Pauling’s Birthday as a Media Event

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Los Angeles Mirror, March 1, 1961.

In addition to Albert Einstein and perhaps a small handful of others, Linus Pauling stands today as among the most famous of twentieth century scientists. Strong evidence in favor of this claim resides in the more than 3,000 newspaper clippings related to Pauling that are held in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, a corpus of material that is bolstered by an additional 2,700 scrapbook leaves, themselves mostly comprised of newspaper clippings as well.

Today, as we celebrate the 116th anniversary of Linus Pauling’s birth on February 28, 1901, we thought it might be interesting to spend some time with all of those newspaper clippings and trace the evolution of Pauling’s birthday as an item of note to the world’s journalists. In so doing, one is also able to delineate differences in the ways that Pauling, as a public figure, was perceived by the media and its readership over time.


Pauling received national media attention for the first time in 1931, when he won the Langmuir Prize from the American Chemical Society at the age of thirty. Newspaper accounts of that award referred to him as a “Prodigy of American Science,” a headline that was used repeatedly in 1946 following Pauling’s receipt of another ACS award, the J. Willard Gibbs Medal.

As Pauling grew older and far more famous, newspapers across the country became increasingly interested in him as a person. When he turned sixty years old on February 28, 1961, the Los Angeles Mirror published the first birthday article that we’ve been able to find in our collection. The write-up, which describes Pauling as “Caltech’s famous Nobel Prize winner in chemistry” focused mostly on his peace work, with which he was heavily involved at the time.

In 1976, on the occasion of Pauling’s 75th birthday, the San Francisco Examiner produced an article commemorating the day. Thus began what would become an almost twenty-year trend: birthday articles on the popular scientist. The 1976 article described Pauling as “cordial and charming, never vindictive.” It also commented on Pauling’s work with vitamin C, focusing especially on its potential applications with cancer.


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Chicago Tribune, February 22, 1981

When Pauling’s next big birthday, his 80th, rolled around, the newspapers were there once again to celebrate with him. This time, more than eleven different papers from across the country published articles honoring Pauling. His dedication to widely disparate passions earned him the title “scholar-peacemaker.” Writers also described him as “high energy,” despite having eight decades of a busy life in the rear view mirror. His well-known outspokenness was also frequently commented upon as being a fundamental tenet of Pauling’s personality. One paper, The Fremont-Newark Argus, wrote

He’s always been a bit like a feisty puppy: sinking his teeth into an idea, enthusiastically tossing it around and defying anyone to grab it away. That vigorous and stubborn approach to science – and life – has made Linus Pauling a near-legendary figure.

Four years later, the newspapers were publishing articles to mark Pauling’s 84th birthday. Undeterred by his increasing age, they noted, Pauling was staying as busy ever. He continued with his peace work, notably participating in the Peace Ship Assistance mission to Nicaragua the previous August. Journalists, however, seemed mostly interested in Pauling’s work on vitamin C and the controversy that it provoked, labeling him as both a maverick and a pioneering spirit. Thinking along these lines, The Worcester Sunday Telegram postulated

His unrelenting refusal to admit defeat and his persistent crusades have, over the years, stirred up lingering hostilities of passionate proportions in some scientific and political circles – and a kind of folk-hero reverence elsewhere.

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Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1986

The following year, when Pauling turned 85, parties and other gatherings filled his calendar for the weeks around his birthday, and newspapers were once again there to document both the proceedings and the popular view of Pauling. More than ten of them published celebratory articles about the “great dean of science” and wrote of Pauling’s enjoyment at being the center of attention. Multiple reporters likewise noted that, although he had gotten older, Pauling’s humor and self-confidence, not to mention his outspoken habits, had not dissipated.

Pauling was also clearly remaining as busy as a man half his age. As an article in Oregon Magazine pointed out,

It’s hard to argue with a man who keeps up active research, runs his own institute, tours the nation giving dozens of major addresses each year, and has just written a new book – and will celebrate his 85th birthday on February 28.

Though Pauling still conducted scientific research mostly in theoretical chemistry, this component of his life was more frequently mentioned as being a part of his past. Quite clearly, vitamin C was keeping him in the news during the 1980s.


It was 1989 and Pauling was celebrating his 88th birthday by the time the media seemed to realize that he was getting older. Heralded by journalists as one of the most important scientists of all time, Pauling’s good humor and outspoken tendencies continued to intrigue, as did his involvement in discussions regarding nuclear issues. He was also continuing his study, and defense, of vitamin C, and the controversy that his opinions had provoked twenty years earlier had not declined.

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Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1991

As he turned 90 years old, Pauling was commonly portrayed as being “the everyman’s scientist.” In 1991, at least forty-seven articles were published in commemoration of his birthday. Newspapers referred to him variously as an “aging guru,” “something of an oddball,” and a patriarch of the very scientific establishment that was so vehemently disagreeing with him. The Chicago Tribune, for one, urged one to consider

a tendency to serious messiness, a devotion to hard work, promotion of a couple of theories hardly anybody else subscribes to, a habit of writing directly to the U.S. president when he’s angry, and a happy delight in discovering things that nobody knew before, and you have the full package: the grand old man of science.

