Life at the Big House

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

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

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

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

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A view of the Big House near its entryway.

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


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Looking southwest from the living room.

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

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

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Dining on the deck, 1971.

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

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


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Ava Helen’s Artcraft stove.

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

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

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The view from the kitchen.

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


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

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

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

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

Deer Flat Ranch: A Kind of Paradise

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Linus Pauling harvesting abalone, 1963.

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Story of Deer Flat Ranch

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

[Part 1 of 3]

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

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

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A pasture map of the Deer Flat Ranch property.

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


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

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

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


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The Paulings’ registered cattle brand.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Peter Pauling: The Race that Wasn’t, 1952

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Peter Pauling with his parents, ca. 1950s.

[The life story of Peter Pauling. Part 3 of 9]

“This tub moves steadily but slowly along.” So wrote Peter Pauling in a letter to his mother, Ava Helen Pauling, riding somewhere in the Atlantic in the hull of a cargo ship that had been built in 1926. “It took us two and a half days to reach the open sea.”

Having said goodbye to the nightlife of Montreal, and having entrusted his brother Crellin with the needle to his old turntable, Peter took to the sea without much to his name save a bottle of duty free Canadian Rye Whiskey; which, he lamented, did not keep him as warm onboard the cold ship as a good overcoat might have done. (Ava Helen, ever concerned for her son’s well-being, would see to it that he would have money to pick up some warmer clothes once he had arrived in Cambridge, paid for in matured war bonds.) Onboard the ship, Peter shared his cramped cabin space with three roommates: a Scot, a “very pleasant and hard-working” Englishman, and an 18 year old “pipsqueak” just out of rugby. Ever the charismatic socialite, Peter must have been excited to spend his days at sea with such an assortment of characters.

Arriving in England in the fall of 1952, Peter began his studies at Cambridge University, working under John Kendrew, a Peterhouse Fellow in Max Perutz’ Molecular Biology Unit at the Cavendish laboratory for physics. Although the Cavendish traditionally had not extended its focus beyond physics and physical chemistry to questions of biology, Sir Lawrence Bragg – director of the Cavendish and chair of the university’s Physics department – had recently supported an expansion of the lab’s scope to include the mapping of biological molecular structures.

This new Molecular Biology Unit would spearhead several important discoveries, among them Kendrew’s and Perutz’ work on the atomic structure of proteins, the program of research that Peter was brought on to support and an accomplishment significant enough to garner the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. That same year, two other former Cavendish researchers – James Watson and Francis Crick – would receive their shared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of the double helical structure of DNA, a breakthrough that Peter Pauling certainly observed from a front row seat, and even, perhaps, helped to make possible.


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Francis Crick and James Watson, walking along the the Backs, Cambridge, England. 1953. (Image Credit: The James D. Watson Collection, Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory Archives.)

When Peter Pauling first moved into the office that he shared with James Watson, Francis Crick, and Jerry Donahue, Watson noted that Peter was “more interested in the structure of Nina, Perutz’s Danish au pair girl, than in the structure of myoglobin.” Crick, too, felt that the young Pauling was “slightly wild,” but still the office mates hit it off immediately. According to Watson, Peter’s presence meant that, “whenever more science was pointless, the conversation could dwell on the comparative virtues of girls from England, the Continent, and California.” Watson and the young Pauling even made a point of visiting The Rex art house cinema together to watch the 1933 romantic film Ecstasy, which Watson referred to affectionately as, “Hedy Lemarr’s romps in the nude.”

Women aside, Peter was most concerned by the day-to-day troubles that were typical of English life in the early 1950s. He wrote to his mother about the lack of a bathtub in the small, cold, damp room that he now inhabited, and complained about the space’s perpetual lack of sunlight. He did praise his fortune at having scoured London and finding a suitable teapot, and he requested that Ava Helen kindly make him a pair of curtains for his window (which she happily obliged).

In letters to his father, Peter preferred to talk about cars, or his recent dinners with the Braggs and their daughter Margaret, rather than his own research pursuits. Linus, on the other hand, was immediately curious about the intellectual climate at the Cavendish and was especially interested in the work of Francis Crick, who a year earlier had been part of a collaborative effort to develop a theory of mathematical representation for x-ray diffraction that was fast becoming a standard in the field.


