On the Fluoridation of Water

Linus Pauling, 1967.

As Linus Pauling’s career progressed, his prominence, both within and outside of the scientific community, greatly increased. Because of this newfound fame and respect, the value placed on Pauling’s opinion also skyrocketed, and he was often contacted for his outlook on significant matters not directly related to his programs of research. This is readily apparent in the number of requests that he received to voice his thoughts on the fluoridation of drinking water.

The addition of fluoride ion to drinking water to promote dental health became a very controversial topic in the second half of the twentieth century. Opponents of the process argued that fluorine, a powerful toxin in large enough quantities, can cause a number of health problems ranging from “mottled teeth” to drastic increases in cancer rates. Others called it a form of mass medication – a choice for the populace that the government should not have the ability to make.

On the other hand, there were also many supporters of fluoridation, and among them was Pauling. Although his role in the controversy was minor, he seemed to take a genuine interest in the topic. Within his papers held at the OSU Libraries Special Collections, two boxes are dedicated to fluoridation, and many of the documents they contain are covered with Pauling’s annotations. That said, Pauling was loathe to get too involved with the matter, noting in a 1964 letter to James Moynahan “that I am extremely busy, and I don’t like to waste time on the fluoridation matter.”

Despite his busy schedule, Pauling did provide comment on a number of the major arguments against fluoridation. For example, in a letter to Mr. Harold R. Dessau on December 4, 1963, he writes

Natural waters differ in their content on fluoride ion. The average natural drinking water contains approximately the amount of fluoride that seems to be the best conducive to health, especially to the development of good teeth, and this action of fluoride is understood. Some drinking waters contain more fluoride ion, such as to cause mottling of teeth but no recognized damage to health. Some waters are deficient in fluoride ion. The addition of fluoride ion improves the quality of the drinking water, bringing it into the natural range that is most beneficial to human beings. Although some people have surmised that this small amount of fluoride ion might have some deleterious action, in addition to its beneficial action on the teeth, there is no evidence to support the surmise.

Although Pauling was quick to state his support for the fluoridation of drinking water, he was also extremely careful to add the qualifier that he supported it “only in cases where the fluoride ion content is less than average for natural water.” He recognized the fact that, in larger quantities, fluorine is toxic, though he mentioned that the same is “true of many substances that we ingest in small amounts, including a number that are required for life.”

In November 1967, after numerous requests from various correspondents, Pauling finally published his official statement on the fluoridation of drinking water. In it he wrote:

Over a period of more than a decade I have studied the available information about the fluoridation of drinking water. I have reached the conclusion that the presence of fluoride ion in drinking water in concentrations about equal to the average for natural water is beneficial to the health, especially because of the protection it provides against dental caries, and that there is no evidence for the detrimental effects comparable in significance to the beneficial effects.

For Pauling’s entire statement, see the scanned document below.

Pg. 1

Pg. 2

Linus Pauling and the Search for UFOs

Linus Pauling, 1983.

Upon Linus Pauling’s death, the OSU Libraries Special Collections received approximately 500,000 of his and his wife’s personal items. Of this half-million item collection, a significant portion is comprised of his personal books which range from heavily academic texts to science fiction and murder mysteries. Amid the shelves of chemistry texts and genre fiction, however, there is a small subsection of books that has been known to draw attention from the Special Collections staff: the conspiracy texts.

As evidenced by his lifelong devotion to scientific discovery, Linus Pauling possessed a deep interest in mystery and the unknown. It seems that, while most of his research revolved around academically sanctioned scientific problems, he occasionally spent his free time exploring more unorthodox subjects. As he aged and his devotion to pure science was tempered by his growing sense of social responsibility, Pauling began to expand his interests and become engaged in issues he had previously ignored.

Beginning in 1963, Pauling took a position as fellow of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, a think tank founded by Robert M. Hutchins as a part of the Fund for the Republic. The Center was known for its unusual and sometimes controversial activities, including proposing a new constitution for the United States and promoting radical political movements among students. For the first time in forty years, Pauling’s primary work had stepped out of the bounds of research-based science. The atmosphere at the Center allowed him to explore problems that his fellow scientists might have considered, at best, unorthodox.

His interest in cover-ups and clandestine activity appears to have begun in the same way it did for many other Americans–with the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy. During the Cold War, Pauling had met and corresponded with Kennedy regarding peace and nuclear disarmament. While the two men did not always agree on matters of foreign policy, Pauling had a great deal of respect for the President and was shaken by his death. Following Kennedy’s assassination, Pauling began reading accounts of the event, taking a marked interest in the numerous conspiracy theories of the day. He followed the subject with some interest through the 1980s, building up a small collection of materials on the “magic bullet” and “multiple shooters” theories. [For more on Pauling’s interactions with President Kennedy, see our earlier blog post on the subject.]

The JFK assassination had introduced Pauling to a whole new series of problems, where scientific fact could only go so far and the pitfalls of hoax and disinformation had to be carefully navigated. For years, he had played the role of the armchair gumshoe, reading countless murder mysteries, picking out clues and racing the protagonist to the revelation. As tragic as it was, the assassination had given Pauling a chance to apply his talents as an investigator to a problem beyond the sciences. The world of conspiracy and intrigue held an allure for Pauling that he could not deny.

In the mid-1960s, Pauling began to take an interest in UFOs and extraterrestrial life forms. Between his longtime love of science fiction and the public focus on the development of the U.S. and Soviet space programs, spaceships and aliens seemed to be a logical point of focus for him. He quickly found that, for once, he was not at the forefront of a field of study. While he had been synthesizing proteins and teaching future chemists, the American public had become obsessed with the potential for life in space. The American UFO craze had begun in 1947 with an upswing in reported “flying saucer” sightings which resulted in a series of U.S. Air Force investigations (Projects Blue Book, Sign, and Grudge). In 1952, the term “Unidentified Flying Object” was coined and, by 1956, several civilian research groups had formed, including the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization and the National investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.

