The Pauling Blog Turns Nine


This week marks the ninth anniversary of the founding of the Pauling Blog, a project that, as we’re fond of pointing out, was created to help publicize the issuing of a postage stamp. In the years that have followed, the blog has evolved significantly to where it now stands as a resource of consequence for those interested in studying the life and work of Linus Pauling and his milieu.

The Pauling Blog is a product of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at the Oregon State University Libraries. SCARC, as we are more commonly known, consists of twelve professional staff and fifteen student assistants who pursue any number of activities that support our five major collecting themes: the history of OSU, the history of science, natural resources in the Pacific Northwest, multicultural communities of Oregon, and rare books.

These days, the bulk of our outreach related to Linus Pauling centers around this blog, and we are lucky to have two students on staff, working a total of about 20 hours per week, whose primary job responsibility is to research and write in support of the project. We have found that it takes a commitment at about this level to maintain a weekly publishing schedule of well-formed posts that average about 1,000 words each. The two students who currently write for the project are just the latest in a long line of contributors — over the years, dozens of individuals have written pieces for the blog.

Though the resources required to produce at this rate are not trivial, we are glad to say that there is no slackening in the institutional support that drives the Pauling Blog. As such, our readers should continue to anticipate the appearance of fresh content just about every week for the remainder of 2017 and beyond.

As we create more content, our viewership rises and, in 2016, we averaged more than 10,000 views per month for the first time in project history. These numbers certainly don’t put us on a par with, say, the Huffington Post, but we are proud of the niche that we have carved out within the history of science blogosphere.

Today’s post is #615 and, as with last year, we are celebrating our birthday by shining the spotlight on a few favorites that more recent readers may not know exist. For our eighth birthday, we linked to eight sets of posts from 2008-2010 that we felt deserved a second look. Today, for our ninth birthday, we present a list of nine that first appeared in 2010 through early 2013.

  1. Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (2010). A four-part series examining the writing and impact of one of Pauling’s first books, the influential Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, co-authored with E. Bright Wilson, Jr. and published in 1935.
  2. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee Hearings (2010). A five-part series on Pauling’s June 1960 SISS hearing, coupled with three more posts on his second hearing in October, stand as an important contribution to the historical understanding of an extremely trying chapter in Pauling’s life.
  3. The Pauling FBI Files (2011). An in-depth analysis of Pauling’s lengthy Federal Bureau of Investigation file and, by extension, of his life as an object of government surveillance.
  4. Kevorkian, Pauling, and a Twist on Capital Punishment” (2011). A single post on Pauling’s correspondence with Jack Kevorkian and Kevorkian’s idea of providing condemned prisoners with the option of donating their deaths to science.
  5. Vitamin C and the Common Cold (2011). Four posts that dig into the science behind Pauling’s belief that Vitamin C can do wonders for those who are fighting colds or who wish to avoid them altogether.
  6. The Story of Ralph Spitzer (2012). The struggle of Ralph Spitzer, a brilliant protégé of Pauling’s who was persecuted here at Oregon State for his political beliefs, is spelled out in three posts.
  7. The Quasicrystals Debate (2012). This is probably the most ambitious piece of science writing that we have ever attempted. We are very proud of these four posts, which take on a complicated but fascinating controversy from the last years of Pauling’s life.
  8. Crellin Pauling (2012). A biography in two posts of Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s youngest son who, sadly, was the first of the Pauling children to pass away.
  9. Pauling’s Patents (2012-2013). A sprawling set of thirteen posts focusing on Linus Pauling’s many patents and patent disclosures. Topics covered include cold fusion, rocket propellants, superconductivity, and improved road signs, among many others.

Much more of this to come. As always, we thank you for reading.



Eight Years of the Pauling Blog


This week, we celebrate the eighth anniversary of the founding of the Pauling Blog.  We began this project in March 2008 to announce the release of a postage stamp and, in the years that have followed, we have published over 560 posts and written well-over 500,000 words.