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Linus Pauling and Robert Corey examining models of protein structure molecules. approx. 1951. (Image credit: The Archives, California Institute of Technology)

The previous year, 1951, Linus Pauling had bested Bragg and the physical chemists at Cambridge in becoming the first to publish the alpha helical structure of many proteins. Despite the desire prevailing at the Cavendish to eventually beat Linus Pauling at his own game, Watson and Crick had been warned to keep away from the study of DNA by the head of the lab. Bragg knew that Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin, of King’s College London, were already working on the problem using Franklin’s photos and crystallographic calculations of the A and B forms (low and high hydration levels, respectively) of DNA.

Wilkins’ and Franklin’s work was proceeding slowly, however, and Peter Pauling and Jerry Donahue – another Caltech graduate now stationed overseas as a post-doc – were both in regular communication with Linus Pauling. These contacts provided Watson and Crick with insight into what was going on in Pasadena. In his correspondence, Peter joked about the mounting competition between Caltech and the researchers at the Cavendish and King’s College. “I was told a story today,” he said to his father. “You know how children are threatened ‘You had better be good or the bad ogre will come get you?’ Well, for more than a year, Francis and others have been saying to the nucleic acid people at King’s, ‘You had better work hard or Pauling will get interested in nucleic acids.'”

While Watson and Crick urged Wilkins to provide them with Franklin’s images and calculations so that they might model the structure themselves, Peter stoked the fires of their urgency, assuring them that his father was no doubt only moments away from solving the problem. Donahue was equally convinced: for him, Linus Pauling was the only scientist likely to produce the right structure.

By December, the fate that Jerry Donahue and Peter Pauling had been predicting seemed to come true: a letter from Linus to his son claimed that he had indeed determined the structure of DNA. The letter gave no details, simply confirming for Watson and Crick that Pauling and his Caltech partner Robert Corey had somehow solved the problem. Watson later recounted his colleague’s distress in hearing this news, recalling that Crick “began pacing up and down the room thinking aloud, hoping that in a great intellectual fervor he could reconstruct what Linus might have done.” But it seemed to be too late. Pauling’s DNA paper was set to appear in the February 1953 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In all likelihood, it would be time to move on to new projects.

Peter Pauling: Leaving Home, 1945-1952

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The Pauling family in 1946. From left: Peter, Ava Helen, Linus, Crellin, Linda and Linus Jr.

[The life story of Peter Pauling, part 2 of 9]

In April 1945, while German forces were surrendering to the Allies in Europe, Peter Pauling was completing his education at Flintridge Prep and moving on to McKinley Junior High, where he would enter the 10th grade. He continued to do well in most subjects, with the exception of a few poor marks in Latin. Now fourteen years of age, Peter went outside of the Pauling family home in Pasadena one day to discover a message painted on their garage door; it read: “AMERICANS DIE BUT WE LOVE JAPS. JAPS WORK HERE, PAULING.” Peter quickly called for his parents, who surmised that the hate message had been written by misguided individuals angered by Ava Helen’s work with the American Civil Liberties Union to prevent the internment of many Japanese-American citizens during the war.

Within the year, Linus Jr., now twenty-one years old, had returned home from his time in the Army Air Corps. He promptly came into possession of a 1932 Ford V8 roadster that had belonged to the Mt. Wilson astronomer Ted Dunham, Jr. The car would become something of an heirloom of burgeoning adulthood for the Pauling boys, passing to Peter when Linus Jr. went off to medical school, and then again to Crellin when Peter finished college in California and went off to Cambridge.

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Peter Pauling sitting in the frame of a converted 1932 Model-B Ford, 1947.

In 1947, Linus and Ava Helen returned from a scientific congress in Scandinavia to find their three youngest children growing somewhat depressed by, and resentful of, their frequent long absences. Knowing that they were about to spend six months in England, where Linus would lecture as a visiting professor at Oxford, the Paulings decided it best to take the entire family abroad with them. They traveled by train to New York City in December, where they then boarded The Queen Mary and crossed the Atlantic.

