Roald Hoffmann video – and two others – are now available

Roald Hoffmann, April 2012.

The fully transcribed video of Dr. Roald Hoffmann’s presentation, “Indigo – A Story of Craft, Religion, History, Science and Culture,” is now available on the Special Collections & Archives Research Center website.  Hoffmann’s talk was delivered in conjunction with his receipt of the Linus Pauling Legacy Award, presented in Portland on April 19, 2012.

A packed house of some three-hundred people was thoroughly engrossed by Hoffmann’s lecture, which lent credence to the professor’s reputation as a talented speaker.  In tracing the historical development of indigo, Hoffmann first noted that Hebrew scripture has required, from very early on, that a small tassle of the garments worn by observant Jewish males be dyed blue. For generations this decree presented something of a problem in that the only known source of indigo in ancient times was the gland of a specific type of Mediterranean snail – 10,000 of which were required to produce a single gram of dye.

As technologies advanced, various plant species were discovered that could produce a similar shade of blue. However, as Hoffmann noted, the world would need to be completely covered with indigo plants ten feet high to color the 2-3 billion pairs of blue jeans now thought to be produced each year. Hoffmann used this statistic to expound upon the power of chemistry and its ability to create synthetic forms of the dye.

Dr. Hoffmann was the fourth Nobel laureate to receive the Legacy Award and the seventh honoree overall. Previous awardees include chemists Roger Kornberg, Roderick MacKinnon and Jack Roberts, and biologist Matthew Meselson.

Paul Emmett, ca. 1970s.

Two other lectures, both by past OSU Libraries Resident Scholars, are also now freely available online.

The Useful Science of Paul Emmett,” given by Dr. Burtron Davis of the University of Kentucky, discusses Davis’ ongoing research in support of a biography of Emmett (1900-1985), who is remembered today as the “Dean of Twentieth-Century Catalysis Chemistry.”

Emmett is recalled by Davis – once a post-doctoral student of Emmett’s – to have been a kind and talented man who enjoyed a long and distinguished career. Best known for his formulation, with Stephen Brunaur and Edward Teller, of the BET equation, (which Davis calls “Nobel quality work”) Emmett also made major contributions to the scientific understanding of ammonia synthesis and the Fischer-Tropsch process. In reviewing these highlights of Emmett’s biography, Davis’ lecture provides both an overview of Emmett’s major scientific achievements while also lending a glimpse into Emmett’s habits and personality from one who knew him and has continued to study his work.

A second lecture, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Life of Ava Helen Pauling,” was delivered by Oregon State University professor of history Dr. Mina Carson, who is writing a biography of Ava Helen.  Carson’s talk, which was given in late 2009, reflects her thinking at that time as she developed the framework of her book, which will be published in 2013.

At the time, she noted that attempting to write the life of Ava Helen Pauling forces the biographer to confront a number of difficult questions. Perhaps the most vexing is this: how does the biographer write the life of a wife? In particular, a wife who enjoyed her own world-changing career but whose life and work were inseparably fused with, and in many ways dependent upon, her husband’s work and fame?  In ruminating on these topics, Carson also reflects on the major choices that Ava Helen made at critical points in her life as she sought to clarify her own interests and identity.

These three releases comprise only the latest additions to the large cache of digitized video available on the SCARC website.  The full list of contents is available here.

2008: The Year in Pauling

Linus Pauling at his Deer Flat Ranch home, near Big Sur, California. 1987.

Linus Pauling at his Deer Flat Ranch home, near Big Sur, California. 1987.

Notable Projects and Events

This has been a terrifically-productive year for the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections:

Behind the Numbers

The various websites that we have launched over the years continue to attract a fairly large volume of traffic.   Over the past twelve months, our web domain has been the focus of 11.93 million pageviews. (A pageview being officially defined as “A request to the web server by a visitor’s browser for any web page; this excludes images, javascript, and other generally embedded file types.”)  This total is a marked decrease from the 2007 measurement of 14.7 million pageviews.  However, our new releases this year were more of a niche variety, whereas 2007 marked the launch of “Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement: A Documentary History,” as well as two additional new years of Day-by-Day content.  The difference in these types of projects help explain the downturn.