Other papers called him a celebrity, a gadfly, a genius. Scientists and medical professionals interviewed for some of these article disagreed, one of them calling the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine a “den of cracks.” None of this seemed too important to Pauling who was still continuing work on his three passions: chemistry, peace, and vitamin C. The media also seemed inclined to think that, after thirty years of effort, his support of ascorbic acid was paying off – to journalists anyway, the work appeared to finally be gaining some acceptance.

February 28 of the following year, 1992, was Pauling’s 91st birthday, and it did not go unmarked. His maverick tendencies were again noted. Another year older and in the early stages of declining health, Pauling had become more solitary, spending much of his time either at his Big Sur ranch or closer to the Bay Area at the Institute. The newspapers, which had earlier commented on his pleasure at being the center of attention, now described him as being more comfortable when alone. Even still, Pauling remained extremely active. As an article published in the Arizona Daily Star reported, the nonagenarian was “still publishing scientific papers, still working in the laboratory, and still touting the virtues of C.”

Linus Pauling clearly made an impact not only on matters scientific and peace-related, but also on the average American’s view of what a scientist could be. His persona as a celebrity was both reflected and enhanced by the regular media coverage that attended both his professional activities and his personal milestones. Though now gone for more than twenty-two years, his impact is still strongly felt. Likewise, through newspaper articles and more than 4,000 linear feet of additional materials held in his papers, the Pauling legacy will remain carefully preserved for future generations of scholars, admirers and, yes, journalists.

Dr. Michael Kenny, Resident Scholar

Dr. Michael Kenny

Dr. Michael Kenny

Dr. Michael Kenny, emeritus professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Simon Fraser University, recently completed a term as Resident Scholar in the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center. Kenny is the twenty-fourth individual to have conducted work at OSU under the auspices of this program.

Part of Kenny’s scholarly background is in the eugenics movement, and it is this prism that framed his interest in conducting research in the Pauling Papers. Kenny was specifically interested in investigating the changing cultural milieu in which Linus Pauling worked and the ways that this environment may have impacted Pauling’s thinking on issues associated with eugenics.

Kenny was likewise very keen to examine the rhetoric that Pauling used during the years in which the dangers of nuclear fallout were an item of active debate. As it turns out, much of this rhetoric assumed a tone similar to that used by eugenicists contemporary to Pauling. That said, with Pauling and certain of these contemporaries, the use of this rhetoric was not motivated by anything like the ideals that we now commonly associate with the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century.


Rockefeller Foundation administrator Warren Weaver.

Rockefeller Foundation administrator Warren Weaver.

In his research, Kenny leaned in part on a secondary source, Lily Kay’s The Molecular Vision of Life (1993), which examined the development of molecular biology at Caltech during its infancy in the 1930s. Pauling was a central figure in this important chapter of scientific history, having shifted his research program to focus on “the science of life” – specifically, the determination of various protein structures – as funded during the Depression years by the Rockefeller Foundation.

As Kay pointed out in her book, the Rockefeller Foundation harbored a pre-existing interest in eugenics which may have propelled its desire to fund work in the burgeoning field of molecular biology. Rockefeller administrator Warren Weaver, who was Pauling’s main contact with the funding organization, wrote specifically of the Foundation’s interest in exploring “social controls through biological understanding,” and himself considered molecular biology to be the “only way to sure understanding and rationalization of human behavior.”

In his correspondence with Pauling, Weaver likewise suggested that “you are well aware of our interests in the possible biological and medical applications of the research in question.” Queried about the Rockefeller Foundation’s interest in eugenics by Lily Kay in 1987, Pauling replied, “I do not have much to say here,” noting that “my own interest in medical chemistry resulted from my interest in molecular structure.”


James V. Neel

James V. Neel

One major outcome of Pauling’s research on protein structures was his discovery that sickle cell anemia is a molecular disease. This work was conducted in parallel to similar investigations carried out by the human geneticist James V. Neel, a major twentieth century scientist who discovered that sickled cells are the result of a heterozygous mutation that, when it becomes homozygous, leads to sickle cell disease.

For Kenny, James Neel provides a bridge of sorts in the scholarly analysis of Pauling. In addition to his work on sickle cell traits, Neel also was involved in ethnographic research on the indigenous Yanomami population in Brazil. This study was funded by the United States Atomic Energy Commission in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was motivated by the U.S. government’s desire to more fully understand the consequences that atmospheric radiation might portend for the human gene pool.

The debate over radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons tests during this time was fierce and continually hamstrung by a lack of concrete data. Linus Pauling, of course, was a key figure in the debate, and as Kenny and others have pointed out, he and his opponents used essentially the same data to draw very different conclusions from one another. Indeed, both sides were effectively engaging in the politics of risk assessment in arguing over the likely genetic implications for future generations of radioactive fallout released into the atmosphere by the nuclear testing programs of the era.