The voyage would prove to be an extraordinary missed opportunity for Linus. Onboard was Erwin Chagraff, who was excited to talk with Pauling about his discovery that DNA nucleotide base pairs obeyed a set rule – a 1:1 ratio of adenine to thymine and cytosine to guanine. As Crellin Pauling later recounted

Chargaff had a reputation as a, well how do you put it politely, as a difficult personality. And what Daddy said to me was that he found Chargaff so unpleasant to be trapped on the Queen Mary with, that he dismissed his work.

In doing so, Pauling overlooked the importance of a critical piece of knowledge that would help lead Watson and Crick to the discovery of the structure of DNA – a discovery with which both Linus Pauling and his son Peter would be intimately involved.


 

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The Paulings at sea, 1948. Peter stands at right.

After the family returned from England,  Peter made the fateful decision to follow in his father’s footsteps, enrolling at Caltech as an undergraduate and assuring his father that his “chief purpose in life” was to be a physicist. Unlike the elder Pauling, however, Peter gravitated almost immediately to those new freedoms that a young man no longer under his parents’ roof might be expected to find suddenly and inescapably important: cars, girls, and parties.

With respect to the former, Peter wrote to his father from Caltech, asking whether or not Linus might be interested in helping to pay for a new engine for the roadster. Peter had already been putting some work into the car since it had passed from Linus Jr.’s hands into his own. Now off at college and free to pursue his own interests, he was eager to get under the hood.

Peter likewise wrote to his mother asking her for advice on different perfumes, listing the names of four different girls, all of whom were apparently familiar to Ava Helen, and asking which scents she thought that each would prefer (he then added a fifth young lady to the list as an afterthought).

While Peter was at Caltech, the Pauling home in Pasadena became something of a social hotspot for young, aspiring scientists, many of them graduate students and postdocs who coveted the opportunity to hobnob with the great Linus Pauling. By right of birth and strength of personality, Peter emerged as both gatekeeper and VIP at such events, and he thrived in this atmosphere. In his biography of Pauling’s life, Force of Nature, author Thomas Hager paints a scene of pilgrims making their way up into the hills on warm afternoons for, “a beer, a dip in the pool, some jokes with Peter, and a chance to flirt with tall, slim, blond, teenaged Linda Pauling.”

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Peter Pauling, ca. late 1940s.

Peter, now nineteen and cruising the streets of Pasadena at night in the modified “hand me down” roadster, was the life of many of these parties. His undergraduate years were accordingly marked by the ecstasies, despairs, and calamities – including a long and somewhat severe case of infectious mononucleosis – familiar to many college students. His father, observing from the middle distance, sent him a stern letter during this period, noting that he had opened some mail at the house intended for his son and that it was from the Bank of America, alerting Peter that his account was overdrawn by 50 cents. Pauling then advised his son, in great detail, as to how he should best manage his finances to avoid such a problem in the future.

Though they lived in the same city and worked at the same institution, Peter corresponded often with his father, expressing relatively little concern about his finances and far more with the prospect of being called up for the draft. In June 1950, North Korea, aided by the Soviet Union, invaded South Korea, where United States troops had been stationed since the ousting of Japanese occupation at the close of the Second World War. As hostilities in the Korean peninsula ramped up, Peter grew increasingly fearful of being called upon to serve.

The elder Pauling advised that his son request a deferment as a student of physics, which Peter sought and successfully attained. Part of Peter’s later motivation to spend some of his time as an undergraduate in London likewise emerged from his desire to avoid the draft for as long as possible. Peter felt that his enrollment as a student overseas would at least prolong his recruitment, whereas, if he remained at Caltech, he might he pulled in any day and waste his final undergraduate months in military training.


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Peter Pauling with his parents, 1949.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1951, Peter was involved in a serious car accident. The Pasadena Star News reported that, “While driving his father’s expensive 1949 sedan, Peter J. Pauling, 20, son of Linus Pauling, world-famed Caltech physicist, was injured in a spectacular traffic crash at Fair Oaks Avenue and Washington street.” The police report indicated that the Pauling car had been sideswiped by a Harry L. Nottingham, a 30-year old welder, at 2:11 AM.