A Study of Unidentified Flying Objects

In order to understand what was going on in the world of UFO studies, Pauling did what came naturally. He began to read. While the ‘flying saucer’ section of the Pauling personal library is very small, it’s clear he was interested in the big picture, pulling from both scholarly and popular sources. One text, entitled NASA’s Space Science and Applications Program, is a well-worn report on NASA’s long term goals in space exploration and bioscience. Another, The Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, is billed as “The complete report commissioned by the U.S. Air Force.” This volume, though lacking Pauling’s typical marginalia, sports heavy wear suggesting that it was a favorite.

A Study of Unidentified Flying Objects - 02

For more sensational reading, Pauling settled on the likes of Brinsley Trench’s The Flying Saucer Story and John G. Fuller’s Incident at Exeter. Pauling’s copy of Trench’s work is speckled with hastily scribbled questions, the word “check” next to underlined passages, and notes to contact a variety of scientists and officials. His margin comments belie a heavy skepticism suggesting that, despite his willingness to explore the unorthodox, Pauling maintained a strict logical outlook. As can be expected, claims that defied conventional science readily drew Pauling’s criticism. At one point, Trench claims “It [a UFO] could easily withstand temperatures at 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit, without showing any traces of melting.” A large question mark sits in the margin next to it as a testament to Pauling’s disbelief.

It’s easy to imagine an aging Linus Pauling reading books about outer space and aliens in his free time, much as others read romance novels or tabloid newspapers. And certainly, his interest in the topic was primarily recreational, but it appears to have evolved over time. Pauling’s interest in UFOs peaked in 1966. He began preparing to formalize his research, going so far as to create a research proposal enumerating the requirements of an in-depth study on UFOs. As he became increasingly involved in the question of extraterrestrial sentience, his research became more and more intensive. When he had exhausted the available literature, he began contacting other academics for aid. Set into his copy of Frank Edward’s Flying Saucers: Serious Business is a 1968 letter from Pauling to Sterling A. Colgate, president of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. In the letter, Pauling queries Colgate regarding a recent siting near the New Mexico campus, asking for information on the Institute’s official position regarding UFOs. By involving other researchers in his work, Pauling was taking a big step. He had announced that, despite public and scientific skepticism, he was willing to approach UFOs as a viable research topic and, more importantly, associate his name and reputation with that research.

Unfortunately, Pauling’s UFO work never went very far. Following his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, he increased his efforts for nuclear disarmament, eventually pushing aside many of his lesser interests. By the 1970s, he was heavily involved in the promotion of orthomolecular medicine and the movement against the Vietnam War. Though we might imagine his interest in extraterrestrials continued, evidence suggests that his activist lifestyle left no room for further inquiry.

For more information on Linus Pauling, please visit the Linus Pauling Online Portal or the OSU Special Collections website.


This letter, posted by request, was written from Linus Pauling to Stirling A. Colgate on June 19, 1968.

Letter from LP to Colgate 6-19-1968

Pauling’s Work on Swine Flu

"Pauling's Weapon Against Swine Flu," San Francisco Chroncile, August 31, 1976.

"Pauling's Weapon Against Swine Flu," San Francisco Chroncile, August 31, 1976.

The current concern over the world-wide spread of swine flu virus brings to mind research that Dr. Linus Pauling conducted on this very subject, some thirty-three years ago.

Pauling’s interest in swine flu seems to have been stoked by a convergence of two factors: 1) mounting fears over a potential swine flu epidemic that first emerged in the winter of 1976; and 2) his composition of the book Vitamin C, the Common Cold and the Flu, which was published in September, 1976.  In the book – which was essentially a revised and updated version of Pauling’s massively-popular Vitamin C and the Common Cold, published in 1970 – Pauling chronicles the development of the swine flu concerns contemporary to his authorship of the 1976 volume.

In February 1976 there was an outbreak of influenza in a large military establishment in Fort Dix, New Jersey.  One young serviceman, exhausted by his participation in strenuous exercises, died of pneumonia.  Typing of the virus showed that about 500 of the 12,000 persons in the camp had been infected by a swine-influenza virus, given the name A/NJ/76, whereas some others had been infected by another virus, A/Victoria/75, which was then sweeping over the United States and Europe.  Although the virus A/NJ/76 seemed to have died out after infecting only 4 percent of the people in the camp, the resemblance of the virus to that of the 1918-1919 pandemic [referenced in the San Francisco Chronicle article above] and the death by pneumonia of one person after a strenuous night-time military exercise while he was suffering from swine flu caused fears that another swine-flu epidemic might occur in 1976-1977.  President Ford announced in March that $135 million had been appropriated by the Federal Government to support the preparation of vaccine by pharmaceutical companies in an amount great enough to permit essentially all of the people in the United States to be vaccinated.

In Pauling’s view, this approach was problematic on many levels.  For one, the vaccines that were developed actually showed a tendency to make certain patients – especially children – sick.  Partly as a result of this, the companies manufacturing the vaccines were not able to obtain proper insurance from private vendors and were forced to solicit protection from the federal government.

More importantly, from Pauling’s vantage point, the threat posed by the 1976 swine flu outbreak was seemingly overblown.

The question of how serious the threat of a pandemic really is has also been raised.  During the last forty years the epidemics of influenza have shown remarkably little variation in their virulence.  The high mortality in the 1918-1919 epidemic, especially among the younger adults, might have resulted from the malnutrition and other stresses at the end of a long war, causing the virus to be more than usually virulent and favoring the occurrence of secondary bacterial pneumonia.

