack of expertise in Kiang’s specific subject area. This pseudo-humble approach to refusing unsolicited (and often wacky) manuscripts was trademark for Pauling during his peak social activism years. Then, somehow, everything changed for One World. Somehow, Pauling changed his mind. We have as proof Pauling’s written introduction documented in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Collection, along with letters and cards from the Kiang family thanking him for his collaboration:

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Even when meticulously compiled and researched, correspondence collections can still resist post hoc scrutiny. We hold a substantial set of letters between the two activists, but we lack the connection point between the “before” and “after” of when Pauling agreed to add his name to Kiang’s One World project. Was it a letter that went missing? A phone call? An in-person visit? Kiang later sent Pauling a photo of a meeting between them, but the context for how and when it happened is largely absent.

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Another probable factor is that the content and message of the book aligned well with Pauling’s driving fears for the future. As Pauling writes in his introduction, “[Kiang’s] principal message is that war has now ruled itself out.” For Pauling, the atom bomb meant that “a war in which the existing nuclear weapons were used would with little doubt mean the end of our civilization, and possibly the end of the human race.” Perhaps that in itself built enough common ground between two men of different backgrounds and fields of expertise to collaborate – if only in a minor way – on what must have felt like a higher calling. (Pauling’s endorsement would be used in later work by John Kiang as well, but always from a distanced position.)

On a general level, One World embodies the slippery way that ideas persist, spread, and evolve. Just like how John Kiang built his own vision upon seeds planted by Sun Yat-Sen and many authors before him, it will be fascinating to witness how the Cold War push towards internationally-regulated peace and world government will rear its head again on the world stage in the decades to come.

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A Global Friendship

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Asima Chatterjee (front row, third from right) with her students and the Paulings, February 1967. Credit: Indian Academy of Sciences

[An examination of Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s relationship with the influential Indian chemist, Asima Chatterjee. Part 2 of 2.]

Asima Chatterjee’s one and only meeting with Linus and Ava Helen Pauling took place during the Paulings’ tour of India, which spanned the months of January and February 1967. During the final leg of this trip, for a mere sixteen hours, the Paulings landed in Kolkata, toured the University, saw Chatterjee’s labs, and met her students. From there the Paulings departed India en route to Honolulu, where they planned to spend a few days visiting with their son, Linus Jr. Before leaving however, the Paulings gave a sum of money to Chatterjee that they later requested she spend on a wedding gift from them for her daughter. Though a small token, this gift was surely an indication of the esteem that the Paulings felt for their friend and fellow scientist.


While 1967 began on a high note for Chatterjee, the year ultimately proved to be profoundly difficult. In the months following the Paulings’ departure, Chatterjee lost both her husband and her father. Congruent with these personal tragedies, the political environment in Chatterjee’s home region of West Bengal, and particularly in Kolkata, began to deteriorate as a radical communist group, the Naxalites, began to gain influence in the area.

While the details of Chatterjee’s personal heartache, as well as India’s mounting regional strife, were communicated in her letters to the Paulings, one is also able to intuit a degree of solace being found in correspondence. In particular, Chatterjee was keen to point out Linus Pauling’s sweeping geniality and friendship, commenting that “we all admire his enthusiasm and unlimited energy. He is so dynamic! We wonder where he gains this energy.”

Though first and foremost a scientist, Asima Chatterjee’s concerns for her home country’s well-being echoed similar frustrations being felt by her stateside correspondents. While the Paulings were focused primarily on global problems of the nuclear age, in India the worries were more acute. In particular, the need to navigate and correct a wide array of political, social and economic dysfunctions left behind by the colonial era proved to be a momentous and primary challenge.

The strains of adjusting to a new era of independence that were felt nation-wide also impacted Chatterjee in a multitude of ways. Professionally, many students at her university abandoned their studies to join the Naxalites in protest. As these demonstrations grew in intensity, splinter groups resorted to attacks on Kolkata’s infrastructure that resulted in damage to the city’s power grid.

During this period of tumult, Chatterjee’s concern for the fortunes of her students, her daughter and, indeed, her country were evident in her communications with Ava Helen. In their letters, the two women discussed a number of social issues, including student unrest around the world, Kolkata’s seemingly intractable troubles, and the escalation of violence in Vietnam. In a 1971 letter, Ava Helen expressed her sympathy for Chatterjee’s plight. “The world gets no better and we have been full of sorrow and anxiety for India the past year,” she wrote. “It is so dreadful that the world refuses to try another method.”

Replying a few weeks later – during the final months of a genocidal campaign that resulted in the deaths of between 300,000 and 3 million people in present-day Bangladesh – Chatterjee expressed growing dismay about the state of affairs on the subcontinent.

Air raid sirens and black outs are frequent occurrences in the city. The number of refugees in India is beyond imagination… It is not possible for India to look after those millions of refugees permanently.

Though she could not have known the final tally at that time, statistics now show that some 10 million refugees fled Bangladesh for India in 1971.

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Asima Chatterjee (at center in white sari) with some of her students, 1997. Credit: Indian Academy of Science.

Chatterjee also noted that academic rigor at the University of Calcutta had diminished, suggesting that “the University has been converted into a machine for turning out [hundreds] of graduates every year.”

And yet, in spite of it all, Chatterjee remained very productive. By 1961 she had published 105 peer-reviewed papers and, in 1972, she was selected to be the honorary Programme Coordinator at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Chemistry of Natural Products. Three years later, she became the first woman to be elected as General President of the Indian Science Congress Association.

In 1982, after retiring from her duties as a professor, Chatterjee received a very different kind of honor when she was selected to a seat in the Raiya Sabha. A component of India’s parliament, the Raiya Sabha consists of twelve nationals who, in the estimation of the President, have made a profound impact on their fields. Chatterjee served in this is position until 1990. She died sixteen years later, on November 22, 2006, and is survived by her daughter Julie Banerji, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Calcutta.