The police jailed Nottingham overnight on a drunk driving charge, and Peter was treated at the emergency hospital for mild injuries to his head that had been sustained when his car flipped onto its roof after the impact. The accident happened less than a month before Peter was to leave California to spend his summer at a laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. His eventual departure back east left his parents quite literally picking up the pieces in his absence, as Peter had requested that they keep what remained of the vehicle to see what he could salvage.

His father later wrote to Peter while he was at Woods Hole, explaining that, even with compensation paid out by insurance and the drunk driver involved, the family would still, after legal fees, “come out a little bit in the hole from your use of the Lincoln that night.” Peter responded through his mother, writing “Please tell Daddy that I am sorry I ruined his car,” and asking that she remind him that, of the cars he could have wrecked that night, at least he chose the one that offered a barrier between his head and the road. The old Ford roadster was, after all, a convertible.


 

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Crellin, Linda, and Peter Pauling, 1952.

Peter’s stint at Woods Hole was both formative and crucial to his next steps. While there, he studied ion movement in nerves using sodium and potassium tracers in squid axons.  At the same time, Peter began seriously considering what institution to go to for graduate school, looking at Cambridge, among others. Fortuitously, John Kendrew, of Cambridge’s Cavendish Lab, was serving as a lecturer at Woods Hole and, unbeknownst to Peter, was recruiting for his protein structure research group.

Years later, Peter would recount that when Kendrew told Peter’s Woods Hole boss, David Nachmanson, that he had recruited him, Nachmanson replied, “What? That sex maniac?” Kendrew reportedly replied, “What does that matter?” In typical good humor, Peter offered that Kendrew had replied in this manner because he knew that being a “sex maniac” was an advantage at Cambridge. He later confessed, however, that his reputation was not well earned, admitting that he was likely “the most unsuccessful Don Juan in Woods Hole.”

While in Massachusetts, Peter was, in fact, pretty clearly agonizing over how to resolve his relationship with his college girlfriend, who remained in Pasadena. In his correspondence, Peter sometimes indicates a deep affection for his sweetheart, and at other times reveals significant doubt about any chance of a shared future.

It is entirely possible that the hot and cold nature of Peter’s feelings towards this woman were merely a reflection of a young man’s whimsies. It might also be argued that this was an early sign of a lifelong struggle with manic-depression that would come to plague Peter by the later stages of his graduate career at Cambridge. In any case, Peter’s beau was equally unsure. At times she seemed to favor the appraisal of her father, a high-ranking scientific adviser to the American military who was stationed in Europe. The father believed that marriage would prematurely end his daughter’s own academic ambitions and that, more broadly, Peter was bad news.

However, by the following summer of 1952 – just before Peter left for Cambridge – she had warmed to her boyfriend again. It was a summer of exploration; the two crossed the nation prior to the beginning of graduate school for Peter, travelling together to New York, Washington D.C., Princeton, and Long Island. Their romance seemed to burn brightly, if briefly, as Peter’s life in America drew to a close.

In the last few months before leaving the states, Peter and Crellin visited Hawaii, staying with their older brother Linus Jr, who lived there. Meanwhile, Linus and Ava Helen were engaged in world travels of their own, making lengthy stops in France and England. Peter wondered aloud if he would get the chance to see his parents upon his brief return to Pasadena, or if, instead, he would be gathering his belongings from an empty house, departing with the well wishes of Linda and Crellin, and setting out alone for Montreal, where he would board a ship to cross the Atlantic.

The exact circumstances of Peter’s bon voyage from southern California are unknown, but by September 1952, Peter was on his way to a new life in England.

 

Peter Pauling: The Early Years, 1931-1945

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Linus Pauling with his second-born son, Peter. 1931.

[Ed Note: Today we begin an in-depth examination of the life of Peter Pauling, the second child born to Ava Helen and Linus Pauling. This is part 1 of 9.]

Peter Jeffress Pauling was born on February 10, 1931. His middle name was given in honor of Lloyd Jeffress, his father’s childhood friend, fellow undergraduate at Oregon State (then the Oregon Agricultural College), and best man on his wedding day. Peter was the second born of the Pauling children. His older brother, Linus Pauling, Jr., was born in 1925, and Peter was joined swiftly by his younger sister Linda Helen in 1932 and, finally, by the baby of the bunch, Edward Crellin Pauling, in 1937.