Crucially, certain statistical and anecdotal specifics of the 1976 outbreak lent support to Pauling’s position:

The facts that the infection in Fort Dix affected only 4 percent of the persons in the camp and that no other cases of swine flu have been reported since the Fort Dix outbreak lend support to the suggestion…that the Fort Dix episode may be an isolated occurrence.  It now seems quite unlikely that there will be a swine-flu epidemic, and there is now little justification for recommending mass vaccination.

For those familiar with Pauling’s later work, it should come as no surprise that he recommended the regular intake of vitamin C as an effective deterrent to influenza, including swine flu.  As noted in Pauling’s June 5, 1976 letter to the editor of the New York Times included below

I have advocated the use of Vitamin C in amounts of several grams per day to prevent or treat the common cold and other infectious diseases, including influenza, and I think that it may be of importance in relation to the expected epidemic of swine flu that people not be discouraged from making proper use of this valuable substance.

"On Fighting Swine Flu," Letter to the Editor of the New York Times, June 5, 1976.

"On Fighting Swine Flu," Letter to the Editor of the New York Times, June 5, 1976.

Again referring to Vitamin C, the Common Cold and the Flu, Pauling broadly suggests that a daily intake of between 250 to 4,000 milligrams of vitamin C, scaling up to as much as 10,000 milligrams per day – the amount that Pauling himself was taking in 1976, according to the San Francisco Chronicle article above – would decrease one’s chances of contracting a whole host of maladies, including influenza and the common cold.

For more on the theory behind Pauling’s vitamin C advocacy, see “Orthomolecular Enhancement of Human Development” (pdf link), a speech that Pauling delivered in 1978 to the Institutes for Achievement of Human Potential.  For more on Pauling’s life, work and legacy, see the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Family Legislation: Rules for the Children

Rules for Others and Itinerary of A.H. & L. PaulingMuch has been said about Linus Pauling as a student, scientist, researcher and activist. Here at the Pauling Blog, we’ve discussed his professional achievements in great deal and focused on key moments in his career and personal life. Despite all this, little attention has been given to Pauling as a father and a family man. Though the OSU Special Collections archives are filled with pictures, letters and memorabilia relating to the Pauling children, we have yet to thoroughly examine Pauling’s role as husband and father via the blog.

In order to rectify this mistake, today we offer our readers a rare glimpse into the family life of Linus Pauling. This document is a 10-point set of rules, written by Pauling, outlining expectations for the children while Linus and Ava Helen were away on a trip. Be sure to note Pauling’s more humorous directions including his number one instruction—“The MG is not to be started, run, or fooled with.” Clearly, Pauling knew his priorities.

Clarifying Three Widespread Quotes

Extracted from “Linus Pauling, Chemie – Eine Einführung Die Natur der chemischen Bindung”, Das Destillat, no. 1 (Spring 1965).

When we find ourselves with a few spare moments, one of our favorite pastimes is conducting Google Blogsearch queries for the term “Linus Pauling.”  Typically we come across a few of the more recent posts that we ourselves have published, catch up with the latest news from The Linus Pauling Quartet and sometimes unearth interesting bits of information that spur new ideas for the PaulingBlog.

One does not have to search for too long, however, before finding one of three quotes that have spread rather dramatically across the internet.  One of these quotes was definitely uttered by Pauling, but is often imperfectly reproduced.  A second quote was actually published, but we have our doubts as to whether or not Pauling really did say it.  The third quote, we and others feel, is likely a fabrication.

Yes: On Having Good Ideas

Pauling delighted in recounting a specific quote on his “method” for having good ideas.  The quote shows up in many forms at various spots on the web, but is probably best recited as follows:

The best way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas and throw away the bad ones.

The provenance of this famous quote is traced to a letter written to Pauling by a former graduate student, David Harker, in commemoration of Pauling’s sixtieth birthday.  Here’s the urtext:

Excerpt from a letter by David Harker to Linus Pauling, February 20, 1961.

Excerpt from a letter by David Harker to Linus Pauling, February 20, 1961.

Listen: Pauling recounts the circumstances of this quote:

Maybe Yes: On Cancer Research

“Everyone should know that most cancer research is largely a fraud, and that the major cancer research organizations are derelict in their duties to the people who support them.”

[October 13, 2020 update: reader Aldous Well has provided us with documentary evidence of Pauling having written a letter that contains a version of this quote. That letter is included here. The original text of this section of our blog post, which argued that Pauling might have authored the quote, is retained underneath the page break.]


[This section contains the text of our original argument on the cancer research quote.]

Google has indexed 547 static webpages that include some version of this quote, attributed to Linus Pauling.  Only one of these 547 pages includes a citation: Outrage! For Those Opposed to Animal Abuse. (Tonbridge, Kent England) 47, October/November 1986.  The staff at Animal Aid, which published this issue of Outrage!, kindly provided us with a scan of the page on which this quote appears — see the lower left-hand side:

pg. 14

Outrage! (Oct/Nov 1986): pg. 14

The first detail that pops out to us is that there is no citation provided for the quote.  It’s pretty clear too, that the quote was not given by Pauling as an exclusive to Outrage! Moreover — and most importantly — it seems unlikely to us that Pauling would paint with such a clumsy brush in recounting his feelings about cancer research.

The background to the cancer research circumstance is fascinating but too complex for us to detail here. (Evelleen Richards’ tremendous Vitamin C and Cancer: Medicine or Politics? is highly recommended for those interested in the whole story)  For our purposes, it is sufficient to say that Pauling took considerable umbrage with a series of trials conducted by the Mayo Clinic, first in 1979 and later in 1985, that purported to refute his and Ewan Cameron‘s work on the potential for treating cancer with large amounts of ascorbic acid. (A bit more background is here and here.) One of Pauling’s major complaints was that the Mayo Clinic had misrepresented its trial methods in a manner that biased the data toward its eventual conclusion.  In her book, Richards includes the text of a slide that Pauling often used in his post-Mayo lectures on vitamin C and cancer:

The Mayo article is misleading and dishonest.  It might be described as fraudulent.  It purported to be a repetition of Dr. Cameron’s study, but it was greatly different, in a way that the Mayo Clinic investigators succeeded in hiding from the readers of their paper.