Hermann Muller

Hermann Muller

In developing and espousing his strong anti-testing point of view, Pauling was heavily influenced by Hermann Muller, a Nobel Laureate geneticist who is perhaps best known for proving the mutagenic effects of x-rays on fruit flies. According to Kenny, Muller was pretty clearly a eugenicist who spoke often of the need to maintain the purity of the pool of human germ plasm.

For Muller, essentially all mutations caused by radiation were to be viewed as a negative. While he acknowledged that natural selection is indeed the result of mutations that occur over the course of time, Muller believed that an increase in the rate of mutation is very likely to result in negative consequences. In arguing this, Muller pointed out that many mutations are buried and do not emerge until specific reproductive combinations come to pass. As Pauling and James Neel showed in the 1940s, sickle cell anemia is one such situation where this is the case.

Kenny points out that Muller’s ideas are imprinted all over Pauling’s 1958 book, No More War!, and in this book, as well as in his speeches, Pauling frequently used language that drew upon that of Muller and other eugenicists of his time. “I believe that the nations of the world that are carrying out nuclear tests are sacrificing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people now living,” he wrote, “and of hundreds of thousands of unborn children. These sacrifices aren’t necessary.” On other occasions, Pauling more directly echoed Muller, arguing that “we are the custodians of the human race, we have the duty of protecting the pool of human germ plasm against willful damage.”


So given all of this, was Pauling a eugenicist? For Kenny, the answer is no, or at least not “an old fashioned eugenicist in any clear sense.” Rather, Kenny sees Pauling as being one of many transitional figures (fellow Peace laureate Andrei Sakharov is another) working along a historical continuum that exists between the eugenicists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and contemporary ideas including genetic counseling and genetic engineering.  One of the more intriguing quotes that Kenny uncovered was Pauling’s statement that

Natural selection is cruel and man has not outgrown it. The problem is not to be solved by increasing mutation rate and thus increasing the number of defective children born, but rather by finding some acceptable replacement for natural selection.

For Kenny, Pauling’s suggestion of a possible replacement for natural selection anticipated contemporary techniques that are now deployed to minimize or negate what would otherwise be devastating hereditary diseases in newborn children. For expectant parents currently opting in favor of genetic counseling, as for Pauling in his day, the goal is to minimize the amount of human suffering in the world, not by proscription or law, but by choice. This ambition, which is global and cosmopolitan in nature – and not dissimilar to contemporary activism concerning global climate change – stands in stark contrast to the racist or nationalist motivations that fueled the eugenics of a different era.

For more on the Resident Scholar Program at the OSU Libraries, see the program’s homepage.

Life at the Big House

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Pauling’s schematic of the Big House at Deer Flat Ranch, April 1964.

[The story of Deer Flat Ranch, part 3 of 3]

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling stayed in the Old Cabin when at Deer Flat Ranch from 1956 to 1964, and during much of this period, visiting family members would often sleep in the barn. By 1961, a pre-designed kit home had been constructed for guests to use. Located down the gorge from the barn, at the foot of Salmon Cone, the house came to be called China Camp, named after the adjacent beach.

That same year, Pauling began conversations with Dr. Gustav Albrecht of Caltech, a former student of Pauling’s, about acting as chief architect on the design of a new home on the property. Albrecht worked with John Gamble Associates and, once construction began, lived in the Old Cabin for several months to supervise the building according to Pauling’s specifications.

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A view of the Big House near its entryway.

By 1964, the “Big House” was complete. It was an unorthodox home, filled with angled windows of multiple types that offered numerous views of the Pacific Ocean. The home likewise featured dueling his and hers studies, as well as a garage that was specifically built to shelter a car while also housing Pauling’s collection of scientific journals. Book cases were everywhere and, as time moved forward, the decor came to be dominated by framed honorary doctorates lining the hallways and mounted in every room. A massive stone fireplace separated the kitchen from the living room, and a large, westward-facing deck became a focal point for social gatherings. The unusual space proved difficult to maintain, but for the Paulings it was heaven on earth nonetheless.


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Looking southwest from the living room.

The Big House was built at the end of a new road that had been bulldozed from the Old Cabin west to a nearby glade that the Paulings called “Eucalyptus Hollow.” By the time that most of the construction was completed, excavations on the Pauling land had revealed that a small village of Salinan Indians, dating back thousands of years, had once been located in the area where the Big House was built. More artifacts were discovered under the Old Cabin, which was rebuilt and, a decade later, joined by a new caretaker’s house. Pauling held on to several of the Salinan artifacts as well as a small collection of human remains, all of which were repatriated once Pauling’s papers were donated to Oregon State University.

Kids and grandkids visiting during and immediately following the construction, and were often volunteered to perform various duties on the property. Linus Pauling Jr., his wife Stephanie, and Stephanie’s daughter Carrie were frequent visitors throughout the 1970s. During this time they assisted in finishing floor moldings and tiles at the Big House, which sported a decorative copper diving screen based on the mezzanine foyer in Dulles National Airport, as well as a specially made copper roof.

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Dining on the deck, 1971.