In the early 1930s, everything seemed to be falling into place for the Pauling family. The same year that Peter was born, his father was promoted to full professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, where Linus had been since 1922, completing his doctorate the same year that Linus Jr. was born.

The growing family moved into a new home on Arden Road shortly before Peter’s birth, a transition that provided more space for the children and for their dog, Tyl Eulenspiegel, a cocker spaniel named after a German comic character. The year 1931 also marked Linus’ first published article on the nature of the chemical bond – work that would ultimately result in a Nobel Prize.

In the decade following Peter’s birth, his father was incredibly busy, giving fourteen guest lectures at Berkeley alone before Peter turned three. He also publishing his revolutionary structural chemistry research in a groundbreaking book, 1939’s The Nature of the Chemical Bond, a text authored while Pauling was in the midst of a series of nineteen non-resident lectures at Cornell.

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Ava Helen Pauling with her infant son, Peter. 1931.

By the time of the book’s publication, Linus Pauling was becoming a meteoric scientific figure, and as he began to travel more frequently, his wife Ava Helen would increasingly accompany him. During this period, the three youngest children – especially Linda and Crellin – were often in left in the care of a woman named Arletta Townsend, who became something of a second mother to them in their youth. The oldest child, Linus Jr., also shared in the care of his younger siblings from time to time, frequently trundling little Peter around the front yard in a child’s red wagon (perhaps an early indicator the boys’ shared love of automobiles that would bring them together later in life).

The older children also cared for the family rabbits, which their father raised at home for future use in his research. What was, for the children, a chore was also a reflection of Linus Pauling’s growing fascination with serology, hemoglobin, and the formation of antibodies and their interaction with antigens. As his investigations moved forward in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Pauling found it either impractical or inconvenient to arrange for his study animals to be housed and tended at Caltech. He opted instead to build roughly fifty rabbit hutches on his own property. While the elder Pauling inoculated the rabbits and carefully recorded physiological data, his boys were charged with feeding, watering, and keeping the hutches clean.

At this time, Peter seemed to have little in common with his older brother, outside of their shared chores around the house. Looking back, Linus Jr. would remember that most of their interaction was restricted to fighting over the bathroom. An argument over this space once became so heated, that it resulted in Linus Jr. splintering a door frame in the scrum.


 

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Peter Pauling with his father, 1937.

The United States’ entry into the Second World War touched the lives of all the Pauling children in different ways. In 1937, when Peter was six, an Army rifle range appeared on the other side of a canyon near the Pauling’s new home on Fairpoint Street. With this facility came a small group of Army guards, who would stand vigil near the Pauling’s property. Over time, the soldiers emerged as a social outlet for young Peter, who even as a child seemed to have a natural charm that often brought him rewards. For several years, Peter used the sentries as a means for procuring souvenirs and even stray military equipment. Many years later, much of this treasure could still be found in storage at the family ranch near Big Sur, California.

Not only was Peter charming, he was quite intelligent as well. From 1936 to 1941, Peter attended Polytechnic Elementary, a private school in Pasadena. A 1937 report on his performance included the comment that he was, “Not only a superior child in intelligence, but one of the cutest children we ever took into the school.” Two years later, the praise had only grown – one educator wrote that Peter “seems to be his Daddy’s own boy, and that is saying a great deal.”

From early on in her children’s lives, Ava Helen harbored ambitious ideas for the pursuits that they should entertain, and Peter was identified as the child most likely to succeed in a career in science, thus following in his father’s massive footsteps. Later in life, Linus himself would make passing insinuations about their potential as a father and son scientific duo, referencing the notable case of William and Lawrence Bragg, who shared the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on x-ray crystallography. Peter would later become well acquainted with Lawrence Bragg and his wife during his stint at Cambridge, a time period during which Peter had begun actively pursuing his own career in physics and chemistry.


 

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The Pauling family with their rabbits, 1941. Peter stands at left.

In 1941, after Peter had completed his fifth year at Polytechnic, Linus and Ava Helen concluded that their gifted son had started to lag academically. To provide for a more effective learning environment, the Paulings had Peter – now ten years old – enrolled at Flintridge Preparatory School in Pasadena. Flintridge was a school for boys where Peter would live in a dormitory, his days closely supervised and specifically structured according to a daily schedule that ran from 7 am to ‘lights out.’