The scope, mission, and workflow propelling the Pauling Blog have changed mightily since spring 2008, and our audience has steadily grown year-over-year, to the tune of nearly 120,000 views in 2015. We expect that a few people have been following this project since its inception, but for the many more who are relative newcomers to the Pauling Blog, we thought we would mark today’s anniversary by calling attention to eight posts or posting series that we put together in our very early years.

  1. Roger Hayward (series). This collection of posts, run in April and May 2008, eventually morphed into a much larger project detailing the life and work of the remarkable man who illustrated many of Pauling’s publications, and did quite a bit more beyond that.
  2. The Guggenheim Trip (series). Published in June 2008, this series marked our first foray into fairly detailed original research.  Those who know Pauling’s story will also know that the 1926-27 Guggenheim trip was critical to his future successes as a structural chemist.
  3. A Halloween Tale of Ice Cream and Ethanol.” Released on Halloween day 2008, this lighthearted post actually provides some pretty interesting insight into Pauling’s personality – he truly never stopped being a scientist.
  4. Oregon 150 (series). The state of Oregon celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2009, and the Pauling Blog participated by researching specific aspects of Pauling’s life in and association with the Beaver state.  Though most of these posts were released in 2009, our keen interest in exploring Pauling’s relationship with Oregon continues to this day – forty-six posts are now categorized under the heading, “Pauling and Oregon.”
  5. Linus Pauling and the Search for UFOs“. This post appeared on May 11, 2009 and became the source of a good amount of attention.  A sequel of sorts was released last year as part of our examination of Pauling’s years at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.
  6. Pauling’s Theory of Anesthesia. (series) Another batch of early original research of which we remain proud. Over time, the Pauling Blog has placed greater emphasis on exploring components of Pauling’s work that are admittedly more tangential, and thus under-researched by his stable of biographers. His theory of anesthesia, which occupies a single solitary box in the Pauling Papers, certainly fits that description. The anesthesia posts were published in June 2009.
  7. The Pauling Chalkboard. (series) Those who have visited the reading room of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at Oregon State University’s Valley Library will likely have seen and taken a moment to ponder Pauling’s chalkboard, which is on permanent display in our facility.  Countless visitors over the years have asked us to decipher Pauling’s annotations on the board, and in December 2009 we finally got around to conducting a rigorous analysis of the board’s contents.
  8. Pauling’s Life-Threatening Kidney Disease. (series) In 1941 Pauling was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, a kidney condition that, at the time, was basically a death sentence.  The approach that Pauling took to treating his disease is insightful on many levels: 1) that it worked; 2) that it was arguably his first experience of orthomolecular medicine; 3) that the physician who saved his life likely would have been blacklisted for his political views, had he himself lived long enough; and 4) the crucial role played by Ava Helen Pauling in nursing her husband back to good health. The nephritis series was released in March 2010, right around the time of the blog’s second birthday.

As always, thanks for your continued readership.  We’re glad to say that we have plenty more in store for 2016.

Pauling Stamp, 2008

The postage stamp that started it all…

Dr. Pauling’s Prediction of a Mutation in Beta-Globin Which Causes Sickle Cell Anemia and How This Prediction Impacted My Research

[Guest post written by John Leavitt, Ph.D., Nerac, Inc., Tolland, CT.]

Linus Pauling lecturing on sickle cell anemia, Kyoto, Japan. 1955

In September 2010, the company BlueBird Bio announced that it had cured a patient with the hemoglobinopathy, beta-thalessemia, by correcting the genetic defect in beta-globin that this patient inherited from his parents. This came 61 years after Linus Pauling and his associate, Harvey Itano, explained the cause of hemoglobinopathies such as sickle cell anemia. Beta-thalessemia like sickle cell anemia is caused by an inherited mutation in the beta-globin gene, just a different mutation. In the case of thalessemia, the defective beta-globin gene product disappears, whereas the defective beta-globin in sickle cell anemia remains stable to wreak havoc on the body. BlueBird Bio accomplished this first cure of a hemoglobinopathy by removing the blood-forming hematopoietic stem cells from the patient, engineering his cells ex vivo with a correct beta-globin gene, and then putting the cells back into the patient. The stem cell transplant sustained itself and produced red blood cells which functioned normally in the circulatory system. For the first time in this patient’s 18 year-old life, he did not have to have a monthly blood transfusion.