Clearly Pauling was deeply upset about the Mayo trials and their conclusions — his anger on this matter is well-documented in the Pauling archive — and he obviously wasn’t against describing the Mayo work as “fraudulent.”  However, his extending that description to “most cancer research” strikes us as being out of character.  Pauling was a very clear thinker and a careful writer, and it seems to us that his feelings about cancer research, circa 1986, are more likely summed up by these extracts from his book How to Live Longer and Feel Better

Despite the great amount of money and effort expended in the study of cancer, progress during the last twenty-five years has been slow.  A significant increase in survival time after diagnosis was achieved about thirty years ago, largely through improvements in the techniques of surgery and anesthesia.  During the last twenty-five years some improvement in treatment of certain kinds of cancer has been achieved, mainly through the use of high-energy radiation and chemotherapy, but for most kinds of cancer there has been essentially no decrease in either incidence or length of time of survival after diagnosis, and it has become evident that some new ideas are needed, if greater control over this scourge is to be achieved.

Critical?  For sure.  But hardly incendiary. None of this, of course, is proof that Pauling, in a fit of pique, didn’t one day lump most cancer research under the “Fraud” heading.  Our feeling is that it is unlikely.  But even if he did, the calmer and more balanced 1986 quote is surely more indicative of his true feelings on the matter.

Probably Not: On the Importance of Minerals

“You can trace every sickness, every disease, and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.”

This one shows up on roughly 1,500 web pages and is uniformly uncited.  Importantly, most of the 1,500 sites on which the text is used are attempting to sell a product. In the Spring/Summer 2003 edition of their newsletter, the Linus Pauling Institute staff directly addressed the dubious nature of these thoughts on minerals.

A statement purportedly attributed to Linus Pauling has proliferated on the Internet, often in association with the sale of mineral supplements. The alleged quote is usually akin to “You can trace every sickness, every disease, and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.” We are reasonably certain that Pauling never made such a statement for the obvious reason that it is untrue. Pauling was interested in the health effects of micronutrients, especially vitamin C, the vitamin that absorbed his interest for almost thirty years. Throughout his career, Pauling used x-ray diffraction to elucidate the molecular structure of many inorganic substances, such as minerals, and organic substances like proteins. If he had been particularly interested in the health benefits of minerals, he would have focused his research in this direction. There is no evidence in the published literature that he did so.

Indeed, while Pauling does recommend taking a mineral supplement every day as part of his “Regimen for Better Health” (How to Live Longer and Feel Better, p. 9) he specifically warns against overdoing it (p. 12), noting that

The essential minerals differ from the vitamins in that overdoses of minerals may be harmful.  Do not increase your vitamin intake by taking a large number of vitamin-mineral tablets.  Limit your mineral intake to the recommended amounts.

This from a guy who was taking 18 grams of vitamin C at the time that he was authoring How to Live Longer…

We feel reasonably confident in our research on the items discussed in this post.  However, if anyone can provide definitive proof for either the cancer research or minerals quotes, please do let us know and we’ll promise to devote a future blog post to further clarification of the matter.

Cancer and Vitamin C Redux

Group photo of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine staff, 1989.  Ewan Cameron stands adjacent to Linus Pauling's left shoulder.

Group photo of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine staff, 1989. Ewan Cameron stands adjacent to Linus Pauling

The conversation concerning the possible use of vitamin C in the treatment of cancer continues to gather momentum. 

As we’ve noted before on the PaulingBlog, the possibility that ascorbic acid might be a useful tool in the fight against cancer was a topic of intense interest to Linus Pauling and a handful of his colleagues (Ewan Cameron and Irwin Stone, among others) over the last two decades of his life.  Pauling’s devotion to the subject, and often-fiery defenses of his beliefs, attracted no small amount of criticism from the scientific and medical mainstream.  More than anything else, Pauling’s vitamin C and cancer research is the source of the “Pauling as quack” notions still prevalent in certain circles.

With Pauling’s death in 1994, the push for rigorous study of the vitamin C and cancer question steadily dissipated.  In recent time however, thanks in large part to new findings published by the National Institutes of Health, the possibilities suggested by Pauling, Cameron, Stone and others are now re-entering the scientific discourse.  As reported yesterday in Cancer Monthly, a new commentary written by Dr. Balz Frei and Stephen Lawson of the Linus Pauling Institute, and published in the August 12, 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, (free extract available here) lends further credence to the preliminary results reported in early August by the NIH.  Quoting from Cancer Monthly

“[Pauling and Cameron’s] research was intriguing enough that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched two subsequent studies on the subject at the Mayo Clinic.  However, when those studies failed to show that vitamin C increased survival in terminal cancer patients, interest in the antioxidant as an anticancer therapy began to wane….Where the NCI studies were likely missing the mark was by giving vitamin C orally in relatively small doses, say the commentary authors….’We know that IV vitamin C produces levels in blood that are many times greater than those achieved with oral supplementation, and these very high concentrations may be necessary to kill cancer cells,’ says Lawson.”

In the spirit of lending added historical perspective to this evolving topic, the PaulingBlog is pleased to provide exclusive access to Linus Pauling’s first complete speech typescript on the subject at hand.  Below the fold is the entirety of a fourteen-page talk titled “Ascorbic Acid and Cancer,” delivered by Pauling to the California Orthomolecular Medical Society at a meeting in San Francisco on February 14, 1976. While this typescript does not represent the first presentation that Pauling gave on the topic (the earliest talks date back to at least November 1971), the content published below does represent the oldest complete vitamin C and cancer speech typescript held in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. Continue reading

Beaver Pep

Q – What is your reaction to Sandy Koufax leaving the Dodgers?

