Science and the Future of Humanity: Chile, 1970

Mr. Ireland, Ava Helen Pauling, Linus Pauling and Enrique Kirberg, Chile, January 1970.

[Part 3 of 5]

Perhaps because he traveled so often, Linus Pauling sometimes found himself visiting volatile places at dangerous times. One such example was a trip to Chile in 1970, taken when he and Ava Helen were invited to the Universidad Técnica del Estado for the university’s Summer School.

The Paulings were asked to attend by Professor Enrique Kirberg, the Rector of the university, who had visited Pauling in the States and was very enthusiastic to host him as a guest speaker for the Summer School. During this time, Chile was still under the leadership of President Eduardo Frei Montalva, who had been elected in 1964 but who, by 1967, was experiencing opposition from both conservatives and leftists. That political atmosphere was such that, as Pauling noted in his diary, he and Ava Helen were escorted everywhere by three detectives with guns at their hips, who even followed them on a tourist trip into the mountains.

The Paulings arrived in Pudahuel, Chile, on January 8 and the inauguration of the Summer School took place on January 9.  Pauling spoke at the inauguration, delivering his lecture “Science and the Future of Humanity” entirely in Spanish, taking forty minutes. In this speech, which he gave often, he stated that scientists ought to be involved with politics, disarmament policy, and international relations, and that they should be concerned with morality and justice, since science is so closely intertwined with morality and ethics. Pauling opined that scientists were not using their knowledge efficiently enough to benefit humanity, and argued that people should follow the Golden Rule, but should also go beyond it, to minimize the suffering of humans and animals, as well as to conserve natural resources.

Pauling likewise stated that war must be abolished and replaced by worldwide laws based on an accepted principal ethic. According to Pauling, “The misuse of a great part of the world’s wealth, and the poor distribution of the rest, is one of the greatest causes of human suffering.” He spoke out against the Vietnam War, noting that although militarism is a major cause of suffering in the world, a large number of powerful countries continued to spend too much money on military build-up.

Another grievance that Pauling presented in his talk was the size of the world’s population: in 1970 it was only about 4 billion, but Pauling believed, at the time, that the world had already surpassed its optimum population. Global malnutrition was his evidence for this supposition. His solution to the problem of overpopulation was to diminish it little by little, until it would reach the ideal number of one billion in the year 2200. At this population level, Pauling reasoned, all humans could lead a pleasant life.

Pauling concluded his speech with the opinion that scientists needed to become altogether more involved in society by doing a number of things: adopting political standings, educating the public by explaining problems and solutions, educating the leaders of the government, and gaining an understanding of worldwide problems. Pauling also believed that, as informed political groups, scientists should press the government and voters to make better choices.  Young peoples’ protests gave him hope for the future, since he was sure they would not give up hope even when they grew old. He had faith that the young people of the 1970s would make changes in the world to make it more just and moral.

After the inauguration of the Summer School at the State Technical University, the Paulings took a short trip to the beautiful city of Pucón, in the shadow of the Villarrica volcano. After spending a few days there, they returned to Santiago and the university, where Pauling met with groups of students, and later with the Committee for Peace.  On January 19, he received the National Congressional Medal of the Senate. That same day, he visited the Central Chemistry Laboratory, met with more students, and later met with professors and Chilean scientists. While in Chile, Pauling also had the opportunity to meet Salvador Allende, who would be elected President of Chile in September of 1970. The Summer School conferences at the Technical University of the State would take place on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of January and the Paulings flew home to the U.S. on Friday the 23rd.

After Chile’s military coup in 1973, Allende’s government was overthrown and General Augusto Pinochet assumed power. Amidst this upheaval, the Rector of the Technical University of the State, Enrique Kirberg, whom Pauling had met and befriended, was arrested by the government.  Kirberg was then taken to Dawson Island, a component of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the Strait of Magellan, that is subjected to Antarctic weather and was used to house political prisoners suspected of being communist activists. He remained on the island for more than a year, living in camp conditions, before being returned to Santiago where he was found guilty of tax fraud and given a long prison sentence.

When Pauling caught wind of his friend’s plight in 1974, he wrote a letter to General Augusto Pinochet, President of the Military Junta in Chile, inquiring about Kirberg’s whereabouts and asking that he be permitted to leave the country if he wished. Kirberg was eventually freed and, in 1975, Pauling received a letter of gratitude from his friend, thanking him for being a part of the peace movement which contributed to his release from prison.

Although Pauling would not return to Chile, he did serve as a sponsor for the National Coordinating Center in Solidarity with Chile, which contributed to the struggle for democracy during the military dictatorship. He also supported the Office for Political Prisoners and Human Rights in Chile during the late 1970s, and co-sponsored the Madrid World Conference in Solidarity with Chile in 1978.

The 1960s: The Nuclear-Free Zone, Oppression in Argentina and Molecules in Mexico

Illustration appearing in El Mercurio (Santiago, Chile), January 1962.

[Part 2 of 5]

In January 1962, Linus Pauling visited Chile in order to give an address at the Seventh International Summer School at the University of Concepción, and also to accept a certificate of honorary membership in the Chilean Society of Chemistry, one of many such honorary memberships that he received during his lifetime. While in Chile, the Paulings participated in the Summer School and also visited the Catholic University, the Technical University, the University of Chile in Santiago, the Experimental Station of the Institute of Agronomy in Chillán, and several other scientific institutions. Both Linus and Ava Helen gave lectures at many of the institutions they visited.

The theme of the Concepción Summer School was “The Man of Today, His Problems and His Future.” Pauling gave the opening address, titled “The Impact of Science on Man of Today and Man of the Future.” In this lecture, Pauling expressed his belief that mankind had accumulated enough knowledge to control the world instead of being controlled by it, but that with this knowledge came the power to destroy civilization. He thesis was a familiar one to those who had followed Pauling’s activism:

I believe in the philosophy of humanism – that the chief end of human life is to work for the happiness of man upon this earth, to work for the welfare of all humanity, to apply new ideas, scientific progress, for the benefit of all men – those now living and those still to be born.

One factor that works against the happiness of man, Pauling believed, is the variation in income which exists worldwide – a few people live in luxury while many suffer in poverty. He pointed out that economic injustice is “perpetuated by the oppressive powers of dictatorial governments,” and expressed his hope that these oppressive governments would give way to liberal and democratic governments.

In the same speech, Pauling also commented on the rapid progress of science and the new understanding of diseases caused by gene mutation, such as sickle-cell anemia and phenylketonuria. Some gene mutations, he added, are caused by the presence of radioactive materials released by nuclear bomb testing. Pauling continued, “I come now to the greatest of all the problems raised by the progress of science – the problem of preventing the destruction of civilization in a nuclear war.” He noted that the U. S. was in possession of 100,000 megatons of bombs, while only 20,000 megatons would be needed to decimate Russia. Likewise, Pauling estimated that the Soviets had produced 50,000 megatons of bombs, but that just 10,000 would be enough to destroy the U. S.

Pauling stressed to his Chilean audience that a nuclear war would not only destroy the U. S. and Russia, but would affect the Southern Hemisphere as well, in the form of nuclear fallout and genetic mutations. The only way to proceed in order to save the human race, Pauling concluded, was through complete disarmament, which must be supported not only by nations, but by individual people as well. “The survival of the whole human race now depends upon whether or not we can work together for the common good,” he concluded, stressing that world peace can only be achieved if nations adopt the moral values of individuals. After spending almost three busy weeks in Chile, Linus and Ava Helen returned home to California on January 22.