At Flintridge, pupils were allotted one hour and forty five minutes of leisure time per day, with any other time not spent in class devoted to eating, completing chores, playing supervised sports or performing other physical exercises, or studying (also supervised).The school tailored its curriculum to the expectations of a student’s desired college or university, all with an eye toward insuring that the student would be best prepared to pass entrance exams or to enter a university without taking the exams at all. 

The school’s all encompassing tutelage embraced a three-fold training style that aimed to educate the mind, body, and the spirit, as evidenced by its motto, Vires Corpore Mente Spiritique. To chart the progress of the body, Peter’s performances in a range of physical activities – from running and high jump to shot put – were recorded and graphed over the course of the year. These data were then charted against an average representing the capacity of most boys his age, a practice referred to as a Physical Quotient plan. According to an informational pamphlet published by the school in 1941, Flintridge was the only school for young men in existence at the time that adhered to such a plan. The outcome, it promised, would be young men driven to develop their posture and muscle skills.

Once Peter was enrolled, his parents were issued monthly reports on their son’s progress, and to their pleasure, Peter’s schoolwork showed measurable improvement. Unfortunately, the decision to move Peter to Flintridge caused Polytechnic to withdraw its provision of scholarships for the remaining Pauling children. These scholarships had been provided with the contingency that the three eldest Pauling children attend the school, but with Linus Jr. completing his education at Polytechnic and Peter moving on to a different school, it was no longer deemed appropriate to provide a scholarship for Linda alone. As a result, young Linda Pauling was no longer able to attend private school at Polytechnic.


 

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Peter Pauling, 1943.

The summer months following Peter’s first year at Flintridge were spent, by Linus and Ava Helen, mostly abroad. As a result, the three youngest children were sent off to Camp Arcadia at Big Pines Park, California, while Linus Jr., now 16, was allowed to remain at home. While at camp, Linda became ill and had to be sent home a month early, leaving Peter and Crellin – from their perspective – stranded at the camp and feeling homesick. Linus Jr. wrote to Peter at this time, urging him to appreciate the time away from the mundane concerns of the Pauling home, including the return of parental discipline. “They’ve found all the things I didn’t do and should have done, and all the things I did do and shouldn’t have done,” Linus Jr. wryly confessed to his younger brother.

In 1943, when Peter was 12, Linus and Ava Helen received letters from his teachers at Flintridge explaining that Peter’s ability to excel seemed increasingly beset by an inability to focus on his work. The staff believed that Peter, like many intelligent children, was not being challenged enough academically, and that in his boredom he preferred to spend his time socializing rather than studying.

Perhaps only coincidentally, this was the same year that Peter’s older brother turned eighteen and left home for Berkeley. While Peter was being groomed in hopes that he might emerge as the next genius of the family, his older brother, Linus Jr., deliberately turned away from any such prospect as he entered adulthood, eventually abandoning college aspirations altogether and joining the Army Air Corps during World War II.

Pauling’s Nobel Peace Prize

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New York Times, October 11, 1963.

[Part 3 of 6]

On October 10, 1963, Linus Pauling received word that he was to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In this, he became the first person to receive two unshared Nobel Prizes, a distinction that lives on today.

He and his wife, Ava Helen, were at Deer Flat Ranch – a property that the couple had actually purchased with the funds from Pauling’s 1954 Chemistry Prize – when the Peace Nobel was announced.  Pauling was notified that morning by his daughter Linda, and the unexpected news rendered him speechless.  The Big Sur ranch itself lacked a telephone, and Pauling wound up holding court at a nearby ranger station, granting several interviews and answering calls of congratulation. As reporters began to descend on the Paulings’ rural property, Ava Helen and Linus decided that it would be best to return to Pasadena to deal with whatever awaited them.


 

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Linus Pauling and Gunnar Jahn, 1963.

As noted in Alfred Nobel’s will, a prize was to be set aside each year for “the person who shall have done the most or best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace.”  Pauling won this award in 1963 – receiving the prize that was held over and not awarded in 1962 – for his work on nuclear disarmament and his contributions to the Partial Test Ban Treaty, an agreement between the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union that went into effect on the same day that the Nobel award was announced.