A – I haven’t really developed a reaction to that.  Doesn’t the young man have some kind of a pain in his arm?

-“Scientific Genius Dotes On Comic Strips, Miniskirts, But Can’t Cure Golfer’s Slice,” The (Portland) Oregonian, December 2, 1966.

Fans storm the field at Reser Stadium following Oregon State's upset win over USC, September 25, 2008.

[Photo by Andy Cripe, (Corvallis) Gazette-Times]

Oregon State University’s remarkable college football victory over top-ranked USC last night has us thinking about a few entries in one of our more important documents — Linus Pauling’s Oregon Agricultural College diary, which dates to his freshman year as an undergraduate in 1917.

The OAC Diary, which we’ve mentioned before on the PaulingBlog, is a terrifically-valuable resource in which the young Pauling records his thoughts and feelings in an honest and personal fashion. Both in content and in tone the document is quite different from most of Pauling’s later writings which, letters to Ava Helen excepted, tend to be rather formal.

As one might expect, much of the diary documents Pauling’s process of assimilating into a new environment as an eager but unsure college freshman.  On page 54 of the journal, in an entry dated October 10, 1917, Pauling writes of an event that seems equal parts hazing ritual and spirit rally.

Am getting along all right; cleaned the fountain today, and serpentined with a couple of hundred other rooks to the football field, where we yelled for O.A.C. and sung some songs.  We then marched to Waldo Hall and sang ‘How green I am’ to a crowd of the inmates.  We were guarded by about 20 sophs.

Nearly three weeks later, on October 29, Pauling’s devotion to his new school seems to be strengthening.

Am getting along all right.  Have lots of beaver pep.

Pauling OAC Diary, pg. 54.

Pauling OAC Diary, pg. 54.

In truth, there is little evidence that Pauling maintained much of an interest in athletic pursuits, be it as a participant or a fan.  He liked to go for walks in the Big Sur countryside near his home at Deer Flat Ranch — a hobby that nearly resulted in his untimely demise.  Otherwise, the only real connection between Pauling and sports is again found in the OAC Diary where he records, in a list of resolutions, the desire to “go out for track as a high jumper and succeed.”  As it turns out, behind this resolution there was indeed a method.  Tom Hager writes in his Pauling biography, Force of Nature

Pauling paid less attention to subjects outside the physical sciences, receiving…an F in his second semester of freshman gymnasium.  He failed the gym class when, in true Pauling fashion, he tried to get around the rules.  He knew that members of the school athletic teams weren’t required to take the standard gym classes, so he planned to join the track team instead of taking the required course. (He had thought about being a high-hurdles and high-jump competitor since high school.)  Trying out for the team, however, was a disaster:  He knocked over a hurdle and couldn’t clear a high enough bar to interest the coach.  Although he ran in one meet, he failed to make the team, got an F in the course he tried to bypass, and gave up on competitive athletics.

Linus Pauling (second from left), 1917.

Linus Pauling (second from left), 1917.

Oregon 150

The Paternal Ancestry of Linus Pauling

The Pauling family tree.  Certain annotations courtesy of Linda Pauling Kamb.

The Pauling family tree. Certain annotations courtesy of Linda Pauling Kamb.

Linus Pauling’s earliest known ancestor was Andreas Pauling, born ca. 1630.  Records indicate that Andreas’ grandson, Johann Christoph Pauling, married and started a family in Preusslitz, Prussia.  There the Paulings remained for at least two generations, until Johann Andreas Pauling (perhaps the grandson of Johann Christoph) move to Golbitz, in what is now western Germany.

In 1842 a son of Johann Andreas’, Christoph Friedrich (born 1808), immigrated to the United States with his wife and two daughters.  A son, Frederick, was born during the family’s passage across the Atlantic, and two additional sons, William Frederick and Charles Henry (whom everyone called “Carl”), were born in the U. S.  The Paulings settled as farmers in Concordia, Missouri, though Christoph Friedrich and all three of his sons would eventually fight on behalf of the Union during the American Civil War.

In 1868 Carl Pauling married Adelheit Blanken and the couple started a family of their own.  Carl and Adelheit’s fourth child, Herman Henry William (born 1876), is Linus Pauling’s father.

In 1877 Carl moved his family from Missouri to California and then, five years later, to Oswego, Oregon, where he worked in the iron wholesale business.  Herman Pauling was raised in Oswego and apprenticed with a local druggist.  As part of his work, Herman would often travel to communities well-outside of the Portland area, for purposes of selling pharmaceuticals in rural areas.  On a trip to Condon, Oregon, some 150 miles east of Portland, Herman met Lucile Isabelle Darling, one of Linus Wilson Darling’s (a local shopkeeper) five daughters.  Lucy Isabelle, known to everyone as “Belle,” is Linus Pauling’s mother. [The Darling family lineage is discussed in this blog post]

After a brief long-distance courtship, Herman and Belle married on May 27, 1900.  Though Herman would die just ten years later — suddenly, at age 34, of a perforated ulcer and peritonitis — he and Belle would have three children:  Linus Carl, born February 28, 1901; Pauline Darling, born August 7, 1902; and Frances Lucile, born January 1, 1904.

Lucile, Linus, Belle and Pauline Pauling, Portland, Oregon, 1916.

Lucile, Linus, Belle and Pauline Pauling, Portland, Oregon, 1916.

Page 1 of a letter sent by Linus Pauling to Ava Helen Pauling, August 16, 1942.

Page 1 of a letter sent by Linus Pauling to Ava Helen Pauling, August 16, 1942.