The Big House was as a sanctuary, and it was understood that even family visitors were not to barge in unannounced. Rather, Ava Helen would run a dish towel up a nearby flagpole when she was ready to receive visitors, usually in the late morning.

During visits with family, Pauling tended to focus his conversation on scientific matters, while it was Ava Helen who worked to bring the family together, particularly relishing her role as a grandmother. Catching fish from the Pacific Ocean and cooking under gas lights in the wilderness of California’s coastal forests, visitors often felt a sense of living in the pioneer past. Linus and Ava Helen reveled in this sensation themselves, and after 1966 they were spending fully half of their time at the Big House.


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Ava Helen’s Artcraft stove.

With advancing age came thoughts of retirement, and Linus and Ava Helen began to imagine that they might move to the ranch full-time by Pauling’s 70th birthday, or perhaps his 75th. Pauling was, unsurprisingly, consistently non-committal about the idea of giving up his career in science, no matter how old he grew. The ranch, however, offered an appealing happy medium where he could continue to pursue a scientific agenda while lessening the pace and clutter of his very public life.

By 1976, when Ava Helen was diagnosed with cancer, the pair seemed to treasure their time at Deer Flat Ranch all the more; Ava Helen took up the guitar and bought a grand piano, and children and grandchildren came to visit often. Pauling, however, could never truly be removed from science, and spent much of his time at the ranch working on theoretical papers.

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The view from the kitchen.

A year later, Pauling looked to be making good on notions of retirement, and was considering removing himself from day-to-day operations at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, which Art Robinson was leading as president. However, an administrative battle with Robinson that arose over the future of the Institute provided Pauling with a compelling reason to remain highly involved, and he never did fully extricate himself from administrative duties at the Institute that bore his name.


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Ava Helen and Linus in their living room, celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary, June 1973.

In retrospect, it seems unlikely that a man of Pauling’s industry, interests and ego could ever remove himself completely from the world of science and retire to the ranch full time. Indeed, after Ava Helen passed away in 1981, he ramped up his scientific program, working both at the ranch and in Palo Alto, California for the remainder of his life.

As he grew older, the rustic pioneer charm of the ranch faded somewhat for Pauling. The land around the gas service station was found to be eroding at an alarming rate, and it was eventually abandoned. Likewise, the number of cattle and ranch hands slowly dwindled. Eventually, only a single caretaker remained on the property, Steve Rawlings, who also acted as Pauling’s personal nurse during his final years.

Nonetheless, Pauling continued to spend a majority of his time at the property, reading, writing, and dreaming of a peaceful world guided by the light of scientific reason. It seems fitting then that when Linus Pauling passed away, in August 1994, it was in the Big House at Deer Flat Ranch, surrounded by his family.

Deer Flat Ranch: A Kind of Paradise

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Linus Pauling harvesting abalone, 1963.

[The story of Deer Flat Ranch: Part 2 of 3]

In the years immediately following Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s purchase of Deer Flat Ranch, the space quickly fulfilled its potential as a refuge from an extremely busy existence. A few years after buying the property, Ava Helen told her husband

Do you know, we have been here for one week, you and I, without seeing a single other person? This is the first time in our 40-odd years of marriage that this has happened.

More than a refuge even, the ranch gradually emerged as a kind of paradise for the Paulings. One could reliably harvest ten abalone off the adjacent rocks at low tide, and Linus found that he greatly enjoyed harvesting these sea snails with his wife, pounding them shoreside to tenderize them for dinner.

At the ranch, a horse and a goat kept the cattle company, and marine life including otters and sea lions frequented the beaches. The Paulings also enjoyed collaborating on landscaping chores at the ranch, a pleasure that continued for Linus even after a 1960 incident that resulted in poison oak rashes on both arms.


 

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Outside the old cabin at Deer Flat Ranch, 1962. Photo by Arthur Dubinsky.

During his solo trips to the property, Pauling frequently withdrew into a world of history and philosophy. Pauling’s literary and intellectual interests ranged far and wide, and his reading included the poetry of the Greek atomist Lucretius, the rhetoric and philosophy of the great Roman orator, Cicero, and the metaphysical proto-evolutionary poetry of Charles Darwin’s uncle, Erasmus Darwin. Pauling’s Deer Flat reading list also included a history of British chemistry, as well as Bertrand Russell’s essay, In Praise of Idleness, within which Pauling underlined the quote, “A busy man doesn’t think.”

While at the ranch in the early fifties, Pauling also made note of re-reading Frederick Metcalf Thomas’s Estragia para la Supervivencia, a work developed from Thomas’s thesis. Pauling had read the thesis several years earlier and had even suggested it to Albert Einstein, who followed up on Pauling’s tip and liked it so much that he subsequently wrote the preface for the text, once it was published as a book. While going through the work again at Deer Flat Ranch, Pauling underlined another quote that surely resonated with him: “The enslavement of scientists will not provide a solution for world problems.”


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The Paulings at their ranch, 1964. Photo by Arthur Herzog.