When Hurricane Flora hit Cuba in 1963, pounding the country for four days, Pauling attempted to visit in order to provide emergency disaster relief. However, the U.S. government did not allow him to travel to the Communist country, so instead, he and Ava Helen had to settle for supporting the Cuban people from afar. Pauling was also a member of Fair Play for Cuba, which was an organization that protested the trade embargo that the U.S. had placed on Cuba.

That same year, Linus was invited by Professor N. Matkovsky, of the International Institute for Peace in Vienna, to visit the leaders of various Latin American countries. The purpose of the visit was to support the presidents of Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Mexico in their publication of a declaration to make all of Latin America a nuclear-free zone. The declaration had been signed by the five countries on May 1st, 1963, and would lead to the ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1967, which would prohibit nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and include thirty-three parties. Linus and Ava Helen accompanied Professor Matkovsky on his mission as guest observers, but they also had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of a few countries. Delegations took place on August 15 in Rio de Janeiro; the Paulings stayed in Brazil for about 3 days, and flew to Chile on the 20th.

Linus Pauling and Arturo Illia, as published in Consejo Argentino de la Paz, October 1963.

Later in August, Pauling spoke with Arturo U. Illía, the President-elect of Argentina, to address the prevention of a devastating war and the preservation of peace in the world. A few days after he spoke with Illía, Pauling gave a speech to Pharmacy and Biochemistry faculty at the National University of Argentina entitled “Molecular Structure and Evolution.”

A month after the Paulings returned home, they learned that more than fifty women workers for peace in Rosario, Argentina had been arrested, some of them individuals to whom the Paulings had spoken during their visit to Buenos Aires. Linus wrote a letter to Illía, asking him to take action on the arrest of the women. In the letter, Pauling named a few of the women that he and Ava Helen had met and demanded that they and the rest of the women be set free. He also expressed concern about the extreme action the government had taken in recent weeks.

I have been hoping that, after a period during which the authorities of the Republic of Argentina suppressed the rights of individual human beings and carried out many oppressive actions, your nation would take its place among the civilized nations of the world, would recognize the rights of individual human beings, and would abandon the dictatorial and oppressive policies that are characteristic of governments in backward nations.

He echoed his appeal in letters to the current President at the time, Arturo Mor Roig, and to Raul Andrada, a judge in Argentina’s federal court, but his entreaties went ignored.

Pauling's greeting to the National School of Chemical Sciences, Mexico, as reprinted in Gaceta de la Universidad, July 13, 1964.

Pauling’s next visit to Latin America came about in May 1964, to help celebrate the Congress of the Centenary of the National Academy of Medicine in Mexico City. At the Academy, Pauling gave a speech as the guest of honor, “Abnormal Hemoglobin Molecules and Molecular Disease.” In this talk, he first established that the molecules that make up our DNA are the most important molecules in the world, since “[t]he pool of human germ plasm is a precious heritage of the human race.” Pauling then discussed various molecular diseases, such as phenylketonuria, which was responsible at the time for one percent of the institutionalized “mentally defective” individuals in the U. S.

According to Pauling, the disease occurs when both the mother and the father of an infant carry a gene for phenylketonuria, in which case the offspring has a fifty percent chance of inheriting the defective gene. If the infant does inherit the gene, he or she would have it in a double dose, which would inhibit him or her from being able to manufacture the enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of phenylalanine to tyrosine. As a result, if the infant ate a food containing protein, phenylalanine would build up in the bloodstream and interfere with the growth and function of the brain. The only way to treat this disease, Pauling continued, is to eat a diet of protein hydrosylate from which most of the phenylalanine has been removed. This treatment must be carried out within the first year of life, or mental retardation occurs, and the diet must be followed for the rest of the patient’s life.

After detailing the dangers and the solutions for phenylketonuria, Pauling held that, likewise, other molecular diseases could be controlled, such as sickle-cell anemia. Sickle-cell anemia is similar to phenylketonuria in that it is a molecular disease, but different in that individuals who carry only one sickle-cell gene, called heterozygotes, are protected against malaria.

Pauling rounded out his trip to Mexico by delivering another talk, titled “Molecules and Evolution,” at the National School of Anthropology.  Pauling also spent a great deal of his time in Mexico discussing the devastating effects of nuclear war, repeating his conviction that the United Nations should have custody and control of radioactive substances produced by the United States and Russia.  This work done, the Paulings left Latin American behind for a while, not returning to the region until a trip to Chile in 1970.  That visit will be the subject for our next post in this series.

The Paulings in Latin America, 1940s – 1950s

La Prensa, (Mexico City) September 6, 1949.

[Part 1 of 5]

Throughout his long career as a scientist and peace advocate, Linus Pauling’s work took him all over the world, not excluding Latin America, to which he traveled multiple times. In fact, of the nineteen countries which today constitute Latin America, the only ones which Pauling did not visit were Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay and Uruguay.

During his trips to the southern hemisphere he typically gave speeches on familiar topics including hemoglobin, the architecture of molecules, orthomolecular medicine, nuclear weapons and, of course, vitamin C. He also frequently advocated for human rights, speaking out against the incarceration of intellectuals in Argentina in the 1960s, urging the leaders of Latin America to resist the acquisition of nuclear weapons, and stressing the necessity for world peace and cooperation. Along the way, Pauling also received many awards, including membership in the Chilean Chemistry Society, the National Medal of the Chilean Senate and honorary citizenship of Puerto Rico.

In September 1949, on one of his earliest trips to Latin America, Pauling traveled to Mexico City to attend the Western Continental Congress for Peace. At the conference, Pauling delivered an address as the United States delegate, as well as a second speech titled, “Man – An Irrational Animal.”

In his delegate’s address, Pauling pointed out that the purpose of the conference was to work towards “permanent, world-wide peace” as well as to foster more effective cooperation between the people of the Americas. From his perspective as a scientist, Pauling felt that he could see order everywhere in the natural world, except for the seeming self-destructiveness of the human race. Pauling felt that the fight for peace included the fight for human rights, and that it was every individual’s responsibility to contribute. However, he believed that scientists should play a special role, suggesting that “the world looks to science for the ultimate solution of the threatening natural problems that menace it.”

At the Mexico City conference, Pauling also argued that scientists needed more freedom in order to focus their energy on solving problems such as world hunger, rather than on the preparation for and conducting of war. He likewise stressed that the United Nations needed to be more powerful, so that it could not be dominated by one or two great powers. To do this, Pauling rationalized, participating nations should transfer part of their sovereignty to the UN in order to form a democratic world government. At the end of the address, Pauling again stressed that world peace must be a democratic and collective undertaking, proclaiming that

It is we, the people, who now have the duty of working for peace, for the welfare and happiness of human beings everywhere. If another devastating world war comes, it will be because we, the people of the world, have failed. We must not fail.

On the same day that he delivered his address as a delegate, Pauling also gave a second speech “Man – An Irrational Animal.” In this talk, he reiterated his “deep interest in the structure of the material world,” and appreciation of the harmony and the workings of nature, but again suggested that the world of man was an anomaly to nature’s pattern of balance and structure. Pauling lamented that “we see groups of men, who make up the nations of the world, devoting the material wealth of the world and the intellectual powers of man, the ‘rational’ animal, not for the welfare of mankind, but for destruction.”

He attributed most of the problems that existed during the time to the struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States, pointing out that nearly ten percent of the world’s income was being used for war or preparation for war. He also stressed that, in the U. S., the fear of communism or any form of liberal thought was prohibiting many scientists from finding work in universities and the private sector alike. Pauling’s solution to the problems of the era was to propose that more funds be channeled toward UNESCO’s peace efforts, and that less be spent on war.