Health and longevity were not necessarily in Linus, Pauline and Lucile’s DNA; their father’s life was quite short and Belle’s not much longer — she died at age 45 of pernicious anemia.  Nonetheless, all three lived well into old age:  Lucile died at age 88 on January 18, 1992; Linus died at age 93 on August 19, 1994; and Pauline, a colorful woman who married four times (the last to Linus’s boyhood friend and Caltech first-year roommate, catalysis chemist Paul Emmett), lived to the age of 101, passing on October 19, 2003.

Linus Pauling’s papers contain ample documentation of his family geneology.  While much of this was compiled by other family members or the various biographers who have written on his life, Pauling himself pretty clearly maintained a long-standing interest in his roots.  Page one of a letter sent by Linus to Ava Helen in August 1942 (reproduced below) is an early example of the geneological work that might fairly have been termed a minor hobby — or, at least, intellectual interest — of Pauling’s throughout his long and illustrious life.

Oregon 150

Roger Hayward and Linus Pauling


Pastel drawing of a Tantalum Halide cluster ion. 1964.

[Part 4 of 4. Questions about Roger Hayward may be directed to the authors of this text — Dr. J.R. Kramer, Miriam Kramer and John Benjamin — at jkramer2[at]cogeco.ca]

Linus Pauling may have learned about Roger Hayward and his “drafting” talent in the early 1930s. Hayward had designed several new architectural structures in the LA area (the Doheny Library and the Los Angeles Stock Exchange, for example) many of which had been prominently displayed in the local papers.

With the onset of the Depression, Hayward was looking for work. At the same time, Pauling was going “great guns” in determining new molecular structures, and was likewise building models for use in classes at Caltech. Hayward possessed the ability to visualize these structures in three dimensions, to illustrate these structures in a 3-D perspective and to make models of the structures.

Initially Pauling may have viewed Roger only as a “draftsman”, albeit a particularly talented one. Despite their proximity, Pauling and Hayward communicated mostly by letter. One reason for this was that Pauling was always busy or traveling, thus making face-to-face meetings difficult to arrange. Hayward, on occasion, would go to Caltech to pick up sketches or notes, but otherwise the collaborators did not often meet in person.

Fundamentally, the two men were consumed with rather different lifestyles: Pauling was usually in a rush and often did not have enough time to follow all of his pursuits. On the other hand, Hayward, at least upon his departure from the Lunden partnership, had time to do as he wished, and to ponder the many diverse subjects that interested him.

An Evolving Relationship

A series of letters changed the somewhat distant collaborative relationship from that of draftsman-scientist to, in Pauling’s estimation, that scientist-scientist. After a series of many requests for Hayward’s time, on July 19, 1951 Pauling wrote:

“Could you, during the next few days, make some drawings? We need to get a paper off for publication immediately, because I have learned that someone else (a Swede) is doing some closely similar work, and I think that we might as well publish our results obtained so far….I would like to have drawings made of the structure Na2Cd11 closely similar to what you have already made for me in pastel. There is, however, one difference, which I shall describe below — this involves an interchange of the six larger atoms and six of the smaller atoms…”

On July 27 Hayward replied:

“I believe that a review of the enclosed sketch for the revised figure E discloses that the octahedron cannot be placed where required if the radii and spacings are consistent with my interpretation of your directions. Furthermore if all the triacontahedra are shown completely surrounding the octahedron, the figure will be unintelligible….I will reiterate that I do these figures for the pleasure involved. Such a catalogue of criticisms of drawings which you requested me to do in a hurry is not pleasant.”

Pauling responded on August 2:

“I return the sketches on the Na2Cd11 structure with my apology. I have just discovered, a couple of days ago while going over calculations with Dr. Ewing, that I had placed the large atoms in the wrong positions in the rhomb….I think that this will take care of the steric difficulty that you have pointed out….”

This exchange changed Pauling’s attitude towards Hayward in that he now had complete confidence in Roger’s abilities properly illustrate molecules and, indeed, to act as a check on Pauling’s calculations. Furthermore, Pauling considered Hayward to be a scientific colleague, as evidenced by the publication of “The Structure of Protein Molecules,” a 1954 Scientific American paper in which, for the first time, Hayward is included as a co-author.

The Pauling-Hayward relationship further evolved when a German magazine raised Pauling’s ire by copying the Scientific American article without permission, altered its illustrations and deleting Hayward as a co-author. The above exchange is also suggestive of the difference in the personalities of the two men. Pauling was a highly-driven person working in the competitive field of molecular structure determination. Hayward, on the other hand, was motivated primarily by his passion for artistic merit and out of curiosity.

Roger, of course, required that his art be correct, especially in matters technical. But for Roger a large part of the enjoyment that he derived from his work emanated out of the association and discussions that the work afforded with intellects such as Linus Pauling. Roger, in fact, did not even necessarily expect monetary compensation for his labor. For example, in a letter to Pauling, dated January 9, 1953, Hayward writes:

“Enclosed herewith is the Institute’s check no. 93369 which I prefer not to accept…. [and] I wish my designation as Research Assistant of the Chemistry department to be discontinued at the earliest possible moment. I shall call myself a friend of the Chemistry Department and will enjoy continuing to assist you and the department in an advisory capacity which will include the making of drawings when the occasions arise.”

The Architecture of Molecules

Perhaps the climax of the Pauling-Hayward relationship — and, indeed, a happy one — was the creation of their best-seller, The Architecture of Molecules, published in 1964.

The development of this book, initially titled Molecular Architecture, can be credited to the visions of William Freeman, Stan Schaefer, Harry Marks, Linus Pauling and Roger Hayward. By 1964, Roger had completed a series of illustrations for Pauling’s College Chemistry and the Pauling-Hayward team had also worked well together on a number of professional papers. The time seemed right to collate all of this information into an artistic/scientific book written for the general public.

