Akira Murata

Akira Murata, 1975.

A year before being introduced to Fukumi Morishige‘s work, Linus Pauling was paying close attention to research being conducted by another Japanese colleague, Dr. Akira Murata, who was studying the inactivation of viruses by vitamin C.  Over the coming years, Morishige and Murata often worked together on research related to vitamin C.  And as with Morishige, Murata became a close colleague of Pauling’s, hosting him on numerous visits to Japan and, on at least a few occasions, traveling across the Pacific to visit Pauling in California.

Murata was born in Shimonoseki, Japan in 1935, and later attended Kyushu University, receiving his Ph.D. in microbiology in 1963.  In 1966 he accepted the position of Associate Professor at Saga University, where he has remained for the bulk of his career.

From early on, Murata was interested in vitamin C and, in particular, the impact that it could make on viruses.  In 1975 Murata summarized much of his early work in a paper written for the Intersectional Congress of the International Association of Microbiological Societies titled, “Virucidal Activity of Vitamin C: Vitamin C for Prevention and Treatment of Viral Diseases.” In it, he outlined a series of clinical trials that he had conducted with Morishige, which focused on the impact of vitamin C on viruses using phages for model systems and their host bacteria. A year later, in 1976, Murata went to the United States to study vitamin C and the immune system at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine.

Murata and Pauling in Pauling's office, 1976.

A parallel track of research conducted by Murata and Morishige in the 1970s focused on the impact of vitamin C on hepatitis.  The duo authored an important paper titled “Vitamin C for Prophylaxis of Viral Hepatitis B in Transfused Patients,” (J. Int. Acad. Prev. Med. 1978;5(1):54–58) in which they discussed their hepatitis work.  In it, Murata and Morishige reported on a series of tests in which patients who had received blood transfusions were also given specific dosages of vitamin C.  From there, observations were made with respect to hepatitis contraction among the transfusion patients.

The researchers found that, between 1967 and 1976, no hepatitis B cases were recorded for those who received large doses of vitamin C following a blood transfusion. The paper concluded that vitamin C, in large amounts, has a “significant prophylactic effect against post-transfusion hepatitis, especially type B.”  Prior to its publication, Pauling annotated and edited Murata and Morishige’s text, adding his suggestions for how the manuscript could be improved.

In 1976, the year of his residency at the Pauling Institute, Murata also published observations made by Morishige on the effect of increased doses of ascorbic acid with respect to various viral and bacterial diseases. In their study, the duo found that ascorbic acid showed a therapeutic effect on infectious hepatitis, measles, mumps, viral orchitis, viral pneumonia and certain types of meningitis.

Murata continued this line of research through the 1980s, continually seeking out new ways to test the effects of vitamin C on human health. Like Pauling and Morishige, Murata was also highly interested in vitamin C and its possible therapeutic use with cancer. Several papers arose from this program of work, including one titled “Prolongation of Survival Times of Terminal Cancer Patients by Administration of Large Doses of Ascorbate,” (Int. J. Vitam. Nutr. Res. Suppl. 1982;23:103-113) and another listing viruses reported to be inactivated by vitamin C. Together, Pauling and Murata also served as chairmen and panel members for at least one workshop on vitamin C, immunology and cancer.

Akira Murata, Ava Helen Pauling and Linus Pauling. In Japan, 1980.

By the late 1980s, Akira Murata had contributed upwards of twenty-five publications on vitamin C and its effects upon various diseases, and Pauling continued to visit him and keep in contact. Murata typically hosted at least a portion of Pauling’s many visits to Japan, often acting in the duel capacity of scientific colleague and friend. Murata also translated a few of Pauling’s books into Japanese. Among these was Vitamin C, the Common Cold, and the Flu, the preface of which contains Pauling’s note of thanks to Murata and the observation that “it is important that everyone know about the great value that vitamin C has in improving health and in protecting against disease.” Murata also translated Pauling’s best-seller, How to Live Longer and Feel Better.

As with a few other contacts in Japan – especially Morishige – Pauling remained in close correspondence with Murata over the duration of their acquaintance, frequently discussing papers on vitamin C and exchanging ideas on new studies. The two remained friends and collaborators throughout the last two decades of Pauling’s life, both benefiting greatly from their cross-cultural exchange.