In late September 1981, when I gave a seminar at the Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Palo Alto, CA, I noticed that Dr. Pauling was smiling during the talk. He was aware of the discovery of the muscle isoform of actin by his friend Albert Szent-Györgyi and knew about the structure and function of actins (the subject of my talk). After reading Dr. Pauling’s 1949 paper on the molecular nature of the sickle cell trait, I understood that he was seeing during my talk the very same experiments in my discovery of a mutant human beta-actin that he and Harvey Itano had performed, which led to the prediction of a mutation in the hemoglobin protein that caused sickle cell anemia. His paper was the very first to describe the molecular genetic basis of a human disease. By 1981 there was plenty of conceptual evidence to suggest how I could look for mutations in proteins using electrophoretic separation of complex mixtures of cellular proteins. In 1949 though, Dr. Pauling was way ahead of his time. In his and Itano’s case, the plan was well thought out based upon years of characterization of oxygen bonding to the heme of the globin molecule. By contrast, I was very lucky to find a mutation in the most abundant structural protein of the cell, cytoskeletal actin in a human fibrosarcoma cell.

Harvey Itano.

It was probably evident in 1949 that hemoglobin amounts to about 95 percent of the total protein of a mature red blood cell; so these cells were essentially bags of hemoglobin molecules – globin polypeptides with attached heme moieties with an iron atom that bound oxygen. The heme-bound iron carries oxygen through the arterial system to cells for respiration. After delivery of oxygen to tissues, these red blood cells (RBCs) return carbon dioxide to the lungs through the venous system for expiration. In sickle cell anemia, after RBCs deliver oxygen throughout the body, the RBCs take on a sickled shape, clog the venous system and lyse, causing a wide variety of systemic problems. Pauling and Itano predicted that this change in RBC architecture was a direct consequence of “two to four” charged amino acid changes in the globin complex, which consists of two beta-globin subunits and two alpha-globin subunits (this was not known then). Because of the science that came after their discovery, we know now that the genetic mutation in the beta-globin moiety is a single amino acid exchange of glutamic acid to valine resulting from a single nucleotide transition (A to T transition) in codon 6 of the beta-globin gene encoding the 147 amino acid polypeptide. Thus two positive charges were added to the hemoglobin molecule by this mutation. Pauling and Itano concluded that these charge alterations caused RBC sickling.

Important discoveries can be quite simple. The figure below is the key experiment carried out by Pauling and Itano, an electrophoretic separation of hemoglobin based upon its isoelectric point (net charge). Because of the mutation in codon 6 present in both inherited beta-globin alleles, the hemoglobin complex migrated to the right of the normal hemoglobin by approximately “two to four” positive charges (panel B compared with panel A). At pH 6.9 the normal hemoglobin was shown to have an isoelectric point of 6.87, migrating as a negative ion, whereas the mutated hemoglobin had an isoelectric point of 7.09 migrating as a positive ion. We know now that this electrophoretic change in the hemoglobin complex described by Pauling and Itano is due to the loss of a single negative charge in a glutamic acid residue (replaced with an uncharged valine residue) near the N-terminus of the two beta-globin moieties of the hemoglobin molecule. Today, the fact remains that this is the only mutation in hemoglobin that causes sickle cell anemia, although other beta-globin mutations cause other hemoglobinopathies like beta-thalessemia. Panel C shows the electrophoretic behavior of hemoglobins in a heterozygous carrier of the disease-causing mutation (Panel D is a control mixture of the globins in panels A and B). Much more insight about these phenomena is discussed in the Pauling and Itano paper but the charge alteration in hemoglobins is the basic observation.

Pauling experiment

(click to enlarge)

Fast-forward to 1976. I decided to look for evidence of charge-altering mutations in a protein profile of about 1,000 visible proteins (polypeptides) comparing normal and neoplastic cells by looking for Pauling and Itano’s evidence of mutations, e.g. minor charge alterations in proteins in the protein profile. A technique had just been developed by Patrick O’Farrell which permitted high-resolution separation of virtually all major protein gene products of the cell.