The story of why Pauling received the 1962 prize is interesting, and recounted by Pauling himself.  In a confidential “note to self” that he penned on November 21, 1962 – about eleven months before his Peace Prize announcement – Pauling documented a meeting that he had held that day with Gunnar Jahn.  Jahn was chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee from 1941 to 1966.

In his memo, Pauling wrote

On the morning of Tuesday 13 Nov., Gunnar Jahn telephoned me at the Bristol Hotel, Oslo, and asked us to come to his office at 11 A.M.  There he said to Ava Helen and me, in the presence of his secretary, Mrs. Elna Poppe, “I tried to get the Committee [of which he is the Chairman] to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 1962 to you [L.P.]; I think that you are the most outstanding peace worker in the world. But only one of the four would agree with me. I then said to them ‘If you won’t give it to Pauling, there won’t be any Peace Prize this year.'”

And indeed, there was not.

Pauling received two nominations for the Peace Prize in 1961, as well as one more in 1962 and another in 1963.  The year that he received the Prize, he was nominated by Gunnar Garbo, a Norwegian journalist, politician and ambassador.  And although many feel that Linus should have been nominated for the Peace Prize alongside Ava Helen – his long-time collaborator and inspiration in their shared peace effort – none of his Peace nominations was submitted as a split award.


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Flyer for the Biology Department coffee hour honoring Pauling’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. December 3, 1963.

In a marked contrast from his Chemistry Prize, Pauling’s Peace award was not celebrated domestically with a lavish ceremony.  By 1963, Pauling’s activities in the peace realm had led to increased tensions at Caltech, and across the Institute, response to his Peace Prize was mixed at best.  His own research group was overjoyed at the honor, but the Caltech administration was unusually quiet concerning the prize and did not plan any sort of celebration in Pauling’s honor.

Although Linus and Ava Helen both felt that the Prize was vindication enough of the work they had done and the positions that they had taken, neither was at all satisfied with how the situation had unfolded at Caltech.  With the prize money from the Peace award forthcoming, the duo now had the flexibility to leave the Institute and pursue their work elsewhere.  Pauling announced his decision to do exactly this in October, just a week after finding out that he had won the prize, and after forty-one years of employment at Caltech.

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By early December, although he had already cleared out his office, colleagues in the Biology department invited Pauling back to campus for a small gathering over coffee to honor his Nobel Peace Prize. This event proved to be the only recognition of Pauling’s achievement hosted at the Institute.


 

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Image published in Arbeiderbladet, December 11, 1963. Annotaions by Linus Pauling.

Once in Scandinavia, the festivities likewise differed some from what he had experienced in Stockholm in 1954.  Pauling was awarded the Peace Prize on December 10, 1963 at Oslo University in Norway, an event attended by King Olav VI, Crown Prince Harald, and scores of additional Norwegian leaders and diplomats.  (In his will, Nobel decreed that the Peace Prize ceremony be held separately from the other Nobel Prize awards, which take place in Stockholm, Sweden.)

Also presented at the ceremony was the 1963 Peace Prize, granted jointly to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of the Red Cross Societies.  The International Committee had won the Peace Prize twice previously, in 1917 and 1944, and their 1963 centennial played a role in the selection of the two groups for the prize. As Pauling is the only person to have received two unshared Nobel Prizes, so too is the Red Cross unique in having been fundamental to four Peace Prizes – three received or shared by the organization, and another through affiliation with the group’s founder, Henry Dunant, co-honored with the very first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

At the ceremony, Pauling was called out for his campaign “not only against the testing of nuclear weapons, not only against the spread of these armaments, not only against their very use, but against all warfare as a means of solving international conflicts.”  Gunnar Jahn – Pauling’s champion from a year before – further explained that he was the natural choice for the 1963 award, due to the successful negotiation of the Partial Test Ban Treaty that July in Moscow.

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Verdensgang (Olso), December 14, 1963.