Pauling’s participation in the Mexico City assembly managed to rankle both the U. S. government as well as his fellow delegates.  As it turns out, unbeknownst to Pauling, the Western Continental Congress for Peace was  a Communist-organized gathering, and was accurately criticized as such back home.  In biographer Thomas Hager‘s words,

…that, of course, did not bother the Paulings.  They loved Mexico City – Ava Helen was becoming an admirer of folk art from around the world and spent time combing the mercados for pieces to add to her collection – but were less enthusiastic about the meeting, which seemed to consist of speech after long-winded speech defending the Soviet Union and attacking the United States.  His keynote address ranged from standard socialist anti-imperialism…to a purposeful and carefully evenhanded denouncement of both the United States’ and USSR’s policies of curtailing freedom and preparing for war.  The audience, expecting another one-sided attack on the Yankees, responded with lukewarm applause.

Pauling’s next visit to Latin America came about in May 1955, when Linus and Ava Helen were invited to a conference at the University of Puerto Rico by the Chancellor of the University, Jaime Benitez. At the meeting, Pauling gave three speeches: “The Hemoglobin Molecule in Health and Disease,” “The Structure of Proteins,” and “Technology and Democracy.”

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling posing with an unidentified group. Los Canos, Puerto Rico, 1955.

In “Technology and Democracy” – of the three, the only talk that he did not give on a regular basis to many other groups – Pauling commented that it was impossible for people to consider themselves “cultured” if they did not know about the sciences as well as about the rest of the world. He argued that “non-scientists, too, should be people of culture who have an understanding of the world, and this they cannot be without a knowledge of science.” Pauling also urged that more science be included in the curricula of elementary schools, and at a more advanced level. Pauling felt that people should be more interested in science because “knowledge of the nature of the world in which we live contributes to our happiness.”

Pauling’s trips to Mexico and Puerto Rico were just the beginning of an extensive political and scientific relationship that he maintained with Latin America.  In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at several of his Ava Helen’s many visits to countries south of the border, from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Later Japan

Linus Pauling with President Matsuda at Tokai University, 1975.

Sixteen years passed between Linus Pauling’s participation in the 1959 Hiroshima Conference and his next visit to Japan in Fall 1975.  And while the 1975 trip largely dealt with his findings and research on Vitamin C – a common theme for many of his travels to East Asia and elsewhere – some of his time was devoted to peace-related talks and activities.

Notably, Pauling attended a symposium of the Keidanren Kaikan Memorial Lecture in Tokyo, and a symposium of the Memorial Lecture at Hiroshima-Ishikaikan in Hiroshima. He also attended the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship of Japan and presented a paper titled “Reverence for Life and the Way to World Peace” in Tokyo.  His short “peace tour” likewise included his making a guest appearance on a talk show with Dr. Soichi Iijima, and following that up with a lecture, delivered at a high school in Hiroshima, titled “The Development of Science and the Future of Mankind.”

Then the vitamin C tour began. In the preface to the Japanese translation of his book Vitamin C, the Common Cold, and the Flu, Pauling described the budding of his interest in vitamin C. In it, he describes the familiar story of his initial intrigue in learning of the effectiveness of large doses of vitamins in controlling schizophrenia. Not long after,  a biochemist, Irwin Stone, wrote to Pauling of his own findings on vitamin C, health and disease, which further spurred Pauling’s own interest and compelled him to begin his own program of research.

As time passed and Pauling’s advocacy grew, he increasingly sought to spread this growing body of work around the world, including his stops in Japan. In 1975 Pauling went to Fukuoka with Dr. Fukumi Morishige (who would become a close colleague) to meet with fellow vitamin C researchers and discuss new ideas and experiments. While in Saga he likewise gave lectures on vitamin C to researchers and students at Tokai University. In October, near the end of his trip, he visited with a series of dignitaries including Kenzaburo Gushima, the President of Nagasaki University, and Yoshitake Morotani, the Mayor of Nagasaki. In these meetings Pauling exchanged thoughts on a number of ideas, including peace, but was also keen to discuss his favorite nutritional topic, vitamin C.

Five years later, Pauling and his wife made another trip to Japan in March and April of 1980. By this point, Pauling wanted very much to convince others that vitamin C lay at the heart of treating many ailments, and his activities during the 1980 trip are indicative of the fervor with which he pursued this goal.

Pauling began the trip by giving a talk to the general public on the health benefits of ascorbic acid. He then attended the general meeting of the Society of Japan Agricultural Chemistry at Fukuoka University, the topic of which was vitamin C and cancer. At the conclusion of this meeting he was made an honorary member of the Society. Next, at Kyoto University, he gave a lecture titled “What Can We Expect for Chemistry in the Next 100 Years?” after which he attended another symposium on vitamin C and participated in a vitamin C committee meeting at Cakushi Kaikan.  Prior to returning home, Pauling gave another lecture, “Prevention from Disease -Vitamin C, the Common Cold and Cancer,” and also found a spare moment to write a letter to the editor of Time about Vitamin C and cancer that clarified his thoughts on the vitamin’s relationship to cancer therapy.

Ava Helen Pauling and Dr. Yashie Souma, 1980.

In 1981 Pauling traveled to Japan on two short, separate occasions. The first visit was for the International Conference on Human Nutrition. During the second he appeared on Japanese television discussing orthomolecular medicine with Drs. Kitahara and Morishige.   A few days later he gave a lecture on the same topic to the Japanese Pharmacist Association.

Upon his return home, Pauling maintained a regular correspondence with Dr. Morishige about Morishige’s vitamin C research. He specifically wanted to know if Morishige had tested it on patients suffering from gastrointestinal cancer, noting his very personal reasons for doing so: this was the type of cancer from which Ava Helen was, at the time, suffering. Morishige wrote back to Pauling in September giving him a treatment plan that he thought might aid in slowing down the disease. Pauling attempted to act on this recommendation, but a variety of barriers arose to its implementation.  Less than three months later, she passed away.

Morishige's prescription.


In the years following, Pauling visited Japan three more times. Most of these trips, at least in part, involved his continuing efforts to secure financial support for the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine. In concert with his travels in 1981, Pauling wrote to the industrialist Ryoichi Sasakawa, asking his permission to establish a Ryoichi Sasakawa Research Professorship in Cancer Research. Pauling also requested that Sasakawa to endow the position, knowing of his support for cancer research in general and of Pauling’s efforts to explore Vitamin C in particular. Though Sasakawa did not fulfill this specific request, he did eventually gift many other large sums to the Institute for research and study.

A 1984 trip concentrated almost completely on vitamin C. Shortly before flying across the Pacific, Pauling wrote a chapter for the book Medical Science and the Advancement of Health titled “Problems Introducing a New Field of Medicine: Orthomolecular Medicine.” Completing this chapter clarified his thoughts and led directly to a talk, “Molecular Disease and Orthomolecular Medicine,” delivered upon his arrival to Tokyo. Assisting him in this talk were other doctors pursuing and interested in this same field. The rest of this trip was devoted to visiting various institutes and industrial sites including the National Institute of Genetics and the Aliment Industry Co. in Mishima, as well as a vitamin factory in Hakone.

Pauling’s final two visits to Japan both took place in 1986. The first trip was for an exposition on vitamin C and health, followed by a series of interviews and seminars where he discussed cancer therapy and research results with Japanese medical journalists.

Pauling delivering the Opening Address at the Tokyo Health Fair, April 1986.