An elegant study was performed by Greg Milman at the University of California at Berkeley who demonstrated that one could predict the occurrence of mutations in the relatively minor protein, the enzyme hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT), in HeLa cells by the positional changes in the HPRT polypeptide in high-resolution two-dimensional polyacrylamide gels within complex profile of proteins separated both by their charge (isoelectric point) and their molecular weight. When I saw Milman’s result I decided to use this technique to compare normal and neoplastic human cells to see if I could identify charge alterations similar to those demonstrated by Pauling and Itano in hemoglobin and by Milman in HPRT.

I labeled the proteins of normal and tumor-forming human fibroblasts with S35-methionine and separated them using O’Farrell’s two-dimensional technique (isoelectric point separation is a tube gel followed by molecular weight sieving in an SDS slab gel). Then I fixed the proteins in the two-dimensional slab gel and stained these proteins with Coomassie blue dye.

mutant actin further annotated

With the dye you could only see the most abundant proteins and I was surprised to see this pattern of actins in the tumor-forming fibroblasts shown above. This image is actually the image of the radioactive protein pattern in the region of actins (pI 5.3 to pI 5.1, molecular weight Mr about 42,000) developed after a very short autoradiographic exposure to X-ray film (a digital image). Normally you only see one beta-actin spot barely separated from the gamma-actin spot. Gamma actin is a second isoform of actin encoded by a separate gene which differs by only four amino acids from beta-actin. Normally there is about twice as much beta-actin at isoelectric point 5.2 as gamma actin and both actins together amount to 5-10 percent of the total cellular protein. But half of the normal beta-actin was missing and a new more negative spot at isoelectric point 5.3 appeared. I was able to show that this was a new form of beta-actin by tryptic peptide separation and other criteria. The observation that the new variant migrated slower in the second dimension as a larger protein was later attributed to a frictional effect in the gel sieve due to an altered conformation caused by the amino acid change.

These observations and other differences in protein expression between the normal and tumor-forming fibroblasts were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in February 1980. A second paper was published a month later demonstrating that a T-cell leukemia also had a beta-actin anomaly which suggested loss of a beta-actin allele. It is now well established that reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton occurs when cells become cancerous, although mutations in the structural gene may be less common. These alterations can also be caused by changes in actin-binding proteins.

Later in the year, with my colleagues at the Max-Planck in Goettingen Germany, Klaus Weber and Joel Vandekerckhove, I published the sequences of the normal human beta- and gamma-actins and the mutant beta-actin in Cell. The normal and mutated sequence of human beta-actin is shown in the figure below.

The simple electrophoretic difference between the mutant and normal beta-actin was a single amino acid exchange of a neutral glycine for a negatively charged aspartic acid at amino acid residue 244 in the 374 amino acid polypeptide chain, an observation similar to Pauling and Itano’s hypothesis 32 years earlier. An amino acid exchange at this residue in the actin polypeptide chain had never been observed in any eukaryote. Two years later I cloned the mutant and wildtype human beta-actin genes at the Pauling Institute and formally proved the existence of the mutation at the level of the gene. This mutation was caused by a single nucleotide change in the gene. Several years later my colleagues and I demonstrated that acquisition of this simple mutation contributed to the tumorigenic phenotype of the cells in which it arose.

actin sequence with arrow

The sequence of human beta-actin and its amino acid 244 mutation (the most highly conserved protein in eukaryotes).

Ed Note: This week marks the sixth anniversary of the creation of the Pauling Blog.  Birthed to help promote the unveiling of a postage stamp, the blog, 461 posts later, has developed into a resource of consequence with an audience that is steadily growing.  For those who might be interested in how the project operates, please see this post that we ran one year ago.

As always, we thank you for your continued readership.  We plan to keep researching and writing, so please keep coming back!


Wooden Anniversary


It’s a bit hard for us to believe, but this week marks the fifth birthday of the Pauling Blog.

The blog was started in March 2008 with a couple of different ideas in mind.  Most immediately, a stamp honoring Linus Pauling was soon to be released by the United States Postal Service and we (the OSU Libraries Special Collections at the time) wanted to get our hands on a mechanism for both promoting and covering the event.