Though Pauling clearly understood the importance of leisure and relaxation, work was still never far from his mind on these visits, be it chemistry, medicine, or world affairs. By 1962, Pauling was writing the third edition of his successful textbook, College Chemistry, entirely at the ranch, typically devoting one week per month to the project while at the Old Cabin, undisturbed by the outside world.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Pauling also spent his time at the ranch thinking about a wide range of problems in chemistry. Among these were the promotion energy of hydrogen atoms; dihedral angles in H2O2 and other molecular structures; the stability of the N2 molecule; electron bonds; antiferromagnetic theory; and much, much more. The bulk of Pauling’s research notebooks from this period consist of musings on current papers in chemistry representing significant problems, and he seemed to want to deduce the solutions to all of them, sitting in his cabin with nothing but a pen, paper, slide rule, and the crashing of the nearby waves.

When the nuclear test ban treaty that Pauling had worked so hard to make a reality went into effect on October 10, 1963, Linus and Ava Helen were at the ranch with their close friends and fellow activists, Clifford and Virginia Durr. The couple had gathered at the ranch with the intent to open a bottle of champagne in celebration of the implementation of the treaty. Before they could pop the bubbly however, the Paulings’ ranch manager, Dale Haskin, arrived at the cabin saying that Linus and Ava Helen’s daughter Linda had called the ranger station trying to get ahold of them.

Upon arriving at the station and returning her call (there were still no phone lines at Deer Flat Ranch at that time), Linda revealed to her father that it had just been announced that he was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and that it would be bestowed in Oslo in two months time. Linus spent the rest of the day at the ranger station receiving calls and granting interviews, becoming so busy that he and his guests forgot to open their champagne.

The Story of Deer Flat Ranch

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A map of the California coastline pasted by Pauling into one of his research notebooks and annotated to show his property and that of his neighbors.

[Part 1 of 3]

In 1955, Linus Pauling and his wife Ava Helen headed to Berkeley, California from their home in Pasadena to attend a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. On the drive back from this event, the couple decided to take the scenic route along Highway 1 down the California coast. Passing through the Big Sur area, Pauling noted a point of land projecting into the ocean with a cabin and barn and a herd of grazing cattle. He suggested to his wife that such a location would be ideal as a country home for rest and relaxation. Ava Helen smiled and directed his attention to a For Sale sign on the side of the road.

At the time, Pauling was working at Caltech, and his busy lifestyle had fostered a growing desire for a place to think without distraction. The Big Sur property, called Deer Flat Ranch, seemed the perfect location. A 163-acre cattle ranch spanning a half mile stretch of rugged coastline between Soda Spring Creek and Salmon Creek – about twenty miles north of San Simeon, and just north of Salmon Cone at Piedras Blancas – the property was surrounded by National Forest land.

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A pasture map of the Deer Flat Ranch property.

Captivated, the Paulings wanted to visit the ranch for a closer look, but the owner of the land— a homesteader by the name of Walter Ray Evans—was in the hospital and was not able to arrange a personal tour. However, Mrs. Evans granted the Paulings permission to return to the property for an evening, and so in 1956 the pair drove back to Salmon Creek and stayed the night, setting up camp near the barn and sharing a sleeping bag underneath the stars. This visit must have made a positive impression, because the Paulings purchased Deer Flat Ranch shortly afterward, in August 1956. Escrow documents that Pauling filed into his personal safe indicate that the couple paid a total of $29,000 for the property.


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The kitchen at the Paulings’ original Deer Flat Ranch cabin, 1958.

The ranch that the Paulings had purchased did not feature much in the way of infrastructure: just a small cabin and a weather-beaten barn for horses and equipment. Walter Ray Evans had built the cabin in 1906 out of lumber that was floated in from offshore to a beach on the property called China Camp. Six years after building the structure, Evans moved the “Old Cabin” up the hill in 1912, so that the residence would be nearer to the barn and also less susceptible to pack rats and water problems that had plagued the space at its beachside location.

Other than the barn, the Old Cabin remained the only habitable structure on the property until 1964. It was very small, consisting of just a single room, and housed a butane tank, a hot water heater, a miniature refrigerator, and a sparse assortment of well-used furniture. The nearest bathroom was located outside under a shaky lean-to. Electricity was usually available, but there was no phone service. After the Paulings purchased the property, they moved in an antique, wood-fired, cast iron stove that was forged in Oslo, Norway in 1825. This centerpiece of the humble home quickly became very popular with visitors.


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The Paulings’ registered cattle brand.

While mostly a sanctuary from an extremely busy calendar, Deer Flat Ranch also represented an entirely different lifestyle in which the Paulings could challenge themselves to excel. With the ranch came a herd of cattle, and within a year of buying the property, Pauling began pursuing an expansion and reorganization of his land in coordination with acreage held by nearby private, state, and federal owners. Pauling’s aim in doing so mostly revolved around his desire to extend the grazing area available to his animals. From the time that the ranch was purchased, Pauling paid twenty-six dollars a year for grazing rights on adjacent Santa Lucia National Forest land, and also paid a nearby landowner named Patrick Boyd for additional grazing rights on his property.