Pauling returned to his activist roots for his final visit, which was devoted primarily to peace. He visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Memorial Monument for Hiroshima City of Peace, and participated in a public screening of the documentary “Hiroshima – A Document of Atomic Bombing.” He spoke with survivors of the 1945 nuclear attack and visited the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Hospital.

The Peace Summit in Hiroshima was also a part of this trip. Titled “In Quest for International Peace,” the gathering was partly devoted to discussions of the role of science in working for peace. The last of many speeches that Linus Pauling delivered in his nine trips to Japan took place in Hiroshima and was titled, “We Have Already Taken a Great Step Toward the Goal of World Peace.”  At this point Pauling had come full circle in Japan, a country that he greatly admired.

The Paulings and Japan: Roots of a Fruitful Relationship

Dining in Japan, 1955.

“As a scientist I am interested in Japan and primarily in the universities…[I am] greatly impressed by the natural and cultural richness of the country… [where] scientific work is of the highest quality…Science of the modern world has been accelerated here by the atom-bomb and radiation…Because of this, hopefully steps will be made towards the goal of permanent world peace.”

-Linus Pauling, 1955

Japan was a favored spot for research, vacation, and lecture for Linus Pauling and his wife, Ava Helen. Generally speaking, the Japanese held the couple in high esteem, a major factor in Pauling having maintained close contacts with many of the country’s leading scientists.

The public’s adoration also resulted in the extension of numerous invitations to Pauling to deliver lectures and attend conferences. He was invited to visit on multiple occasions by a wide variety of Japanese societies and committees, and followed through a documented nine times. Each of the trips, spanning some thirty-one years, involved at least one of three agenda items: vitamin C, chemistry research, or the struggle for world peace and nuclear disarmament.  Today’s post focuses on the Paulings travel to Japan in the 1950s.  Future posts will detail later trips as well as certain Japanese individuals who became important to Pauling and his work.

Pauling manuscript on Japanese scientists and science, March 10, 1955.

The first proposed trip to East Asia was scheduled for 1953. Linus Pauling was supposed to travel to Tokyo from February to March of that year, but it was cancelled due to his chronic passport difficulties. Instead, 1955 marked the first of many ventures to Japan. While there from February to March, Linus and Ava Helen visited Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

The 1955 trip in particular was dedicated to delivering lectures on the chemical bond, hemoglobin and proteins. The first lectures that Pauling gave took place at Tokyo University. There, he spoke on structural chemistry as well as the hemoglobin molecule and its correlation to health and disease. These lectures were also repeated to the general public of nation’s capital, as well as at Osaka University. In between lectures Pauling also attended seminars on proteins.

This was the only of Pauling’s Japanese trips that was solely associated with topics in chemistry. In his future visits, chemistry was typically brought up in some form, but time was more frequently occupied with topics of the atomic age, the peace movement and, in later years, vitamin C.

Linus Pauling lecturing on hemoglobin. Tokyo, Japan. February 26, 1955.

The main purpose for visiting Japan in August 1959 was to attend the Hiroshima 5th World Conference against Atom and Hydrogen Bombs. Pauling began his trip by participating in a march at the Hiroshima Peace Park, followed by a brief lecture titled “Physical and Biological Aspects of Radon” at Hiroshima University.

For the 5th World Conference, Pauling also edited and approved “The Hiroshima Appeal” which demanded that all nations cease the testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. A note attached to the Appeal indicates that Pauling found the document to be just and did not understand how individuals might not support it. He then, on August 7, 1959, wrote his own manifesto titled “The Scientist’s Appeal,” which also asked that nuclear tests be stopped and that science not be “used in any ways incompatible with the principles of humanity.”

Pauling’s stance and his participation in the Hiroshima conference sparked conversation back in the United States. In the Chicago Daily News for instance, journalist Keyes Beech wrote an article titled “Pauling Denies ‘Left’ Role at Hiroshima,” in which the scientist discussed his comments and thoughts on disarmament, while denying claims that he was being used as a tool of political propaganda by communist hardliners allegedly present at the Hiroshima Conference.

In a letter that he later wrote to his friend, Dr. Gunther Anders of Austria, he further discussed the conference. In particular, he stated that he felt strongly about continuing to work with the Japan Council and its head, Dr. Kaoru Yasui. Pauling also suggested that China be made a member of the United Nations so that provisions could be implemented to prevent China from developing its own cache of nuclear arms.

After the conference concluded, Pauling gave a talk in the Grand Lecture Hall of Politics and Economics Department of Hiroshima University titled, “Our Choice: Atomic Death or World Law.” In it he advocated for a world government (a “path of reason”) that would bring peace, and condemned the use of nuclear weapons and the dysfunction of “insensate militarism.” These ideals were extended in additional meetings with the Japanese Committee of the Pugwash Conference, and collections of other scientists and academics.

In these conversations Pauling reiterated his stance that it is the scientist’s duty to understand the physical reality of nuclear war and to relay its horrors to the world. To further his support of these convictions he held a meeting on peace in Tokyo, participated in the march at the Peace Park in Hiroshima, and gave a lecture titled “Physical Biological Aspects of Radiation” at Hiroshima University.

In Pauling’s view, understanding the consequences of nuclear detonations and radioactive fallout was crucial to furthering the general public’s realization of just how destructive atomic weapons are. He believed this to be a social responsibility of scientists, and in his last few days in Japan he met with colleagues in Hiroshima, Osaka, and Kyoto to stress the point.

In Israel and the Middle East

Guests at the inauguration of Yad Chaim Weizmann, 1953.

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling had a few encounters with the Middle East, traveling to Israel on three separate occasions, and to Iran and Uzbekistan once each.

In the Fall of 1953, Pauling made his first trip to Israel for the purpose of dedicating the new Weizmann Institute, a large research institution centered in Rehovoth. It was the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who was the first President of the state of Israel as well as a chemist and the institute’s founder. At the event, Pauling was one of five scientists to receive honorary fellowships of the Weizmann Institute.

Pauling arrived on October 27 in Rehovoth, a city near Tel Aviv, where he would stay through November 3. He was traveling alone this time, which was fairly unusual as Ava Helen typically accompanied him on most of his trips, especially those abroad. The centerpiece of his visit was a large ceremony held for the dedication of Yad Chaim Weizmann, a memorial to Weizmann. Pauling and the four other honorary fellows – Niels Bohr, Ernst Chain, Herman Mark and Peyton Rous – sat in the front row, and signed a scroll that was placed in a cornerstone. Then the ceremony moved to Weizmann’s grave where traditional songs were sung.

Pauling spent the following days visiting the Institute’s laboratories and observing the research going on, and also taking part in the dedication of new biology and physics facilities. Later in the week, Niels Bohr lectured on his philosophy of physics and officiated the dedication of a physics laboratory.

While in Israel, Pauling was particularly impressed to learn more of the crystal structure work conducted by Dr. Gerhard Schmidt. He said of Schmidt, “he has not yet published enough to cause him to obtain a big reputation, but I feel that he will soon be well known throughout the world.”

Pauling also delivered an informal lecture on ferromagnetism that was well received. He wanted to give a speech at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but this intent greatly upset members of the Weizmann Institute. Apparently, the two academic centers did not get along. In his correspondence, Pauling chastised both groups for being “very emotional.”

David Ben-Gurion, Niels Bohr and Linus Pauling at the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel. November 5, 1953.

Once the ceremonies were concluded, Pauling took off from Rehovoth to experience more of Israel’s rich cultural life, embarking on a two day guided tour, which he described in a letter to Ava Helen.