More broadly, we had long felt a need for a space where we could conduct outreach and present research in a more flexible context than had previously been the case.  Prior to the blog, Special Collections was able to present stories about Pauling mainly through our Documentary History website framework or through smaller TEI-based exhibits.  Both platforms worked well (and continue to do so) but both also required a fair amount of time and energy to construct.  Our website at the time included a News feature as well, but the audience for this was limited to those who happened across our department homepage, and by definition the tool was really only useful for announcements of newly released projects or upcoming events.

Once the stamp event had concluded, part of what we attempted to do with the blog was to tease out smaller stories from the massive documentary history websites that had been released up to Spring 2008.  In effect, we viewed the documentary histories as collections unto themselves for student researchers to review and utilize in developing blog posts.

As such, were able to put together posts about, for example, Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s trip to Lambaréné, Gabon in 1959 to visit Albert Schweitzer.  The trip is touched upon in the Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement documentary history, but it is more fully explored on the blog, a platform which allows for greater investigation into the supporting documents available on the documentary history site but not discussed at length within the framework of the site narrative.

With time we pretty well exhausted the documentary-history-website-as-collection idea, so we moved on to more original research conducted specifically for release on the blog.  (Not coincidentally, it is at about this time that we started posting once per week, rather than twice.)  Doing so has allowed us to explore many more of the fascinating nooks and crannies residing within the monstrous Pauling archive.  It has also provided a terrific experiential learning opportunity for our student writers.

For those who may have wondered, creating the Pauling Blog is a group project.  The site is overseen by one of the Special Collections & Archives Research Center’s faculty, but most of the writing is generated by a talented cadre of students. In five years, at least twenty people have written posts for the blog, most of them undergraduate students.  Our student writers have gone down many paths once leaving the Valley Library – dental and optometry school, public policy work, graduate studies in Spanish and even one person who decided to stick around the department and is now a vital part of our operations.  Presently we have three student writers on staff – a graduate student in the history of science, a senior who plans to pursue further study in public history and a senior looking forward to a career as a midwife.  All three are careful, tenacious researchers and will be tough to replace when they move on.

The student writers are assigned a topic, given tips on where in the collection to look for resources and then off they go.  Their texts are completed well in advance of their posting, and before they go online they receive a thorough line edit from the faculty member in charge of the project.  Since March 2008 they have compiled 408 posts, generally in the neighborhood of around 1,000 words in length.  The sum of that work now comprises a significant resource for Pauling studies; one full of original research not deeply explored by any of Pauling’s biographers.

And they have attracted an audience: in 2012 the blog recorded over 110,000 views, a close to 30% increase over the previous year’s traffic.  While the resource certainly has its regular followers, most of the traffic that hits the Pauling Blog arrives via search – with perhaps 410,000 words of searchable text inhabiting the web and over 1,100 images as well, there is plenty of content for people to stumble across.

It’s worth noting as well that, just as Pauling was truly a man of the world, so too is our’s an international audience.  While the lion’s share of traffic is based stateside, in 2013 alone WordPress has recorded visitors from far flung locations including Mozambique, Benin, Laos and Djibouti.

Five years is a long time for a blog of this sort to keep chugging along, but we have no intention of going anywhere.  The Pauling Papers are truly epic and the only limitations on this project, it would seem, are our own initiative and creativity.  So keep expecting fresh content from this space, usually every Wednesday, except when meetings, email or the hectic pace of life in the reading room render Wednesdays unavailable.

We’ll close with a list.  For readers who are relatively new to the blog, here are ten of our favorite posts from olden days, followed by a nugget about Pauling that we just discovered yesterday and feel that we have to share.  Enjoy and thanks for reading!