Despite Jahn’s certainty on the matter, Pauling’s nomination had been made in the face of severe criticism, mostly centering on claims that Pauling was a Communist, that President John F. Kennedy should have received the award, or that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a better choice.  In his acceptance speech, Pauling explained that he believed the award to be a recognition not only of his work but also that “of the many other people who strive to bring hope for permanent peace to a world that now contains nuclear weapons.”

For Pauling, his wife was most prominent among the multitudes who had worked alongside him to pursue peace.  He made special note of her contributions in his formal Response at the Nobel event.

I wish that Alfred Nobel had not been a lonely man. I have not been lonely. Since 1923 I have had always at my side my wife, Ava Helen Pauling. In the fight for peace and against oppression she has been my constant and courageous companion and coworker. On her behalf, as well as my own, I express my thanks to Alfred Nobel and to the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1962 to me.

 


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Pauling’s Nobel Peace medal, obverse.

Designed by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, the Nobel Peace Prize medal features an image of Alfred Nobel that is different from the other medals, though it is accompanied by the same inscription – “Alfred Nobel” and his years of birth and death.  The reverse side of the medal portrays three men forming a fraternal bond and is inscribed with the words Pro pace et fraternitate gentium, which can be translated as “For the peace and brotherhood of men.”  On the outer edge, the words “Prix Nobel de la Paix”, the relevant year, and the name of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate are engraved.

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Pauling’s Peace medal, reverse.

All Nobel Prize medals are accompanied by a diploma and a letter certifying the amount of the given year’s monetary award.  The cash prize in 1962 was $50,000, or approximately $386,204.00 in today’s dollars.  This sum amounted to roughly three years of Pauling’s Caltech salary.

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Pauling’s Nobel Peace certificate.


 

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New York Times, October 11, 1963.

In his Nobel acceptance speech, delivered a day after his Response, Pauling compared the desire of Alfred Nobel himself to create “a substance or a machine with such terrible power of mass destruction that war would thereby be made impossible forever,” to the hydrogen bomb against which the peace movement was working in 1963.  And though the creation and use of the atomic bomb during the Second World War had not led to peace, Pauling remained hopeful that peace would be attained, as nuclear weapons had now made a survivable war impossible.

“I believe that there will never again be a great world war,” he said, “a war in which the terrible weapons involving nuclear fission and nuclear fusion would be used.” Pauling felt that no dispute could justify the use of such a weapon, and that the threat of larger-scale retaliation would prevent first strikes.  This sentiment was present in many of the speeches and articles that he penned during this period.  In his Nobel lecture, Pauling expanded on the idea by explaining that

The world has now begun its metamorphosis from its primitive period of history, when disputes between nations were settled by war, to its period of maturity, in which war will be abolished and world law will take its place.

And just as scientists had played a role in the development of weapons of war, so too would they be central to promoting peace in the nuclear age, because of the power that their informed opinions carried and the research that they could conduct to show just how harmful these bombs were.

In this, Pauling specifically mentioned the Pugwash Conferences series, which he believed “permitted the scientific and practical aspects of disarmament to be discussed informally in a thorough, penetrating, and productive way, and have led to some valuable proposals.”  Because of this, he felt the conferences – with which he had been active – to have been very helpful in seeing the Partial Test Ban Treaty through to ratification.

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Stockholmns Tidinigen, December 19, 1963.

But there was still much work to do, in part because many people had not yet accepted disarmament as a valid route to maintaining peace.  For Pauling, disarmament was only a piece of the solution.  He felt that, for one, China, as the world’s most populous nation, needed to be accepted into the global community and recognized as a nation.  Doing so would allow the Chinese People’s Republic, a nuclear state, to join the disarmament agreement already signed by the United States and Soviet Union.

Pauling further proposed a joint system of control for nuclear stockpiles, one which would require consent from the United Nations before a weapon could be used.  While admittedly a lofty ambition, Pauling believed that “even a small step in the direction of this proposal, such as the acceptance of United Nations observers in the control stations of the nuclear powers” would decrease the probability of war, and doubly so if the proposal was paired with a system of inspection aimed at preventing the further production of biological or chemical weapons.  Advancements in this direction, Pauling believed, not only improved the odds for the long-term survival of the human race, but would also usher in a better life for all humans through the improvement of social, political, and economic systems.