We first went to Haifa, and stayed overnight in a hotel. Then to Acre, a coastal fortress held by the Turks against Napoleon –  the only place where he was repulsed; then to the Jordan diversion project- with armed Syrian soldiers just across the river (we had to get a special pass for this), to a Kibbutz (communal settlement), to Safad, the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth – where we visited Joseph’s home, under a church, and had supper in an Arab restaurant – and to Tiberias, overnight. Between Safad and Tiberias we went by the Mount of Olives and the scene on the Sea of Galilee of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Then on Sunday we drove by Mt. Tabor (Mount of the Ascension) and then spent some hours in another Kibbutz, and then home by 4:30 for a reception, and then dinner at the Katchalsky’s (you remember him in Stockholm).

Pauling greatly enjoy the historical sights on offer and was fascinated by the people and their traditions. He attended numerous parties and enjoyed Israeli cuisine – recording, in particular, a fondness for couscous, shashlik and the region’s coffee. After Rehovoth, Pauling ventured to Jerusalem for a few days. There, he was afforded the opportunity to have dinner with David Ben Gurion, the prime minister of Israel at the time. On the 5th, Pauling departed Israel and took off for London. He wrote to Ava Helen of having been told that his safety was now being slightly imperiled as a result of his having an Israeli stamp on his passport.

It is clear that Pauling enjoyed Israel and he hoped to return soon again, for another visit as part of a world tour. However, these plans fell through when difficulty was encountered with the U.S. Passport Bureau.  When Pauling caught wind that he had won the Nobel Prize in late 1954, he excitedly made travel arrangements for Stockholm. He then realized that this was the perfect opportunity to resume his plans for a world tour, which would include Israel. His journey across the globe would land him and Ava Helen in Israel in mid-December of 1954. [More on this second visit to Israel is available here, in our second post on the Paulings’ world tour.]


The Paulings and Dr. Hakimelahi at the Persepolis, Iran, 1975.

The year 1975 brought the Paulings back to the Middle East for visits to Iran and Uzbekistan. Visiting Iran in late March and early April, Linus and Ava Helen were introduced to the cities of Tehran, Shiraz, and Isfahan. While in Shiraz, Pauling delivered a lecture titled “Molecules in Relation to Health and Disease” at the Third International Congress of the Iranian Chemical Society, held at Pahlavi University. This Congress was the principle reason for the Paulings visit, though they did take the opportunity to see the countryside some.  Most notably, Dr. Nahid Hakimelahi of Pahlavi University took them on a tour of Persepolis, the capital of an ancient empire not far from Shiraz, where the couple explored the area’s ruins and took lots of photographs.

On that same trip, Linus and Ava Helen also ended up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where they were guests of honor at a banquet. At the time the country was part of the Soviet bloc and known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. The couple most likely stopped in Tashkent on their way to or from Russia in early March.

Enjoying grapes in Tashkent, 1975.

Pauling again returned to Israel in June 1987, alone this time, as Ava Helen had passed away some five years before. He spoke at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, named for the late prime minister whom Pauling had met decades earlier. The reason for his visit was to lecture to the chemistry department and to help dedicate the school’s new Vickar-Hoffer Chair in Orthomolecular Psychiatry. By this stage in his life, much of Pauling’s energy was focused on promoting the use of vitamin C, and the new chair was an outgrowth of the nutrition research that Pauling, along with researchers Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond, had pioneered in the 1950s and 1960s.

As a world-renowned peace activist Pauling, was also interviewed by Jerusalem Post magazine, a forum in which he took the opportunity to comment on the current political state of the Middle East, at the time engaged in an arms race. Pauling’s perspective on the matter was as follows.

I’m not saying that Israel’s leaders are to blame. The problem is tremendously difficult and complex. On the other hand, I don’t feel that Israel has been a force for peace and for a resolution of the problem. The people in Israel are very smart, but the politicians just don’t…[they are]  too short sighted. They work on immediate problems, and don’t have the courage to adopt a long-term program and stick to it.

A Somber Return to China, 1981

The Paulings in Tianjin, June 1981.

In the summer of 1981, Linus Pauling participated in the First International Conference on Human Nutrition, which took place in Japan and China. The conference lasted from May 31 to June 8, and was sponsored by the China Medical Association and the Foundation for Nutritional Advancement, the latter of which Pauling was president. The conference took place in Tokyo, Japan and Tianjin, China, travels to which would comprise the first part of a trip that would also take the Paulings to Germany and to London. Their daughter Linda and her husband Barclay accompanied Linus and Ava Helen to the Orient.

Pauling made the opening remarks at the beginning of the conference in Tokyo on June 1. After the Tokyo sessions were completed three days later, the Paulings flew to Peking, traveled in an official vehicle to Tianjin (a “red flag limousine,” as recorded by Pauling in his journal) and stayed in the State Guest House in the same suite used by Richard Nixon during his iconic 1972 trip to China.  From June 4-8, Pauling participated in the conference, which was jointly planned by the FNA and Professor Chou Pei-yuan, the President of the University of Beijing. This was the second and last time Pauling was to visit China.

A day after arriving in China, the Paulings toured Tianjin Medical College, Tianjin Hospital and Tianjin Children’s Hospital before attending a formal reception given by Li Xiannian, who eventually became the Chinese Head of State in 1983. The conference in China formally opened on June 6, again with Pauling delivering the opening remarks. In them, he discussed the roots of his interest in the field of nutrition, and also reflected upon the early years of his scientific career beginning with his focus on minerals and later interest in the nature of life, which arose in 1929 largely because of the presence of Thomas Hunt Morgan (who had discovered the concept of the gene) at Caltech.

An unidentified individual, Arthur Sackler, the Chinese Minister of Health and Linus Pauling, June 1981.

In his talk, Pauling explained that he had decided to learn more about organic chemistry in order to understand how molecules are built and how they interact with each other, beginning with hemoglobin. During this time, Pauling also studied antibodies, immunology, sickle cell anemias, and other heretic anemias. In 1954 he decided to look at other groups of diseases to see if they could be classed as molecular diseases, and chose to study mental illness over cancer, because he felt that many people were working on cancer already. After researching mental illness for ten years, he became interested in vitamins.

According to Pauling, his interest in vitamins came about when he learned that the Canadian scientists Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond were treating schizophrenia patients with large amounts of niacin. Simultaneously, Gerald Milner had been giving large amounts of ascorbic acid to mentally ill patients, with positive results. Pauling later observed that vitamin C had value in the control of cancer, so he became involved with cancer. Near the end of his address, Pauling remarked, “As I look back on my life, I see that I have enjoyed myself very much and a good bit of this enjoyment has come from the continued recognition of something new about the universe.”

Other talks given over the course of the Tianjin conference included “Vitamin C and Cancer,” delivered by Pauling; “Extending Life Span of Patients with Terminal Cancer Using High Doses of Vitamin C,” given by Dr. Akira Murata from the Department of Agriculture at Saga University, Japan; and “A Study on Fortified Foods with Ascorbic Acid Phosphate,” given by Professor Chou Deqin, from the Chinese Institute of Military Hygiene.

The conference closed on Monday, June 8. The next day, the Paulings took part in a sight-seeing tour of the Great Wall and the Ming tombs. Later that week, Pauling gave a talk on chemical bonds in transition metals at Peking University, and continued to give lectures and meet with various scientists throughout the rest of his time in China.

Photo of Ava Helen Pauling taken in China, six months prior to her death.