On March 12, Hayward became the last party to sign the publishing agreement. (It may have been a bit fortuitous that on March 26, Scientific American and W.H. Freeman announced the merger of their operations.) On March 31, Pauling, Hayward and Harry Marks met at Roger’s home to conceptualize the design and workflow for the book. As Roger noted in a letter to Stanley Schaefer, dated March 31, 1964, “Linus Pauling plans to write from the illustrations and so it is my move and I shall have to restrain a little lest I over-do.”


Pastel drawing of Camphor. 1964.



Pastel drawing of Ethylene. 1964.



Pastel drawing of Hexamethylenetertramine. 1964.

The bulk of the communications regarding this project, exchanged mostly between Harry Mark and Roger Hayward, reveal an air of excitement and fun. Roger planned to draw with pastels, and described in great detail the paper, textures, layouts and, most importantly, colors that he hoped to feature. A four-color press was a must for this publication, as the drawings would not include a white margin, thus lending more depth to the molecular structures. Use of pastels also afforded a certain amount of needed haziness to the diagrams, as the precise bonding of atoms was not entirely clear. (In this Roger made great use of the tutorials in atomic physics he had previously received from R.M.Langer).

The myriad details that Roger forwards include specific colors to be used and their Munsell color notations. Lighting effects for each diagram were discussed at length between Roger and Harry Mark. When a diagram was complete, Pauling would review it, approve it, and then write an accompanying text. The communications regarding production end with a September 21, 1964 letter in Pauling confirms the change in title of the book to The Architecture of Molecules and notes his concern with publication delays, hoping for Christmas sales and revenue.


Annotated pencil sketch of the structure of ice. 1964.



Pastel drawing of Methane. 1964.



Pastel drawing of Sodium Chloride. 1964.

A few notes regarding the book: On January 19, 1965, Roger Hayward wrote to Harry Marks requesting return of the color slides of the plates. To date these slides have not been found. The book itself received high praise as a work of art. The emphasis in every review is on the drawings, perhaps because this was among the first publications where art and science are so thoroughly blended. The book has been translated into Spanish, German and Japanese among other languages.

This was also the last major joint publication between Linus Pauling and Roger Hayward. The collaborators did, however, remain professional friends as suggested by the text of Pauling’s lecture at Berkeley in 1976, in which he refers to Roger Hayward as a scientist, and a 1976 letter from Hayward to his cousin Marjorie Widdop, in which Roger states that he and Pauling have been friends and have worked together for over 40 years.


Greeting to Linus Pauling on his 75th Birthday

A Final Word

Roger worked “for the fun of it”. He was a curious individual and was satisfied when he discovered or exhibited something new. In this regard he was a true dilettante, but a brilliant one. To him art and science were both means for reaching reality, a perspective which he conveys in an October 1941 letter to Sam Lunden:

“As with all narratives, it should be possible to smoke out a moral or two. These must have to be in the form of deductions from my own experience. It has been stated that architecture is a gentleman’s profession, and I presume that a gentleman is one who is able to subsist without visible means of support. Certainly during the depression, this statement was true. Since I have no invisible supporting mechanism, I solved the problem of developing a good healthy, time-consuming, interest-absorbing hobby. I now find to my pleasure that my hobby can not only feed itself, but me as well.”

For more on Roger Hayward please see his Key Participants page on the website Linus Pauling and the Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History, or click here.

Roger Hayward (1899-1979): The Western Years, Part 2

[This is the third installment of the PaulingBlog’s four part biographical series on Roger Hayward. The text that follows was compiled by Dr. J.R. Kramer, Miriam Kramer and John Benjamin, who may be reached at jkramer2[at]cogeco.ca]

Roger Hayward, 1960s.

Roger Hayward, 1960s.


Architecture took off after the war, and in 1949 Roger Hayward became a partner in the firm Lunden, Hayward and O’Connor. This partnership undertook many large jobs in the greater Los Angeles area, including the Hyperion treatment plant, many schools, an addition to Good Samaritan Hospital (which ultimately included a patent for a baby-tending stand), the Los Angeles City Health Building and the Temple Israel of Hollywood. Roger gave particular thought and energy to the design of the front door of the temple.

The firm broke up in 1957, perhaps due to Roger’s influence: he did not like the commute to downtown LA, greatly preferring instead to work in the hobbery in Pasadena and to spend more time on artistic projects. In addition his asthma became chronic and required a clean air environment as well as a daily shot of ACTH. As a result of his departure from the architecture firm, Roger drew more; exhibited in various locales, including the Hatfield Galleries; and gave talks on art, with a particular emphasis on color and color perception in illustrations. He also became involved in the Ebell Art Salon in LA and was active in, and for a term was President of, the Pasadena Art Association.

Roger’s painting was now almost entirely in watercolor, though later he began to favor pastels and crayons. He became enchanted with the American West and he, Betty and their little schnauzer “Gnawbert” (perhaps named after Norbert Weiner at MIT?) would partake in art/fun trips to the desert most every year. Roger mainly painted at home in the hobbery, maintaining a mental vision of what he saw on these trips.

A small sampling of his art titles while out West are:

  • The Savage Office, Virginia City, NV
  • Eighteen Squared and Overlapped
  • Fourth Ward School, Virginia City, NV
  • Eleven by Eleven Rectangles
  • Elsinor Hotel
  • Eleven by Eleven Rectangles and Hexagons
  • Rusty Stove
  • Renascence – Random in Four Parameters
  • Red Wheeled Buggy
  • Model Ship- drawing
  • Banda Point
  • Slippers- drawing
  • Morro Rock
  • Cannibal- drawing
  • San Gorgonia Pass
  • Missionary- drawing
  • Trophies
  • Black Pottery and Navajo Squares- drawing
  • Old Houses, Virginia City
  • Black Pottery and Navajo Rugs- drawing
  • Jeweler’s Lathe
  • Glass, Apples and Oranges- drawing
  • Pier and Dinghy
  • Death Valley Dunes
  • Jetsam
  • Split Rock
  • House on Seventeenth Mile Drive
  • Old Ore Cart
  • Soquel Meadow
  • La Purissima Mission
  • Torrey Pines Beach
  • Rooming House, Virginia City
  • Eighteen Squared
  • Forbidden Canyon


In 1956, Roger was hired as a consultant to Disney Productions for purposes of providing “corrections” to their moon model. The Disney model had been constructed from casts of the Griffith and Adler models, and in the process the Disney materials had been altered.