10. Linus Pauling Baseball! (a perennial favorite)

9. The Roger Hayward compendium (much of which has since been repurposed into a major Omeka exhibit)

8. Angry and Frustrated, Pauling Considers a Run for the U.S. Presidency (a short post about an extraordinary document)

7. Creating The Pauling Catalogue (a collection of technical pieces providing an overview of the work that resulted in a six-volume, 1,800 page reference work featuring over 1,100 illustrations)

6. A Halloween Tale of Ice Cream and Ethanol (a fun story and a revealing glimpse into Pauling’s powers of observation and description)

5. William P. Murphy: Condon’s Other Nobel Prize Winner (an amazing historical coincidence)

4. The Anesthesia series (one of our first forays into fairly extensive original research about a lesser known component of Pauling’s scientific research)

3. The Pauling Chalkboard series (another such foray)

2. Lawrence Badash, 1934-2010 (remembering a good man and the story of what almost was)

1. The Quasicrystals series (the most ambitious bit of research and writing that any of our students has ever taken on)

…and a nugget that made us smile. From the National Academy of Science biographical memoir of Wendell Phillips Woodring:

Woodring became professor of invertebrate paleontology at the California Institute of Technology in 1927. During his teaching years, he became a close friend of Chester Stock, professor of vertebrate paleontology, of Ralph Reed, who sharpened his knowledge of the geology of California, and of his own student, diatom specialist Kenneth Lohman. During this time, much to his great amusement in later years, he and his wife employed Linus Pauling, later two-time Nobel laureate, as an occasional baby sitter for his two daughters.

Two Years on the Pauling Beat

Today marks the second anniversary of the launching of the Pauling Blog.  In two years we have generated 214 posts, garnered over 63,000 views (not counting those accruing from syndication, which WordPress doesn’t include in its total statistics) and been graced with nearly 7,400 spam comments, most of which, thankfully, have been kept at bay by the good folks at Akismet.

We’re a bit less philosophical today than was the case one year ago, but we do want to take this moment to reflect back a bit.  Our readership has grown substantially over the past year and, as we enter our terrible twos, we figure this is a good opportunity to take another quick look at some writing that many of our readers may have never seen.  Here then, are ten worthwhile posts from the early days of the blog.

  1. Visiting Albert Schweitzer:  a review of the Paulings’ trip to Schweitzer’s medical compound in central Africa – in Linus Pauling’s estimation, “one of the most inaccessible areas of the world.”
  2. Pauling and the Presidents: the first in a series of three posts on Pauling’s relationship with this nation’s Commanders in Chief and with the office of the Presidency itself.  The other two posts focus on Pauling’s complicated interactions with John F. Kennedy, and with his own brief flirtation with the idea of running for the office himself.
  3. Pauling’s Rules: among Pauling’s major early contributions to science was his formation of a set of rules used to guide one’s analysis of x-ray diffraction data in the determination of crystal structures.
  4. The Guggenheim Trip: a three-part series detailing Linus and Ava Helen’s adventures as they toured through Europe for a year, meeting major scientific figures and absorbing the fledgling discipline of quantum mechanics.
  5. The Darlings: Maternal Ancestors of Linus Pauling:  an entertaining look at the colorful characters residing further down Pauling’s family tree.  We also featured Pauling’s paternal ancestry as well as Ava Helen’s lineage in separate posts.
  6. A Halloween Tale of Ice Cream and Ethanol:  Pauling’s typically detailed and ultra-rational recollection of a hallucination experienced late one November night.
  7. Clarifying Three Widespread Quotes:  three quotes attributed to Linus Pauling are scattered across the Internet.  This post investigates whether or not Pauling actually authored them.
  8. Pauling in the ROTC:  often accused of anti-Americanism due to his pacifist beliefs, few people know that Pauling actually served in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, ultimately rising to the rank of Major.  This post was among the first in our lengthy Oregon 150 series, celebrating Pauling’s relationship with his home state.
  9. Mastering Genetics: Pauling and Eugenics:  a post that delves into what was among the more controversial stances that Pauling ever took.
  10. Linus Pauling Baseball:  we can’t help it – the video is priceless.

As always, thanks for reading!

Many Years…

The Pauling and Miller families on Linus and Ava Helen's wedding day.  Salem, Oregon.  June 17, 1923.

The Pauling and Miller families on Linus and Ava Helen’s wedding day. Salem, Oregon. June 17, 1923.

