Pauling’s Disengagement from the Guggenheim Foundation

The Paulings in India, 1955

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

In 1950, the Indian government invited Linus Pauling to spend six weeks visiting and lecturing at several of the country’s top universities and research institutions. Pauling and Ava Helen were planning to use the invitation as an opportunity to take a trip around the world during December and January, a circumstance that would seem to preclude Pauling’s service for the year on the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Committee of Selection.

Pauling still wanted to find a way though, and left open the possibility of his participation as he worked to finalize his plans. If Henry Allen Moe, the Foundation’s Secretary, would still have him on the Committee, Pauling wanted the applicant digests to be sent to him in India. To maintain confidentiality and avoid having to carry them around with him afterwards, Pauling would make his notes and then destroy the digests. An extra copy could then be sent to Pasadena, awaiting Pauling’s return.

Moe did not think it a good idea for Pauling to go to India and be on the Committee of Selection, because it would be too much to coordinate. Though recognizing that the India trip was a wonderful opportunity, he also held out hope that Pauling would stay put and continue to serve on the Committee.

As he thought about it some more, Pauling agreed that, were he to make the trip to the subcontinent, it would be best that he not serve on the Committee due to all of the possible mishaps that could arise. At the same time, he was also beginning to have doubts about going, in part because he would miss the opportunity of growing some proteins – presumably for research – in his garden. And while his curiosity about scientific life in India was overriding this desire to garden, Pauling’s delicate health would soon intervene.

As the Paulings delved deeper into the planning for their Indian adventure, Linus came down with the flu and several colds. In the midst of this run of illness, Pauling’s doctor, Richard W. Lippman, recommended that his patient not get the shots necessary for the trip, while also recommending that he not go unless he had the shots. In the end, Pauling decided not risk it and stayed home, but Moe still thought it best for him to not participate on the Committee that year because of his health.

That said, Moe was not shy about soliciting Pauling’s opinion on as many Committee-related topics as he could handle, resulting in one of the duo’s most intense periods of correspondence since Pauling first began serving on the Committee. In particular, Moe badly wanted to send Pauling all of the year’s physics applications because of suspected poor judgment from another adviser, but he managed to hold back.

Even though Pauling was not at the annual meeting, the Committee was grateful for his comments and he was still identified as a member in that year’s announcement of Fellows. That notice, however, would mark Pauling’s final participation on the Committee, though he continued to serve on the Foundation’s Fellowship Advisory Board.

This transition coincided with Pauling and Moe’s disagreement over aspects of the Foundation’s response to the House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations, also known as the Cox Committee. As noted in our previous post in this series, after Pauling supplied his criticisms of the response, Moe retorted with a lengthy justification that questioned Pauling’s judgments on social issues. Pauling did not respond to Moe’s criticisms, but continued to carry out his duties as a member of the Advisory Board.

Excerpt from Moe’s letter to Pauling of June 3, 1954

Following the Cox Committee dispute – and quite unlike the previous year – Pauling and Moe’s correspondence slowed to a trickle and was dotted with signs that their relationship had become strained. Much of their exchange focused on Pauling’s succinct comments on chemistry applicants, though mention is made of Pauling’s attempt to call Moe to provide feedback more efficiently. (Moe was not available to receive the call.) Later, Pauling delayed responding to Moe on a question concerning the conditions of one fellowship, because he agreed with what Moe had decided and did not think a response was necessary.

Some of the tension appeared to begin lifting in June when Moe asked Pauling for input on an applicant, and also relayed that he and his wife Edith were going to England. Pauling responded that he was happy that they were making the trip, but there was little in the way of follow-up. That fall, Moe informed Pauling that his son had returned from his military tour in Asia, was beginning graduate school at the University of North Carolina, and had become a father. The relationship seemed to be in a period of thaw.

Perhaps feeling comfortable again, Pauling decided to reiterate concerns that he harbored about the low stipends attached to Guggenheim Fellowships; concerns he had first broached while Moe was working on the Cox Committee response. Prefaced with a hope that Moe would not mind him bringing up the topic again, Pauling commenced to relay the story of A. H. Livermore, a faculty member at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Livermore had received a Fellowship to study Molecular and Cellular Biology and had planned to use these funds in conjunction with a Fulbright award to study in England. As it happened, Livermore’s Fulbright application was unsuccessful, thus rendering the trip impossible for him to make with the accompaniment of his family. Pauling felt that the Foundation should pay enough so that a whole family could make the trip and not place any burden on the Fellow.