In 1958, Pauling approached the local head ranger, Alexander Campbell, about the possibility of trading forestland to the north of Deer Flat Ranch for land northwest of the Salmon Creek Ranger Station. Specifically, Pauling wanted to trade forty acres of his own property for forty-two acres of forestland, the end result being a new northern boundary – Soda Spring Creek – for the ranch. These negotiations were conducted largely through Dale Haskin, who was the ranger working directly underneath Campbell at the nearby station.

Haskin had become close with the Paulings, at one point teaching Linus and Ava Helen’s oldest son, Linus Jr., to wrangle, castrate and brand calves. By 1960, Pauling had hired Haskin as a ranch manager, a job that also involved supervising the property’s itinerant, Phil Collum. A self-described colleague of author John Steinbeck – who himself was a native of nearby Salinas, California – Collum claimed to have traveled with Steinbeck up and down the West Coast during their younger years.

When the Paulings arrived at Deer Flat Ranch, Collum was found to be living on the property. Rather than evict him, the couple chose to furnish their newfound neighbor with a tent, and also offered a campsite that was suitably far away from the Old Cabin. Enabled by this offer of space and a $120 monthly paycheck, Collum continued to live at Deer Flat Ranch for many years, subsisting largely on local abalone (which he gathered from the beach) and red wine. He earned his monthly wages by working on the ranch, caring for cattle, making repairs, and cutting wood.


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Ava Helen Pauling and her daughter Linda, sitting outside of the Old Cabin, 1956.

Although Linus and Ava Helen didn’t often work directly with the cattle, Pauling acted as a head manager of sorts for the entire operation, keeping detailed employment records as well as notes on the current stock. Soon the Paulings were sending their cattle to market in addition to keeping them on hand as a natural mechanism for mowing their grass. Each year, Linus Jr. and Ralph Haskin branded and castrated the new calves, with Collum and sometimes Pauling himself assisting with the wrangling. They then shipped the calves by truck to an auction house in Santa Rosa where, after they were purchased, area ranchers would fatten them up for market.

Pauling’s experience of the life of a cattle rancher was nothing if not dramatic. In 1959, Pauling noted that cattle rustlers were on the move in Big Sur, driving a white Ford sedan that was pulling a horse trailer into the mountains, then shooting cattle with a tranquilizer gun, dressing the meat, and packing it out. In 1961, a very arid summer ushered in soaring temperatures, and with it the grass and nearby fresh water sources dried up. That year, only three steers were sold from Deer Flat Ranch, while twenty-two were found dead, including six young calves. Other “excitement” included a 1972 brush fire at the property.

In 1976, a neighboring rancher based in King City, California began grazing his cattle illegally at Salmon Creek. When the rancher “played dumb” in response to local investigations into the issue, Pauling contacted the offender directly and ordered him to personally fund and build a fence to keep his cattle contained. The strategy worked, perhaps due to Pauling’s implied threat of a lawsuit.


The ranch also afforded other business opportunities for the Paulings. Most notably, Pauling purchased an additional five acres at Piedras Blancas – about twenty miles south of the main property – in 1957. The land was right on the beach, just off the highway, and came equipped with a small house and a gas service station. Linus and Ava Helen paid $14,000 for the parcel, which was purchased, once again, from Walter Ray Evans and his wife.

The service station was subsequently leased to Luther Williams, whom the Paulings also hired as a part-time ranch manager. Later on, the station was rented out to a Mr. Mel Valois and his wife, who sold the gas to Chevron. By early 1958, Pauling was leasing the property to the couple for two cents per gallon of gasoline sold monthly, plus $338 in rent. The Valoises left the service station in 1962, but were quickly replaced new tenants.

Between managing the cattle at the ranch and operating the filling station, the Paulings continued to employ multiple part-time ranch managers and groundskeepers, with new employees cycling in and out every few years. Anywhere between three to five workers remained on the payroll until the late 1980s: by then, Ava Helen had passed away, Linus was well into old age, and the number of Pauling-branded cattle sold at the Templeton livestock market had dropped precipitously.

Pauling in Memorium

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Linus Pauling Jr. speaking at his father’s memorial service, August 29, 1994.

[Part 4 of 4]

On August 29th, 1994, a memorial service planned by Pauling’s children and his long-time assistant Dorothy Munro was held at Memorial Church on the campus of Stanford University. Many people spoke, including Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine administrator Steve Lawson, Oregon State University president John Byrne, and scientific colleagues Frank Catchpool and Verner Schomaker.

Remembrances were likewise offered by close friends and family. Pauling’s youngest son Crellin spoke movingly, while also offering comments written by his brother Peter, who was living in Wales at the time and was unable to travel to attend the memorial. Pauling’s daughter Linda, and eldest son Linus Jr., also gave their heartfelt goodbyes to their father. Steve Rawlings, the ranch hand who had cared for Pauling for the past several years, spoke of the bond that they had formed. Four of Pauling’s grandchildren – Cheryl and David Pauling, and Barky and Sasha Kamb – recalled fond memories of their Grandpa.