I just saw a statement by Dr. Joyce Brothers about vacation, who said, you can never plan to go with your companion for longer than three days on vacation, because people can’t stand being with one another for more than three days.  She just doesn’t know anything!  Thirty years ago, we were in our cabin here, and my wife said to me, ‘Do you know, we’ve been married for about thirty years now, and this is the first time you and I have been alone for a week without seeing another single human being?’  Well, we were happy being by ourselves, without seeing another human being for a week, to say nothing about living together for 59 years; and rarely being away – years went by before we were ever away from one another a single night.  Many years.

-Linus Pauling, 1990.

Linus Pauling Online

Reflections on Year One of The Pauling Blog


Today marks the first anniversary of The Pauling Blog, and in celebration we’re announcing a new addition to our blogroll, archivematica.

Over the past few months, The Pauling Blog has featured a number of posts on our digitization projects which have, in turn, garnered a fairly-substantial amount of reader interest. While we will continue to post about our work here, we would also like to offer our readers access to other information about digitization efforts around the web. Hence archivematica, a blog about Peter Van Garderen and his work as a digital archive designer and analyst.

Peter is the president and senior consultant of Artefactual Systems, Inc. and a doctoral candidate in archival science at the University of Amsterdam. Peter’s doctoral work is concerned with digital archives in both a practical and social context, focusing on issues of public access and cross-archival collaboration. In his spare time, Peter uses archivematica to blog about developments in the world of archives, his Artefactual-related projects, and his scholastic research. For a topical and literate look into the mind of a professional archivist, we highly recommend a visit to archivematica.

Additional information about Peter Van Garderen’s work, thesis, and the Artefactual team can be found here.

This is the 112th post that we’ve generated in our year of blogging and at the time of this writing, the project has attracted a hair over 13,000 views.  More importantly, readership is increasing steadily – despite it’s being the shortest of the twelve, February was, by far, our highest-trafficked month to date at just over seventy views per day.  Numbers like these do not a blog empire make, but we’re heartened by the feedback that we’ve been receiving and are glad to likewise note that older posts are being found in equal measure to newer content.

Here is a look at the top ten most-viewed posts of this past year.

  1. Roger Hayward (1899-1979): Architect, Artist, Illustrator, Inventor, Scientist [published 4-22-08; 2,287 views]
  2. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle [5-29-08; 408]
  3. Featured Document: Linus Pauling’s Birth Certificate [3-31-08; 231]
  4. Roger Hayward and Linus Pauling [5-1-08; 190]
  5. Creating the Pauling Catalogue: Formatting Text with XML and XSL [8-12-08; 189]
  6. Linus Pauling and the Birth of Quantum Mechanics [5-20-08; 187]
  7. Cancer and Vitamin C Redux [9-30-08; 180]
  8. The Martha Chase Effect [1-2-09; 174]
  9. The Paternal Ancestry of Linus Pauling [9-23-08; 168]
  10. Scenes from the Linus Pauling Legacy Award [5-6-08; 168]

Pretty clearly we’ve tapped into the “Martha Chase Effect” with our series on Roger Hayward, which shows up in two spots on the front page of the Google results for the “Roger Hayward” simple search…though this being the Internet, it surely does not hurt that this image is among the many used to illustrate the super-popular “Architect, Artist, Illustrator…” post.

Thinking back on these past twelve months, the main theme that strikes us about our project is just how much work it really requires.  Five people have written posts for the site, and in any given week two students and one faculty member devote upwards of 30 hours to generating ideas for the blog, researching them and writing them up.

But we feel that it’s worth the effort.  The Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections is a little bit unusual relative to many of our colleagues in that virtually every project in which we engage has some sort of web element attached to it as an ultimate goal.  A major component of this directive is the (also unusual) fact that one of our three full-time staffmembers is an I.T. consultant.  In short, we are very Internet-centric in our mission and our workflows.

This being the case, The Pauling Blog gives us an opportunity to feature smaller components of certain very large projects and also to talk about some of the methods that have been developed to help smooth the marriage between traditional archival practice and the world wide web.  As such, our readers can expect to see more of the same throughout the coming year – two posts per week on topics related to Linus Pauling or bits of news from within the department, a few fairly techical write-ups and the occasional post done just for the fun of it.  Thanks for reading!