Moe responded by informing Pauling that Livermore had already planned on deferring his Fellowship and reapplying for a Fulbright the following year. And while he appreciated Pauling’s suggestions on the fellowship amounts, he believed them to be financially unrealistic. Personally, Moe thought that funds would be better split between two equal scholars rather than awarding a larger amount to only one of them. He also thought that it was valid for Fellows to have to invest some of their own money into their work or, if they had none, to find a way of getting some.

Moe’s point of view though, was slipping into the minority. Two years later, in 1956, the Foundation appeared to assimilate Pauling’s opinion – which Committee of Selection Chairman Louis B. Wright also held – and changed the wording of its call for applicants to state that awards would no longer adhere to a firm $3,000, but instead be adjusted to meet a Fellow’s needs.

After this more recent disagreement, Pauling and Moe’s relationship appears to have cooled again, but Pauling’s successful trip to India at the end of 1954 and beginning of 1955 seemed to snap them out of it. Notably, Moe was the first person to whom Pauling wrote upon his return to the U.S. Pauling used this letter to tell the story of his trip, but also to express concern that Moe was working too hard and that he look into hiring another assistant. Moe replied that he had been on the lookout for one and that he hoped to hear a fuller account of Pauling’s travels the next time the two saw each other in person.

The following year, Moe was invited to deliver the commencement address at the California Institute of Technology’s graduation ceremony. Eager to see his old friend, Moe expressed disappointment when he found out that Pauling would be in Rome during that time.

After returning to New York, Moe wrote that the trip had reminded him of the last time he had been in southern California and, in particular, his conversation with Pauling about the lack of water emerging as a limiting factor for additional development of the area. At the time, Pauling told Moe that he was not too concerned since he assumed that, at some point, fresh water could be made from sea water, possibly by using nuclear power. Moe was curious to know if Pauling thought that desalination had become a more feasible option since then.

Pauling responded that he had not kept up with research on the subject, but he believed that experiments related to ionic transfer through thin exchange resin barriers might prove promising. He also noted that the Von Kleinschmidt method of distillation by compression had been used in Boston, but at five cents per ton, it was still more costly than freshwater. A few days later, Pauling wrote again to say that he had been hearing good things about Moe’s speech and was glad that he had suggested him as the speaker. Moe suspected Pauling had been behind the invitation and was pleased to hear that he approved.

Several years later, Moe agreed to serve as a character witness for Pauling in his 1963 suit against the New York Daily News. Pauling, however, left Moe wondering for several months about what was happening in the case. When he finally wrote to thank Moe for testifying, Pauling explained that, according to his attorney, that they done too good of a job in making their case for Pauling’s character. Towards the end of the trial, Pauling wrote, the jury agreed that the paper had committed slander, but they did not think it had succeeded in damaging Pauling’s reputation. The jury then asked the judge for clarification on whether they could still find the paper guilty. The judge told them that they could not and so they found in favor of the paper.

With his background in law, Moe had suspected a turn of events along these lines and committed to testifying again if needed. But when solicited once more, this time for a suit against the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Moe had to decline since he was too busy. Because Pauling’s attorney thought Moe a very important witness, Pauling made one final pitch, hoping that Moe might fly in and out in a single day. Moe still could not do it.

That year was also Moe’s last at the Guggenheim Foundation. He had begun his tenure as President of the American Philosophical Society four years prior and he stayed in the position until 1970. During this time, contacts between Moe and Pauling further diminished, though their occasional exchanges were friendly in tone. Moe died in 1975 at the age of 81.

The Cox Committee Response and a Nasty Falling Out

Linus Pauling and George Beadle, circa 1950s

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

At the end of 1952, Guggenheim Foundation Secretary Henry Allen Moe found himself working night and day for several weeks to answer a series of questions sent by the House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations, also known as the Cox Committee.

Once he had completed this onerous task, Moe sent a copy of the 329-page response to Linus Pauling and other members of the Foundation’s Committee of Selection. Pauling, along with his Caltech colleague George Beadle, carefully reviewed the document, and after a period of discussion, Pauling wrote to Moe on December 29 to share his thoughts.

Pauling prefaced his remarks by telling Moe that he was impressed overall and that the response was what he would expect. He did, however, wish to share some “constructive criticism” related to phrasing used in a section on the approval of foreign applicants; a portion of the response that he felt was beneath the “dignity” of the Foundation and risked sacrificing its independence to governmental control.