The largest source of 2008 traffic (4.48 million pageviews) is an oldie but a goody – Linus Pauling Research Notebooks.   Originally released in 2002 and consisting of well-over 15,000 html files, this cross-indexed digital version of Pauling’s 46 research notebooks has, by our count, generated roughly 39.5 million pageviews over the course of its existence.  The research notebooks site is also the only one of our many Pauling-centric projects to bubble up into the top 10 of Google’s results for the simple Linus Pauling keyword search. (not that we’re complaining, of course…)

Second in popularity is, per usual, the mammoth Linus Pauling Day-by-Day project (3.71 million), which currently provides a daily accounting of Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s activities for the years 1930-1954.

Our four Documentary History websites jockey back and forth for third through sixth places.  Having received a big update in February, the Bond site is a clear favorite right now, though Blood will probably move up as well, having also been recently revised.  Here’s a look at how the numbers are shaking out for the major projects under the specialcollections/coll/pauling domain.


Check back on Friday for a few thoughts on search and a peek at 2009.

Linus Pauling baseball!

As the Phillies and Rays prepare for another rendition of the Fall Classic, we thought it appropriate to share with you one of our favorite pieces of video:  Linus Pauling playing beach baseball at a Caltech chemistry department picnic in 1938.

Author of more than 1,100 published articles and inarguably one of history’s great minds, Pauling’s knowledge of the strike zone was, evidently, a little less authoritative.  And while coaches around the world would surely appreciate Pauling’s hustle on the basepaths, one does fear for the safety of those enlisted to play third for any team opposing the two-time Nobel prizewinner.

The Linus Pauling baseball clip is just a small segment of “The Edward W. Hughes Tapes,” a series of home movies recorded by Hughes, for twenty-five years a colleague of Pauling’s at Caltech.  The Hughes tapes, which run to just under an hour, offer fascinating glimpses of Caltech social gatherings and Pasadena life over the course of five decades.  Along with Linus and Ava Helen Pauling, careful viewers will note the presence of multiple scientific luminaries in the films — Albert Szent-Györgyi, Dorothy Hodgkin, Jerry Donohue, James Watson and Francis Crick, to name a few.

It is worth noting that the tapes also include footage from additional baseball outings at later department picnics.  Pauling — whose general disinclination toward sports was covered here — doesn’t take part in these match-ups.  One who was a bit more interested in tossing it around the diamond was 1976 Nobel chemistry laureate William Lipscomb, who, in 1995, recounted that

[Pauling’s] illness from nephritis and his frequent trips meant that we did not see him very often, but he and his family did occasionally attend the Caltech Chemists games of (intermediate) baseball in the local league.

In a footnote, Lipscomb adds a few memorable details of his time roaming the outfield with The Chemists:

Seventy-five feet between bases, softball, but hardball rules and overhand pitching from 57.5 feet. I made the local newspaper for an unassisted triple play while playing center field.

Oregon State University, of course, has become something of a baseball powerhouse, given the Beavers’ back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.  Our colleagues in the University Archives have created a terrific website documenting the evolution of this program through its centenary: Oregon State Baseball: 100 Years to a National Championship, 1907-2006.

A Virtual Tour of the OSU Libraries Special Collections

The OSU Libraries Special Collections Reading Room

The OSU Libraries Special Collections Reading Room

A seven-part virtual tour of the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections is now available on the PaulingBlog.

The videos, which were originally shot for use by Terra Magazine, are hosted by Cliff Mead, Head of Special Collections.  Viewers of the tour will receive fascinating insight into Dr. Linus Pauling and his legacy, and can look forward to up-close glimpses of the Pauling office, Pauling’s personal safe, his huge collection of correspondence and his remarkable array of molecular models.

Click the “Read More” link below to go behind the scenes of our facility and to learn more about the types of work that we do.


With the death of Google Video, so too did these videos disappear as originally presented.  Never fear though – the content is available for viewing via OSU Mediaspace.

Interesting New Pauling-related Podcast and Video

Cliff Mead, Head of the OSU Libraries Special Collections, Dr. Linus Pauling and Pauling biographer Tom Hager.  OSU campus, 1991.

Cliff Mead, Head of the OSU Libraries Special Collections, Dr. Linus Pauling and Pauling biographer Tom Hager. OSU campus, 1991.

Chester Bateman, a researcher in the Oregon State University College of Education, has made available an interesting new Pauling-related podcast as part of the College’s Grassroots Learning Project.  The 33-minute podcast, which features Pauling biographer Tom Hager as well as two students from Corvallis, Oregon’s Linus Pauling Middle School, was recorded in tandem with Hager’s keynote presentation on the opening night of da Vinci Days, Corvallis’s annual celebration of art, science and technology that marked its twentieth anniversary this past July.