The trip took a dramatic turn for the worse when, in the afternoon of June 19, Ava Helen had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. Though she left the hospital the next day, she remained medicated and too sick to travel for a few days after, causing the Paulings to change their plans. She remained weak for the rest of their time in China, though recovered enough to complete their planned itinerary through Germany and London.

When the couple returned to California and Ava Helen underwent exploratory surgery, it was determined that she was facing a recurrence of stomach cancer, from which she had been suffering for the past five years. Her cancer was deemed inoperable and only a few short months later, on December 7, 1981, Ava Helen would pass away, three weeks shy of her 78th birthday.

Travels in China, 1973

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling at the Great Wall of China, 1973.

In March 1973, little more than one year after Richard Nixon’s historic visit, Linus Pauling received a letter inviting him to travel to China for three weeks in the coming summer. He was invited by Wu Yu-hsun, Vice President of the Scientific and Technical Association of the People’s Republic of China, who informed Pauling that his accommodation and transportation would be provided by the Association. “It is my belief that your visit will contribute to the promotion of the traditional friendship and scientific exchanges between the scholars of China and America,” Wu wrote.

Following Wu’s instructions for obtaining a visa, Pauling wrote to the Embassy of the Chinese People’s Republic in Ottawa, Canada, on April 4, requesting visas for him and Ava Helen. (At that time, there was no Chinese embassy in the United States as diplomatic relations between the two countries had not yet been formalized.) Two months later, he received a reply from the embassy, accompanied by applications for the two visas.  On August 8 Pauling wrote to Vice President Wu to let him know that the trip details had been finalized and informing him that he and Ava Helen would arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday, September 16, and leave Monday, October 8.

In his letter, Pauling mentioned his book Vitamin C and the Common Cold, stating his belief that vitamin C not only decreases the severity and instances of the common cold, but does the same for other diseases. As such, he expressed a desire for both himself and Ava Helen to engage with relevant Chinese medical authorities and members of the Ministry of Public Health about this matter. Pauling also communicated his interest in talking with physicians and scientists about Oxypolygelatin, a blood plasma substitute that he had developed during World War II, as well as his desire that he and Ava Helen see his former student, Chia-si Lu, a chemist and crystallographer, and also their friend Professor Tsien, an authority on rockets whom they knew from Caltech. On August 9, Pauling returned the visa applications along with a letter stating that “I do not travel without my wife, and I have assumed that the invitation includes her also.”

After finally receiving their visas, the Paulings departed San Francisco for Hong Kong on Friday, September 14, 1973. They spent that night in Honolulu, and arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday, September 16.

Much of what we know now about the Paulings’ visit to China comes from Linus’ travel log.  The log is very detail-oriented – so much so that one wonders how much detail is owed to Pauling’s insatiable scientific appetite, and how much to his knowledge that the U. S. government was historically suspicious of his every move, and likely maintained a particular interest in his activities while traveling through communist China.

The Paulings arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday night, stayed an extra day, and went by train to Canton on Tuesday. They spent Tuesday night at a guest house in Canton, where Pauling noted that it was “very hot during the day, very humid, and humid and hot during the night, too.” After visiting Sun Yat Sen University and having lunch, the couple flew to Shanghai, where Pauling judged the humidity to be less oppressive. They visited the Shanghai Industrial Exhibition on the morning of September 20, and the Institute of Biochemistry in the afternoon. In his travel log, Pauling recorded the details of research being conducted by an Institute staff member who was working on nucleotides and nucleosides. One investigation in particular focused on the effectiveness of nucleotides in increasing the yields of different plants such as rice. Pauling also spoke with Mr. Kung who, in 1965. was among the first scientists to synthesize insulin, and a man named Lee, who was conducting work on liver cancer.

Pauling was particularly interested in a screening of 150,000 people in Shanghai that was described to him by Mr. Lee. In the screening, 158 people were found to have an embryonic globulin in their blood which is manufactured in large amounts by people who have liver cancer. All of these 158 subjects either already had cancer or developed it later. Pauling suggested that the people who tested positive for this embryonic globulin be given 10 g of vitamin C per day, in an effort to stave off further development of the cancer.

While in Shanghai, the Paulings frequently saw members of the Philadelphia Philharmonic at mealtimes, since they were staying at the same hotel. Pauling noted that he and Ava Helen had tickets to hear the orchestra on September 21. But before that, in the morning, he visited the Peking Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Academia Sinica, where he saw the laboratories and learned about the Institute’s work on steroids. Meanwhile Ava Helen went shopping and visited the zoo, where, Pauling’s record shows, she saw “three giant pandas and several small ones.”

In the afternoon, the Paulings toured a commune. This commune was likely one of many established by Mao Zedong in the late 1950s with the aim of turning China into an industrialized nation. At the commune, Pauling took note of the work and lifestyle of its 24,000 inhabitants, who mostly made tools or did farm work.

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling with hospital staff members, Shanghai, China. 1973.

On Saturday, September 22, Linus and Ava Helen visited the Shanghai Institute of Pharmacology and later the Shanghai Psychiatric Hospital, where they observed a wide array of treatments being given to patients, including acupuncture. Pauling presented the director of the hospital with a copy of his book Orthomolecular Psychiatry, and discussed megavitamin therapy with the hospital’s staff. Afterwards the Paulings watched an acrobatics performance, and the next day they continued to enjoy China’s culture by visiting the Children’s Palace and the Palace of History.

When the Paulings went on a sightseeing tour down to the banks of the Hwang-ho with Chia-si Lu, Pauling’s former Caltech student, Chia-si told them of the hardship that had existed before China’s “liberation.” By liberation, Pauling’s student was referring to the Chinese Revolution in which Mao Zedong and his supporters took over China’s government and installed communist rule in 1949. According to Chia-si, who had been in the U.S. for five years during the 1940s, only about ten percent of the money that he periodically sent home to his wife and son would actually reach them; the rest was taken by the Bank of China, which, according to Chia-si, was the bank of T.V. Soong at the time. For a few years Chia-si’s wife and son were close to starvation, along with many other people in China. However, after the revolution, the new Maoist government controlled the price and distribution of food and, in Chia-si’s estimation, the quality of life improved. (It is important to note that this perspective is contrary to other more contemporary analyses of Chinese food security under Mao.)

Although a few days are excluded from his travel log, Pauling wrote notes in his diary about activities related to hemoglobin and orthomolecular medicine on September 24, and a trip by train to Hangchow that evening, where he and Ava Helen did some sightseeing. Their tourism included the Ling Yin Temple, the Tiger Spring, the Jade Fountain, a tea ceremony, a boat ride on West Lake and a visit to a brocade factory. They attended another in a long string of banquets, and saw the Dragon Well Spring before leaving by train.

Pauling next wrote in his journal on Friday, September 28, to record his and Ava Helen’s tour of a petroleum refinery. The day before, on Thursday, they had visited the big bridge across the Yangtze, after which Pauling gave a lecture on vitamin C and good health at Nanking University. On Thursday night, the Paulings went to a dancing and singing performance staged by children of the district of Nanking. That weekend, the Paulings attended the National Day banquet in Beijing in the dining room of the Hall of Ten Thousand, to which 1,000 guests were invited by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Before the banquet, the Paulings had visited the Forbidden City once in the morning, and again in the afternoon.

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling with three unknown individuals at a statue of Mao Zedong. China, 1973.