Fig. 16. Watercolor of a deserted ranch (Kramer collection).

Figure 16. Watercolor of a deserted ranch (Kramer collection).

In 1958, Roger signed a ten year contract — with an annual retainer and add-on commissions — to illustrate solely for W.H. Freeman Publishers.This contract afforded Roger a great deal of freedom and financial stability. Numerous jobs arose out of this agreement, ranging from mineralogy to organic chemistry to mechanics and electronics books.Importantly, the Freeman contract led to the well-received Pauling and Hayward publication, The Architecture of Molecules (see Installment Four of this series).

Despite the security that the Freeman deal provided, the arrangement eventually fizzled as Roger tired of the tedium of “drafting,” and often found himself disagreeing with authors who wanted “clean” diagrams.Roger wanted to “illustrate.”In addition, Roger’s asthma and weakening eyesight made “drafting” more difficult.He therefore reverted to a looser retainer agreement with Freeman, which allowed him to pursue opportunities outside of the publishing house.

Roger became involved in some of the Caltech campus construction in the 1950s and 1960s.He served as architect and critic for the Gordon Alles Biology Building, the Sloan Laboratory Mathematics and Physics Building, the Main Library and the Norman Bridge Lecture Hall.He also made drawings of various atoms and of a telescope, though he did not accept payment for the art work, stating that“I would like to regard these sketches as compensation for my membership in The Athenaeum [faculty club] which I realize is quite irregular.”

Roger took on many innovative challenges throughout his multi-faceted career, work whichresulted in his receipt of ten patents for which he “had fun in doing but never earned a nickel.” These patents are as follows:

Patent Number Date Description
2,200,646 May 14, 1940 Transparent Projection Screen (with J.D. Strong)
2,399,924 May 7, 1946 (filed Feb 17, 1945) Devices for grinding and polishing surfaces
2,403,659 July 9, 1946 (filed May 2, 1945) Apparatus for surface generation
2,403,660 July 9, 1946 (filed May 29, 1945) Optical system for cameras
2,430,637 Nov 11, 1947 (filed Dec 8, 1944) Means and a method for testing optical surfaces
2,514,492 July 11, 1950 (filed Jan 3, 1946) Bubble level with conical lens (see Sci. Am., Nov 1956)
2,625,853 Jan 20, 1953 (filed Feb 3, 1947) Panoramic telescope device
2,625,854 Jan 20, 1953 (filed Dec 2, 1947) Panoramic binocular telescope
2,752,614 July 3, 1956 (filed July 10, 1953) Bassinet attachment (with O’Connor and Lunden)
3,116,720 Jan. 7, 1964 (filed Nov 3, 1960) Pens (with William Bradley Lewis, Idaho Falls, ID)

Roger was always interested in the meaning and interpretation of art, vision, and especially color. As his vision started to fail, he resigned from professional work and started to tinker. One interest was the development of drawings and articles for the Worm Runners Digest, for which Roger authored many publications. The first and perhaps best-known is 1968’s “Blivets-Research and Development” (vol X, no 2) in which he constructs a number of pleasing but impossible diagrams. (Fig. 6 of this issue has been reproduced in a number of other publications. ) “Blivets — the Makings” (Vol XII, no 2, 1970-1971) was probably written in response to the large correspondence he received concerning the construction of these “impossible” figures. One fun contribution was “Cupidons — The Survival of the Flittest” (Vol X1, no 2, 1969). A more serious submission was entitled “The Jigsaw Puzzle and the Inventive Mind” (vol X11, no 1 1969), an essay on memory, imagination and inventiveness. Fun again came in the July 1971 issue (vol XIII, no 1), “Flower Bed Bugs,””Livits” in the 1971 (Vol XIII, no 2) issue, and “Digititums” in the vol XIX, no 2 issue of 1977.

Color perception and meaning were an area of intense study by Roger. He had an artist’s basic sense of color, but was also interested in how an individual considers color, especially with respect to black-and-white. One psychological study that he proposed focused on the spinning of a circular wheel with black-and-white markings on a phonograph table and subsequent observations on the development of color. Roger studied the eye’s perception of color and led many discussions with Caltech academics and art groups. These studies were important in determining the color palette in The Architecture of Molecules. Roger also worked on stereo effects (J Opt Soc Amer. vol 56, 255-256) derived from planar figures, enhancing techniques now commonly used to show stereo views of molecules.

The 1970s saw a marked decrease in Roger’s ability to continue to draw. His eyesight worsened, and in 1974 he was compelled to give up his work on the Amateur Scientist column. He obtained a large orator style typewriter to send letters, and often Betty would have to retype them. One small token of good-fortune was his movement from watercolor drawings to pastels and crayons in the 1950s, which allowed him to continue to sketch through the mid-1970s. His common pastel choice was silver and white on a black background, or vice versa.

In 1973, Roger and Betty moved to Merced, California, so as to enlist the support of Betty’s half-sister. Roger was nearly blind and was limited to mostly drawing in black and white, while Betty continued to design original patterns and to weave. Since Roger’s eyesight was very poor, Betty spent a great deal of time reading out loud and typing his letters. In 1975, he was hospitalized for an extensive period of time, and he returned home quite weakened. He died at home in 1979.

For more on Roger Hayward, click here.