In the podcast Hager provides fascinating insight into both Pauling’s life as well as the details — and numerous surprises — that defined Hager’s long process of interpreting the sprawling Pauling biography for the printed page.

Among the revelations that Hager uncovered during his year of work in the Pauling archive was the scientist’s method of training himself to dream about scientific problems.  In Hager’s words, Pauling’s “mind was working all the time, 24-7.”

The  many other topics that Hager discusses include the major role that Ava Helen Pauling played as role model, confidant and working colleague to her world famous husband.  As Bateman notes, a plaque has been placed in Education Hall, marking the location where Linus Pauling and Ava Helen Miller first met.

As part of his da Vinci Days coverage, Bateman also provides a link to a 3-minute youtube video produced by the Linus Pauling Institute which features LPI administrative officer Steve Lawson discussing the contours of Pauling’s scientific research and peace activism.

Increasingly, the archival profession is being compelled to cope with a large influx of content that is “born digital” — email and digital photographs, for example — rather than recorded on a “hard” medium like paper or videotape.  While this societal shift away from “hard copies” does pose major challenges for archives and special collections, it likewise has created significant new opportunities to provide remote access to many different types of content.

In a manner similar to the work that Bateman is carrying out, OSU Libraries Special Collections has recently focused on expanding its multimedia offerings.  In 2008 alone, over twenty-two hours of fully-transcribed video — including two talks by Tom Hager — have been released on the department’s Special Events website, with plans for much more in the works.

Pauling and Chomsky

Noam Chomsky in the original Special Collections reading room, Kerr Library, 1995.

Noam Chomsky in the original Special Collections reading room, Kerr Library, 1995.

The latest addition to the rapidly-expanding volume of transcribed video on the Special Collections website is a two-hour presentation by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dr. Noam Chomsky. Titled “Prospects for World Order,” Chomsky’s talk was delivered on the Oregon State University campus on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, October 24, 1995.

As is typical of the prolific and highly-controversial social critic, Chomsky’s presentation is a sprawling discourse filled with historical data points that jump all over the map (both figuratively and literally) in support of his central thesis – namely (in simplest terms) that the wealthy and powerful have become so largely by way of the often-ruthless exploitation of most of the world’s inhabitants. While many may object to various aspects of what Chomsky has to say, the talk undeniably provides a great deal of food for thought.

So what is the connection to Linus Pauling? Well, for starters, Chomsky was speaking as the fourteenth Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Lecturer for World Peace. Initiated in 1982 as a joint effort by Linus Pauling and the OSU College of Liberal Arts, the annual lecture was founded in memory of Ava Helen Pauling, whose peace work is well-documented on this blog and elsewhere. In 1995, the year of Chomsky’s presentation, the lecture was renamed to include Linus Pauling, who had died a little over one year before the event.

Flyer for a joint Chomsky-Pauling presentation, Montreal, 1967

Flyer for a joint Chomsky-Pauling presentation, Montreal, 1967.

Pauling and Chomsky also knew one another, if not particularly well. The Pauling Papers contain one letter from Chomsky and, as can be seen here, the two presented together at least once during the Vietnam War era.

Over twenty hours of fully-transcribed events videos – featuring, among others, Nobel Prize-winners Francis Crick, William Lipscomb, Dudley Herschbach and Roderick MacKinnon – have been released on the OSU Libraries Special Collections website since the beginning of 2008. Click here to access all of this intriguing content.

An Exposé of the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections

Terra Magazine logoPauling’s thinking was never cramped by traditional disciplinary boundaries. His investigations can be likened, not to a line drawn on a page, but to a drop of ink suffusing outward on the currents of curiosity and the tides of creativity.”
– Lee Sherman. “Like Looking Over His Shoulder,” Terra Magazine. June 2008.

We are pleased to announce that the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers are featured in the Summer issue of Terra Magazine, a multimedia publication which focuses upon research conducted at Oregon State University.

As part of the feature, Terra filmed a behind-the-scenes tour of the Special Collections facility, as led by department head, Cliff Mead. The tour, broken down into seven brief sections, touches upon the history of the collection, the various items that make up the Pauling archives, and the work that goes on in our department.