Pauling’s log does not contain entries any further than September 30, which leaves the next few days until his departure on October 8 unaccounted for. However, other documents indicate that the Paulings did get their desired opportunity to speak with scientists Dr. Ma Hai-teh and Rewi Alley on the subject of oxypolygelatin. Pauling wrote to Dr. Ma a few months later, in February 1974, to tell him about further work being conducted on the substance. In his letter, Pauling intimated that he had the idea that the properties of gelatin as a plasma extender would be improved if the long thin gelatin molecules could be tied together into rosettes using hydrogen peroxide, such that the molecules would not escape into the dilate urine through pores in the glomerular filter. This would improve the substance’s time of retention in the body. Pauling also pointed out that oxypolygelatin is non-antigenic, while other proteins are antigenic, meaning that they cause the body to produce antibodies.

Linus and Ava Helen’s first trip to China was a good experience both culturally and scientifically; one in which they were able to appreciate the historical and artistic aspects of the country while likewise engaging in scientific dialogue with Chinese scientists. While there, Pauling was able to spread the word about the benefits of vitamin C and orthomolecular psychiatry, and also to learn about research being conducted in China, including an unlikely exchange of ideas on oxypolygelatin, a substance that he hadn’t touched in some thirty years.

A Return to India, 1967

The audience assembled for one of Linus Pauling's two Azad Memorial Lectures, New Delhi, February 1967.

During the process of production of a fertilized ovum, half of the set of genes of the father and half of the set of genes of the mother, selected by a process that involves randomness, are passed on to the child.  Every child is a reincarnation, not a complete reincarnation of any one individual but a reincarnation of many people who preceded him in life and have passed some of their molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid on to him.

-Linus Pauling, Azad Lectures, February 1967.

Linus Pauling was invited to visit India again in the late 1960s, in large part due to his relationship with G. N. Ramachandran, a physical chemist at the University of Madras. Ramachandran had begun corresponding with Pauling several years before when, as a newly minted post-doc, he was seeking employment in Pauling’s lab. At the time Pauling couldn’t give him a job, but he was interested in Ramachandran’s crystallography research. In the mid-1950s, Pauling was trying to determine the structure of collagen and incorrectly theorized that its molecular structure was a three-helix cable. Ramachandran eventually correctly identified the structure as a triple helix.  Some years later, Ramachandran extended to Pauling the invitation of a visiting professorship at his institution, and Pauling eventually accepted, leading to the Paulings’ 1967 return trip to the subcontinent.

Word of Pauling’s visit quickly spread through the Indian scientific community and many more invitations came pouring in. Linus received such a large volume that he had to turn many of them down; especially those extended by smaller institutions and certain locations that he had visited during his 1955 trip. Once most of the dust had settled, Ramachandran was placed in charge of piecing together the Paulings’ itinerary.

Linus and Ava Helen arrived in Madras in January 1967 for a six week stay that would include visits to cities all over India – Madras, Bangalore, Delhi, Kerala, and Hyderabad were all on the schedule – as well as a stop in Sri Lanka. Though excursions to scientific institutions and meetings with important leaders – including Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the country’s second President – dominated the Paulings’ stay, time was once again set aside for seeing the sights.  After the conclusion of the trip, Pauling noted an encounter with a pack of 35 wild elephants as one particular highlight of the journey.

As part of his Madras professorship, Pauling began his visit by delivering a series of three lectures on molecular structure theory; a three-part lecture on nuclear structure would follow the next month. He likewise presented other technical lectures at Kerala University, the Ceylon Association for the Advancement of Science (in Sri Lanka), and the Indian Institute of Medical Science, and gave other more popular talks titled “Molecular Disease and Evolution” and “Molecular Structure in Relation to Medicine.”

Linus Pauling being introduced by Foreign Minister M. C. Chagla, Azad Lectures, February 1967.

Pauling also had the opportunity to speak about another subject about which he was passionate: peace. In preparation for these lectures, Pauling conducted extensive research on India’s socioeconomic situation, poring over government statistics and scribbling calculations in his notebooks.

Much of this research was compiled into Pauling’s two-part delivery of the Azad Memorial Lectures: “Science and Peace” and “The Future of the World.” The lectures were a high-point of the trip, and an internationally notable event – the U.S. Supreme Court even requested a copy of the speeches for its library.

In his Azad speeches, Pauling expounded upon Albert Schweitzer’s principal of the minimization of human suffering and tied all of his points into the current situation in India. Through his research, Pauling discerned that the average real income of an individual Indian had actually decreased since independence due to inflation, which ran to ten percent per year beginning in 1962.  From there he concluded that the rate of inflation was largely due to big increases in military expenditures, writing

In the year 1963 the military budget of India was more than doubled, so that it reached the amount 4.7 percent of the national income, which was 340,000 million Rupees; that is, the military budget reached the amount of 16,000 million Rupees in 1963.  This sum of money, the military budget, is just equal to the decrease in the purchasing power of the income of the people of India that has been caused for the average year since 1962 by inflation of the Rupee.  This comparison indicates that the purchasing power of the people’s income would not have decreased if these great expenditures for militarism had not taken place.

Pauling also noted that the nation was likewise manufacturing weapons-grade plutonium and had the ability to fabricate an atomic bomb within only twelve months.

Much of this increase in militarism was a response to increased hostilities with India’s western neighbor, Pakistan, to whom the United States had recently donated several million dollars worth of military equipment. Pauling was very up front in voicing his disapproval of American foreign policy, pointing out in particular the hypocrisy of President Lyndon Johnson’s claims to be in favor of peace while refusing to recognize the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, “despite his stated willingness to meet with any government to discuss a cease-fire and a negotiated peace in Vietnam.” Nor did Pauling buy into American rhetoric that war now prevented greater suffering in the future. Rather, in his view

Militarism is the cause of human suffering in two ways: directly, through the savagery of war itself, and indirectly, through the waste of the resources of the world, and the consequent increase in suffering caused by poverty and disease.

In his analysis of his host nation, Pauling also looked at birth and death rates: the population of India was soaring and Pauling couldn’t help but think that many of the nation’s problems could be solved or lessened if the growth rate was brought down to that of developed countries. India already had birth control programs in place in 1967, but Pauling surmised that an increase in this budget line item would be helpful, especially in promoting sterilization as an effective option.

At the end of the lectureship, External Affairs Minister M. C. Chagla, who had been presiding, delivered his own commentary on Pauling’s remarks. He disagreed that the quality of life in India was on a downward slope, countering that statistics could be manipulated for anything. He also defended the government’s increase in military expenses, saying that it was necessary with the rising threat of two hostile neighbors. He did, however, receive cheers for announcing that India would never manufacture nuclear weapons despite its ability to do so. (In actual fact, India tested its first nuclear weapon, “The Smiling Buddha,” in May 1974.)

While in Delhi delivering the Azad lectures, Pauling received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Delhi University. And not long after they were delivered, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations published the talks as a 73-page book.

For her part, Ava Helen took the opportunity of the 1967 trip to learn about the issues that Indian women were facing. Amidst her travels, Ava Helen gave at least one lecture to a women’s organization and also attended a seminar on “Small Family,” which covered topics such as methods of controlling family size, family planning education and the role of voluntary agencies in family planning. For three days in February she also visited women’s institutions around Madras with the Director of Women’s Welfare, touring government sponsored homes established for orphaned girls, young widows and destitute women. The institutions featured secretarial classes as well as instruction in needlework, doll-making and weaving. When she returned home to California, Ava Helen spoke of these experiences to the Santa Barbara County chapter of Women for Peace.

Ava Helen also kept in contact with Dr. Asima Chatterjee, a prominent Indian chemist and the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Science from an Indian university. For several years prior to the trip, Linus had been corresponding with Chatterjee about various research matters, but neither Pauling had met Chatterjee in person until the 1967 visit. Their friendship blossomed during the Pauling’s tour and before departing the Paulings left a sum of money with Dr. Chatterjee that they later requested she spend on a wedding gift from them for her daughter.