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Fukumi Morishige

Linus Pauling and Fukumi Morishige, 1986.

Dr. Fukumi Morishige, a chief surgeon of the Fukuoka Torikai Hospital for over thirty years, introduced himself to Linus Pauling via letter in 1975.  In this initial outreach, the Japanese physician informed Pauling of his own research on vitamin C, asking to meet with him when Pauling visited Japan later that year. Pauling did indeed meet with him and, at Morishige’s request, delivered a lecture on the value of vitamin C in health and disease. Thus began a friendship and continuing correspondence that would last for the remainder of Pauling’s life.

Fukumi Morishige was born in Fukuoka, Japan in 1925. He attended Kurume University where, in 1961, he received his medical degree. Within six years of completing his studies, he became the chief surgeon of the Fukuoka Torikai Hospital. It was after he visited Tottori Sakyu Hospital and witnessed the inspiring work being accomplished by the resident surgeons there that he really began to take into consideration the importance of vitamin C.  He later recalled

I knew that giving vitamin C to patients helps them to heal quicker for some reasons but I didn’t know why. I decided to do more research on how vitamin C impacts human bodies and made up my mind to explore vitamin C’s effect and stay in this field.

So began his research studies on vitamin C, work that, at the time, focused specifically on the prevention of serum hepatitis in patients receiving blood transfusions.

Over time, Morishige’s interests moved in the direction of Pauling’s focus on cancer. Through the nearly twenty years of their correspondence, Morishige frequently would relay information about new ideas on cancer research, and Pauling would unfailingly reply with enthusiasm and encouragement, often voicing his desire to bring Morishige to the U. S. to discuss his progress.

Spurred by Pauling’s encouragement, Morishige conducted several experiments involving vitamin C and other therapies for cancer.  In 1983 Morishige, Pauling and three additional Japanese scientists published a paper in the journal Cancer Research titled, “Enhancement of Antitumor Activity of Ascorbate against Ehrlich Ascites Tumor Cells by the Copper: Glycylglycylhistidine Complex.” In this publication, the group communicated their work, which sought to increase the antitumor activity of ascorbate by use of an “innocuous form of cupric ion complexed with glycylglycylhistidine.” While it did not significantly “oxidize ascorbate,” the researchers found that the compound “killed Ehrlich ascites tumor cells” in high concentrations of ascorbate. They further reported that glycylglycylhistidine “prolonged the life span of mice inoculated with Ehrlich tumor cells.”

In 1986 Morishige was introduced to a cancer patient who seemed to be controlling her disease by drinking reishi tea. Excited by this, Morishige launched his own program of research on reishi mushrooms. Through his findings he came to believe that reishi mushrooms acted as both a cancer preventative and a tumor suppressant. He then began to combine the reishi treatments with vitamin C and found that the vitamin C strengthened the effectiveness of the reishi. Though Dr. Morishige used and tested this method successfully on several cancer patients, it is still looked upon as an alternative healing remedy rather than a medically accredited technique.

Artist's rendering of the Tachiarai Hospital. The back of this print is annotated by Pauling, "Dr. F. Morishige's hospital. We participated in dedicating it." Note Morshige's identification of his home to the right of the hospital.

Indeed, for both Pauling and Morishige, their work with vitamin C was commonly rejected by the medical community, yet they both doggedly continued to research the topic, determined to show the world what they believe to be the great benefits of ascorbic acid in medicine.

Over the course of their struggles and interactions, Morishige remained extremely grateful for Pauling’s support and continually expressed his gratitude to Pauling for the interest and advice that he imparted. Among the resources held in the Pauling Papers is a Japanese newspaper series in which Morishige discusses, in length, his relationship with Pauling and their continuing academic exchange on vitamin C. The newspaper series runs to twelve installments in total, all written in Japanese.  Our hope is to someday have this resource translated, so that we might gain further insight into this remarkable collaboration.

Later Japan

Linus Pauling with President Matsuda at Tokai University, 1975.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ava Helen Pauling and Dr. Yashie Souma, 1980.

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

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

Morishige's prescription.


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

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

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

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

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

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