The global friendship shared by Linus Pauling, Ava Helen Pauling and Asima Chatterjee was certainly unorthodox — in person, the relationship consisted entirely of a single, half-day meeting. Through the power of the pen however, the Paulings and Chatterjee cemented and grew their fondness for one another, regularly exchanging holiday greetings and carrying out various professional favors. Today, their bond stands as evidence in support of the imperative that knowledge flow freely across social and geographic boundaries. Their story also serves as an example of the ways in which science and concerns for humanity are so often intertwined.

Asima Chatterjee

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[Ed note: A Google Doodle published in September 2017 featured a name familiar to us — the groundbreaking Indian scientist Asima Chatterjee — and prompted us to investigate her story a bit more. Today’s post is the first of two reflecting on Chatterjee’s work and her long friendship with Linus and Ava Helen Pauling.]

It is easy to lapse into cliche when discussing female scientists of the 20th century. On the one hand, it is certainly true that women of that era, by obtaining their Ph.Ds. and rising through the ranks of academia, paved new paths for those to come by pushing through environments that were often hostile to their presence. Beyond this however, it is also crucial to acknowledge the multifaceted contributions that these women made to their scientific disciplines and to celebrate the ways in which their work made a profound impact outside of the context of gender relations.

Asima Chatterjee, born in Kolkata (previously Calcutta) in 1917, is a terrific example of a pioneering woman scientist whose impact has been felt in many ways and on many levels. Chatterjee, a brilliant and passionate scholar, was the first woman to obtain a Doctorate of Science from an Indian university; just one in a succession of accomplishments. In so doing, she both smashed cultural expectations and demonstrated the ways in which sexism is detrimental to society as a whole.

The importance of a woman’s perspective – in particular, the capacity for empathy so often engendered by the roles, expectations and cultural norms traditionally assigned to women – is a quality that Linus Pauling revered. The strongest piece of evidence that one might put forth in support of this argument was the genuine respect and affection that characterized his long relationship with his wife, Ava Helen Pauling. By her husband’s own admission, Ava Helen was crucial in building and maintaining the compassion, selflessness, concern and, indeed, courage that were fundamental to Linus Pauling’s peace work, which was honored by the Nobel Peace Prize committee in 1963.

It is unsurprising then, that the friendship which flourished between Asima Chatterjee and the Paulings was steeped not only in mutual scientific interests, but also in a shared concern for social welfare. In fact, the two were not discrete nodes of their relationship: the desire for a more equitable and peaceful world was tethered to their mutual passion for science and, ultimately, became a central reference point in the constellation of their friendship.


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The Paulings’ relationship with Asima Chatterjee likely found its start during Chatterjee’s stint as a fellow at the California Institute of Technology, though not in a typical way. In the years following the completion of her doctorate in 1944, Chatterjee and her one-year-old daughter, Julie, traveled abroad for a series of fixed-term research appointments, including a position at Caltech. While in Pasadena, Chatterjee studied carotenoids under Laszlo Zechmeister, a Hungarian scientist who had been hired by Pauling. Presumably because of his connection to Zechmeister, it seems clear that Pauling knew of Chatterjee’s visit, even though he was in England at the time, serving a year-long term at Oxford as Eastman Professor.

What is certain is that the Paulings’ and Chatterjee’s friendship was almost entirely facilitated through letters, dozens of them, penned over the course of nearly two decades. In their lengthy correspondence, Chatterjee and the Paulings touched upon a wide variety of topics ranging from professional favors to the shifting fortunes of India to the various exploits and undertakings of their children. Not until 1967, in Calcutta, did the correspondents finally meet face-to-face.

Chatterjee’s research focused primarily on natural products and phytochemistry, and placed prominent emphasis on the potential medicinal properties of the substances under study. Fascinated with botany early in childhood and, as a professional, inclined towards investigations in organic chemistry – the subject in which she received her doctorate – Chatterjee’s passions aligned in such a way as to enable in-depth studies of the structures and properties of plants native to India. One of Chatterjee’s especially prominent achievements emerged from her research on vinca alkaloids, used today for chemotherapeutic treatments. Chatterjee’s program of work made similarly important contributions to the attack on malaria and epilepsy.

However, despite her obvious promise as a scientist, Chatterjee’s research program was regularly hamstrung by funding problems. India achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1947 (around the time of Chatterjee’s U.S. fellowship tour) and, as a recently sovereign nation, had a great deal to figure out both politically and economically. Working within this climate, Chatterjee routinely experienced difficulty in acquiring the basic resources and supplies necessary to conduct her research. This reality made her international connections, at Caltech in particular, a lifeline for the progress of her work.

One example of this somewhat unorthodox international collaboration was documented in a March 1953 letter. In it, Chatterjee asked Pauling to provide a degree of technical support with an alkaloid, Rauwolscine, that she would later become well-known for studying. In particular, Chatterjee needed Pauling’s assistance with a form of x-ray analysis that was not beyond her level of expertise, but instead was inaccessible to her for lack of technical infrastructure. While in this insistence Pauling decided against heeding Chatterjee’s request – citing various stipulations of institutional policy – other letters provide numerous examples where he and his colleagues were able to aid in her work.


Asima Chatterjee’s tenacious nature and focused dedication to her field were formally recognized by her peers in 1961, when she became the first woman to be awarded the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize. (An extremely prestigious honor for Indian scientists, this award has, to date, been bestowed to sixteen female recipients in total.) In next week’s post, we will examine the ways in which Chatterjee’s work, as well as her relationship with the Paulings, continued to flourish throughout the 1960s and beyond.