In later years, the Paulings and Chatterjee regularly exchanged Christmas cards and notes about the goings-on of their respective families. Chatterjee likewise wrote of the ever-shifting political climate in India. In 1971 circumstances had taken a turn for the worse when civil war broke out in Pakistan and India was flooded with refugees. Ava Helen wrote that she was full of sorrow and anxiety for India. Chatterjee described the atmosphere as tense – at the time of her writing there existed a “deep lull” and sense of unease at not knowing know when the storm would break. The second major war between India and Pakistan would begin and end in December of that year.

The Paulings with three unidentified individuals, India, 1967.

The 1967 trip marked the Paulings’ last trip to the subcontinent.  While Linus is listed a speaker on a program for the One Asia assembly in Delhi in 1973, he did not actually attend this event – according to his notes he spent that day in California taking Ava Helen to see an optician. The conference was orchestrated by the Press Foundation of Asia, with the goal of discussing the failure of Asian countries to bring about significant change in the welfare of their people. Although the last time Pauling would set foot in India was in 1967, his apparent later willingness to participate in this event is evidence that he continued to keep up with its happenings.

In June 1975 an internal state of emergency was declared in India; a controversial new party had come into power and found a way to suspend civil liberties and democracy under the constitution. Thousands of critics of the government were arrested without charge. Pauling was one of eighty prominent Americans to sign a joint appeal expressing alarm at repression in India and calling for the restoration of human rights. Pauling found this event especially distressing because democracy was established in India after a long battle for freedom – a battle led by some of the century’s greatest exponents of human rights. His cooperation with the petition effort is the final major piece of evidence of his long-running interest in Indian politics and society. The country’s so-called “Emergency Era” came to an end in 1977 when a new party gained control of the world’s largest democracy.

The Paulings in India, 1955

Linus Pauling first made tentative plans to travel to India in 1951, but when he fell ill the proposed trip was called off. Pauling’s next attempt to visit the subcontinent was marked by a long struggle with the United States government to obtain a passport. The Indian Science Congress had invited him to partake in its annual conference in 1954 and Pauling accepted the invitation. However, as we’ve discussed before, his own government did not grant Pauling permission to travel until weeks after the event occurred.

Months after the initial disappointment of not being able to attend the conference Pauling, having finally regained his right to travel overseas, wrote to the association asking for the invitation to be renewed. In response the group happily extended an offer for him to visit the following year, 1955, for the next Indian Science Congress in Baroda, even providing a stipend to help pay for his travel expenses.

Their circumstances finally settled, Linus and Ava Helen made their way eastward for a world tour, with a stop in India sandwiched between a stay in Israel and a trip to Japan.  While stationed in India from January through mid-February, the Paulings spent much of their time visiting scientific institutions and meeting with prominent academics and politicians. They made it to cities all over the country: beginning in Ahmedabad, they traveled to Baroda, then Bombay, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Poona, New Delhi, Lucknow, Benares (Varanasi), Allahabad and Calcutta.

Amidst all of the meetings though, the couple still scheduled plenty of time to take in the sights and experience Indian culture; attending folk dances, visiting tombs and temples, and watching the sun rise over the Taj Mahal. The Paulings likewise marveled at Buddhist murals in the Ajanta caves and explored the Elephanta and Eldora caves as well.

Major cities (marked in red) visited by the Paulings during their 1955 trip to India.

After arriving in Ahmedabad on January 2, one of Pauling’s first orders of business was, at last, attending the Indian Science Congress in Baroda, which began on January 3. Pauling, who spoke on hemoglobin and sickle-cell anemia, was the only American invited to address the full Congress. In his interactions with the Indian scientists, Pauling made a point of dispelling certain prevailing misconceptions about Americans, such as the notion that all U. S. scientists were working on developing bombs. Pauling pointed out that the number of scientists devoted to such projects was a far cry from the majority, and that many were working instead on important advancements in areas such as medicine.

In the wake of his successful participation in the Ahmedabad conference, Pauling’s itinerary quickly became crammed full of visits to laboratories, institutes, and universities – the University of Bombay, Delhi University, and Osmania University among them.  At times he was delivering two lectures a day. He mostly delivered the same lecture, a variation on his Nobel address “Modern Structural Chemistry,”  but also made spoke on current research in metals, ferromagnetism and proteins.

Pauling likewise visited the Indian Cancer Research Center to talk about antibodies and met with V. R. Khanolkar, widely recognized as a pathbreaking figure in the fields of pathology and medical research in India. Stops were also made at both the National Chemical Laboratory in Poona and the National Physical Laboratory. At a press conference in Allahabad, where the Indian National Academy of Sciences was located, Pauling proposed a resourceful method to approach nuclear disarmament that would utilize the energy stored in weapons. He also urged that India spend more money on scientific research.

On one notable occasion, the Paulings were able to get away from the scientific barnstorm in favor of a jeep ride to a rural village where the locals were building a school. Ava Helen was given the honor of laying the cornerstone for the first educational facility ever erected in the village. The villagers had also just finished constructing their first town meeting place. Linus was impressed by the rapid improvements in the country’s technology as well as the enthusiasm with which its people seemed to be adopting changes. The Indian government as well as private organizations – in particular the Ford Foundation, a U.S. organization – were funding improvement projects all throughout rural India, and the villagers that the Paulings encountered were notably appreciative of these contributions.

Another major highlight of the trip was the opportunity to dine with Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, who had been a leader in the Indian independence movement and a protégé of Mahatma Gandhi. In a series of notes that he compiled recounting his time abroad, Pauling had great things to say about Nehru, writing

He gave me the impression of having great mental powers, excellent judgment, and complete sincerity. In my opinion Nehru is one of the greatest men in the world, and I think the future historians may well give him a major share of the credit for avoiding a third world war.

Prior to meeting him, the Paulings had listened to Nehru give a few speeches and had come away favorably impressed by his description of India’s approach to peace as “a positive, constructive approach, not a passive, negative, natural approach.” This perspective, they felt, had contributed to stable relations with Britain after Indian independence, and also with France after India took control of Pondicherry, formerly a French colony. Nehru was also a fan of the Paulings and, in the last letter that he wrote to his Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – composed days before his death in 1964 – asked that they be invited to visit again and give lectures .

As the Cold War dragged on, Pauling had become not just an important scientific figure but a political one as well, earning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963. He had earned the Gandhi Peace Award one year prior.

In 1964 nuclear disarmament was a pressing issue. After Nehru’s death that year, Pauling wrote an article titled “The Contribution of India to the Achievement of World Peace.”  In it, Pauling applauded India for its resistance of pressures to build and store weapons. Nehru’s successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, maintained this theme in announcing that, unlike many other countries of the era, India would not participate in stockpiling nuclear weapons. Inspired by the nation’s attitude, Pauling suggested that India should take the lead in an effort to bring the Chinese People’s Republic into the United Nations, noting that in his 1955 visit he had heard Nehru speak with conviction about the compelling need to admit communist China to the U.N.

The entire experience of India seems to have made a favorable and lasting impression on the Paulings.  In a letter to a fellow scientist written upon his return home, Pauling specifically pointed out that “We were greatly impressed by India – not only by the scientific men, some of whom are really fine, but also by the political leaders.”  It should come as no surprise then, that the Paulings made a return visit in 1967.  This visit will be the subject of our next post in our continuing series devoted to the Paulings’ international travels.