The tour videos accompany an article, written by Lee Sherman, that further describes the collection, featuring interviews with leading Pauling biographer Tom Hager and OSU historians of science Dr. Paul Farber and Dr. Mary Jo Nye.

In addition to the video tour and the article, the Pauling feature includes a variety of images, free downloadable wallpapers, (for computers and for iPods!) and links to other Pauling-related sites. A short timeline of Pauling’s life and a sidebar on Pauling’s correspondence are also part of the package. We encourage all of our readers to check out the Terra website and learn a little more about us.

“Like Looking Over His Shoulder,” the Terra special, can be found here.

For additional information, please visit the OSU Libraries Special Collections homepage.

Roderick MacKinnon video now available

Fully-transcribed video of Dr. Roderick MacKinnon’s Linus Pauling Legacy Award Lecture is now available on the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections website. Titled “Ion Channel Chemistry: The Electrical System of Life,” MacKinnon’s talk was delivered in Portland on May 5, 2008.

Click here to view Dr. MacKinnon’s presentation

Roderick MacKinnon in lecture

Roderick MacKinnon in lecture

MacKinnon in lecture

MacKinnon in lecture

Now Playing On the Special Collections Website…

Francis Crick, 1995

In recent days, a large amount of great new content has been added to the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections website. Here are some of the highlights:

New Videos

First and foremost, almost nine hours of transcribed video from a major conference on the life and work of Linus Pauling has been added to our Special Events webpage. Unquestionably, one of the highlights of this new addition is a 50 minute-long talk by DNA co-discoverer and Nobel laureate Francis Crick, titled “The Impact of Linus Pauling on Molecular Biology.” Crick, who had occasion to interact with Pauling for over forty years, speaks eloquently of the huge advancements in biological studies that were such a vital part of Pauling’s multifaceted scientific career, and concludes that Pauling was, indeed, “one of the founders of molecular biology.”

Crick’s lecture was the first in a series of presentations given at the Pauling Symposium, titled “A Discourse on the Art of Biography,” and running for three days from February 28 – March 2, 1995. The gathering also featured what is surely the largest summit of Pauling biographers ever assembled. Intriguing talks by Thomas Hager, author of Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling and biographer Ted Goertzel, who revealed and analyzed the details of a Rorschach test taken by Pauling, are definitely worth viewing. Likewise, anyone interested in a nuanced examination of Pauling’s life story should view the presentation made by Robert Paradowski, who has spent the better part of thirty years composing a mammoth three-volume biography of Pauling that, to this day, remains unpublished.

A collection of Pauling’s former graduate students comprised the presenters for the conference’s third session. Speaking less than one year after Pauling’s death, the group shared many endearing stories mined from their long associations with the famous scientist. Famed biologist Matthew Meselson fondly recounted his deciding to pursue graduate studies at Caltech while immersed in the Pauling family swimming pool. Likewise, Nobel laureate chemist William Lipscomb passed along the details of Caltech Chemists baseball games in the Pasadena city league, noting for the record that he once “made the local newspaper for an unassisted triple play while playing center field.” The session was chaired by Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s youngest son Crellin, who took a few moments himself to reflect upon his experience of growing up with two world-famous parents.

The conference’s final session was devoted to a deeply-interesting discussion of the highs and lows encountered by writers of biography in attempting to capture an honest portrait of their subjects. Some of the history profession’s most important scholars, including Sarton Medal winners Frederic Lawrence Holmes and John L. Heilbron, revealed a number of lessons learned. In this vein, Judith Goodstein of the Caltech archives shared her thoughts on the particular issues surrounding the writing of an institutional history and S.S. Schweber provided a glimpse of the what it was like to wrestle with the remarkable life of Nobel physicist Hans Bethe.

Pauling Finding Aid

Another major addition to the resources available on the Special Collections website is the complete text of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers finding aid. Long-delayed due to technical issues, a web version of the massive document — nearly 1,700 pages long when printed out — is now finally available, in full, on the web. Users now have access to listings for all of Pauling’s speeches, his article manuscripts, materials related to his unpublished books, and much, much more.

Coming Soon…

Keep watching the Special Events page for new video updates. Transcribed video of the 2008 Pauling Legacy Award lecture by Dr. Roderick MacKinnon is nearly ready to post, as are several additional presentations by a wide variety of highly-esteemed speakers. We are also preparing a major update to the Linus Pauling Day-by-Day calendar that will incorporate not only a large amount of new content, but also several exciting new features. Stay tuned…