The memorial program featured a quote to remember Pauling by, one taken from his 1958 book, No More War. It read:

Science is the search for truth- it is not a game in which one tries to beat his opponent, to do harm to others. We need to have the spirit of science in international affairs, to make the conduct of international affairs the effort to find the right solution, the just solution of international problems, not the effort by each nation to get the better of other nations, to do harm to them when it is possible. I believe in morality, in justice, in humanitarianism.


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Linus Pauling Jr. speaking at the grand opening of the Linus Pauling Science Center, October 19, 2011.

With its director of research and namesake now gone, the reigns at LPISM were taken up by Linus Pauling Jr. In so doing, Linus Jr. sought mainly to secure his father’s long-term legacy by moving his beloved but financially unstable institute from its location in Palo Alto, and to associate it with a prestigious academic institution, where it might find new and greater successes.

Along with Lawson and the Institute’s Board of Trustees, Linus Jr. entered into conversations with a number of universities where they believed that LPISM’s orthomolecular mission might find support. At the same time, the Institute benefited greatly from a large number of memorial donations and bequests made in honor of Pauling. Ultimately, an agreement was struck between the Institute and Oregon State University, which offered to match those contributions.

This resulting endowment in hand, a new director, Balz Frei, was brought on board and, at its new home in Corvallis, the Linus Pauling Institute was reborn. While still able to engage in the orthomolecular research that Pauling had always envisioned, the move to OSU offered the Institute the opportunity to open up new lines of research in other areas of human health. When Linus Jr. gave the keynote address at the grand opening of OSU’s brand new Linus Pauling Science Center in 2011, he spoke of this evolution.

I’ve appreciated other people’s recognition of (my father’s) capabilities and endeavors, and done what I can to increase that appreciation and recognition. My whole investment in LPI was part of that too, recognizing my father’s contribution to society…and wanting to make sure in some way that he didn’t get lost in the sands of time. What has happened has pleased me. I don’t think there’s anything I can do to personally do more than I have done. I don’t think I’m going to try… I’m very appreciative of those who have dedicated themselves to the continuation of my father’s reputation. I feel that I can rest assured that he will not be forgotten.


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Linus Pauling’s humble marker at the Oswego Pioneer Cemetery, as photographed in 2009.

Before he died, Pauling made clear his wish to be cremated and to have his ashes, along with those of his wife, interred in Lake Oswego, Oregon at the Pioneer Cemetery where his parents were buried. In 1994, a cenotaph – which is a marker honoring a person whose remains are elsewhere – was placed in the family plot by Pauling’s sister, Pauline. Pauling’s ashes remained with Ava Helen’s among family in California until 2005, when they were finally moved to Oregon and placed alongside those of Pauling’s parents, Herman and Belle.

In 2013, an Oregon resident named Jean Crellin Ashby took her mother to see Linus Pauling’s grave at Pioneer Cemetery. Ashby is the granddaughter of Edward Webster Crellin, a mentor and colleague of Linus Pauling’s at Caltech, and the man after whom Pauling named his youngest son. Standing over Pauling’s marker, Ashby thought about how her grandparents were buried in Pasadena. Since she was unable to easily visit their graves, given the considerable distance, Ashby decided that honoring Pauling’s family in Lake Oswego would also serve to honor her own. Subsequently, Ashby contacted cemetery administrators and filed the appropriate paperwork to become the official caretaker for the Pauling plot, which she and her family still maintain today.


It is Pauling’s legacy that we honor on this, the twenty-second anniversary of his passing. And what better way to reflect on that legacy than to return to the diary entry that Pauling wrote when he began the history of his life at the age of 16. In it, Pauling said that his history was not intended to be merely a life’s story. Rather, it was to be a reflection on good times had in his passage through this “vale of tears”

Often, I hope, I shall glance over what I have written before, and ponder and meditate on the mistakes that I have made—on the good luck that I have had—on the carefree joy of my younger days; and pondering, I shall resolve to remedy my mistakes, to bring back my good luck, and to regain my happiness.

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The End of Pauling’s Life

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Linus Pauling giving an interview at Deer Flat Ranch, September 1993.

[Part 3 of 4]

After a sigmoidoscopy in 1993 revealed that Linus Pauling’s rectal tumor was still growing, the reality set in that he was not likely to survive his cancer. It was at this point that Pauling began to seriously consider which of his possessions should be turned over to family and which should be transferred to his archival collection at Oregon State University.

The same year, it was decided that it would be a good idea to arrange a special symposium, sponsored by Caltech and the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, on or near his 93rd birthday. Speakers would consist of former graduate students and postdocs. Pauling had once imagined that an event of this sort would be appropriate for his 100th year, a birthday that he had fully intended to achieve.

Throughout 1993, Pauling strived to be as active as possible, giving interviews in person or over the telephone, and entertaining many visitors at Deer Flat Ranch. At the end of May, Pauling and a collection of friends, family, and co-workers also gathered to celebrate the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine’s 20th anniversary.

However, as time moved forward and his illness worsened, Pauling attended to his scientific writing and correspondence at a decreasing rate. On two occasions, he returned to Palo Alto to attend scientific meetings, giving a short talk at one, and the last scientific paper that he authored himself was written in November-December of 1993. Much of his time was taken up with scheduled visits to his doctors in San Luis Obispo and Cambria, or simply resting at Deer Flat Ranch, his sanctuary on the Pacific Ocean.


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Pauling delivering his last lecture at the International Symposium on Biological NMR, Stanford University, March 25, 1994.

In January 1994, Pauling’s physicians decided that steps needed to be taken to shrink his tumor, and Pauling relented to a course of chemotherapy, during which he attributed his lack of negative side effects to his taking routine megadoses of vitamin C. When Pauling learned that the cancer had spread to his liver, however, his hope to live to be one-hundred years old were lost. He stopped taking vitamin C completely, and gave up writing in his research notebook – a brief note about his work on nuclear structure appears in January and the pages after it are blank.

During the last months of his life, Pauling met with friends and family, while also attending to some less pleasant business. LPISM administrator Steve Lawson and Linus Pauling, Jr. journeyed to Deer Flat Ranch during this time to mediate ongoing litigation between the Institute and Matthias Rath, who had initiated a lawsuit against his former employer. Even at the deposition, which was given from his bed, Pauling welcomed Rath warmly.

Pauling’s final public appearance came on June 19, 1994, at the conference that he had requested be organized a year earlier, and which his son Crellin had arranged. This event, which was ultimately hosted by The Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was titled “A Tribute for Linus Pauling” and was held at San Francisco State University. Pauling’s ranch hand Steve Rawlings attended as Pauling’s nurse, bringing him into the assembly in a wheelchair. Upon entering however, Pauling stood and insisted on walking into the room, receiving applause from the gathering as he made his way to his chair. An array of speakers including Harden McConnell, Alexander Rich, Frank Catchpool, Richard Kunin, and Crellin Pauling delivered moving talks detailing Pauling’s major contributions to science, human health, and world peace.


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A final family photo session, on Pauling’s 93rd birthday. Seated to Pauling’s left is his sister, Pauline, who lived to the age of 101.

Pauling’s daughter Linda was at Deer Flat Ranch with her husband and children on August 18, 1994, when Pauling suffered a stroke that left him comatose. Pauling’s sons Crellin and Linus Jr. arrived the next day and were both at the ranch with him on the evening that he died. His passing came at the end of a beautiful summer day, as the sun was just beginning to set over the Pacific. At the end of his life, Pauling wore on his wrist an opal bracelet that he had once given to his late wife, Ava Helen, as a gift.

In Palo Alto, Steve Lawson had just sat down for dinner when he received a call from Linus Pauling Jr., informing him of the sad news. Immediately, Lawson got in his car and went back to the Institute, faxing pre-written obituaries to the media. Copies went to CBS, the New York Times, NBC, CNN, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury-News, and half a dozen more outlets. But by the time that Lawson had faxed the third news organization, the phone started ringing. He later recalled

In those days, we had an old fashioned phone system where you could see a number of little pegs that would light up for an incoming line, and I think there were as many as six incoming lines. Before long every light was lit and blinking: it was the New York Times, it was CBS, it was everybody under the sun that wanted statements.

Pauling’s passing was reported the next day through packages of stories in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times that were immediately picked up by news services and syndicated around the globe. The Pasadena Star-News ran its own article a few days later, as did the Medical Tribune and the scientific journal Nature. Personal letters flooded in to the Pauling children and the Institute from every corner of the globe: France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, Italy, Australia, South America, the Philippines, and all across the United States. Universities and organizations worldwide, including Caltech and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, all sent heartfelt letters conveying their sadness at the loss of a great man.


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In the months and years that followed, Pauling’s life was honored around the world in a wide variety of ways. The Alpha Chi Sigma chemistry fraternity, which is based in Indianapolis, dedicated the Library Room of its house to Pauling. A fossil leaf from an extinct species of citrus tree was also named after him: Linusia paulinga. 

Later on in 1994, shortly after Pauling’s death, Steve Lawson started receiving unmarked packages in the mail, containing nearly exact replicas of Pauling’s Nobel Prizes. A week or two after they had arrived, Pauling’s son Peter, then living in Wales, called and cryptically asked if Lawson had received anything “unusual” in the mail. As it turned out, Peter had gone to the Nobel Academies and had duplicate medals struck in an alloy for family members and for the Institute to hold as keepsakes.

Later still, with the help of Pauling’s daughter Linda and officials at Oregon State University, Lawson and others planned a Linus Pauling Exhibition, which was sponsored by the Japan-based peace organization, Soka Gakkai International. Intended as a mechanism to educate the public about Pauling’s work and to introduce school children to Pauling as a role model, the exhibit focused on all facets of Pauling’s career as a humanitarian, as an activist, as a scientist, and as a medical researcher. Over the course of several years, millions of people visited the exhibit in Europe, Japan, and many locations in the United States, including Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Boston. The exhibit was created by a team of designers who, when it had finished touring, donated all of its elements and infrastructure to Oregon State University.