The passage in question had described the expectation that the Foundation would only grant awards to foreign applicants who had been approved for visas by the State Department. Pauling felt that this stipulation was fraught and gave the government too much influence in the selection process.

The stipulation also surely brought to Pauling’s mind his own inability to obtain a passport earlier in the year, a rejection that came after Pauling had been invited to attend a conference at the Royal Society of London. Pauling believed that if the Royal Society had been obligated to ask the State Department about his passport worthiness in advance, the end result would that he would not have been invited to the meeting at all. Beadle agreed with Pauling’s point of view.

For Moe, answering the Cox Committee inquiry had siphoned away a great deal of time from other pressing duties, and had left him exhausted, stressed, and slow to respond to correspondents, including Pauling. All of these factors came to a head when he finally did write back to Pauling, some two weeks later. Moe clearly took offense at Pauling’s “constructive criticism” and, in a lengthy letter, he addressed those concerns while also taking personal shots at Pauling. The back and forth resulted in lasting damage to what had been a strong relationship shared between colleagues and friends of long standing.

Moe began by explaining that the answers submitted to the Cox Committee were those of the Foundation, not his personally, and had been vetted in detail before their approval by the Board of Trustees. As such, Moe was unable to express any agreement with Pauling’s assessment even if he wanted to…and he did not want to.

Specific to Pauling’s criticism, Moe believed that he had taken the section about visas out of context. For Moe, the passage in question needed to be read as part of the whole document; one that affirmed that only the proper governmental agencies could decide on matters of national interest. In the case of travel visas, the proper governmental agency was the State Department.

Moe also objected to a notion that he believed Pauling had read into the text; namely, that the Foundation welcomed governmental approval of its decisions. He instead clarified that the Foundation would grant awards but would withhold notification until the State Department had approved them. For individuals who were denied clearance, the Foundation would offer to hold the grant in place for the applicant while they appealed the government’s ruling.

The conclusion to Moe’s letter to Pauling of January

Once he had clarified these points, Moe then shifted to a more personal response, one that questioned Pauling’s social judgments. “In these matters of human relations,” he wrote

people do not act like atoms or molecules – i.e., always in the same relation to the same circumstances. Human judgments, which is what we are talking about now, do not occur with the certainty of chemical reactions. Nor is a chain of reactions – one thing leading to another, as you develop it out at the end of the first paragraph on page 2 of your letter – likely to occur in human relations. It is the political genius of the Anglo-Saxon people that such – thought-to-be-logical – ultimates are not permitted to occur.

In this, Moe sought to emphasize his feeling that Pauling had failed to understood the complexity of the situation, one that involved balancing the ideals of civilization with the imperative to remain safe and secure.

To make his point, Moe quoted legal scholars including the nineteenth-century English lawyer William Edward Hall, author of A Treatise on International Law. In it, Hall explained that countries could refuse entry to foreigners, but that doing so meant “to withdraw from the brotherhood of civilized people.” Hall continued

If a country decides that certain classes of foreigners are dangerous to its tranquility, or are inconvenient to it socially or economically or morally, and if it passes general laws forbidding the access of such persons, its conduct affords no grounds for complaint. Its fears may be idle; it legislation may be harsh; but its action is equal.

While Hall wrote within the context of a state’s justification to deny entry to immigrants, Moe explained that the Foundation was doing what it thought best under the more contemporary circumstance of an escalating cold war. This noted, Moe then suggested that by discretely clearing visas for potential fellows before notifying the applicants themselves, the Foundation was actually protecting these individuals from negative exposure that might potentially wreck a career during anxious times. This point spoke directly to Pauling’s own situation and the slander that he had suffered following the Congressional testimony of FBI informant Louis Budenz, a former Communist Party member who had stated that Pauling was also a member of the party’s ranks.

Moe ended his reply by taking one last stinging jab at Pauling’s judgment, this time drawing a connection between Pauling’s claim about the Royal Society invitation and his own testimony before the Cox Committee. Moe’s frustration is clearly evident as he ups the rhetorical ante:

When, in my testimony, I associated political naivete and professional eminence, you were one of the eminent professionals I had in mind. This, without saying so now, you would know from previous letters I have written you. It is my opinion that if you had studied the subject matter of your letter of December 29 one-tenth as critically as you study your chemistry, you would not have taken so untenable a set of positions as you take in your letter.

Moe concluded by informing Pauling that he and Beadle were the only two people who had expressed concern about the Foundation’s independence. Indeed, the only other objections that Moe had fielded were sent by those who believed that the Foundation ought to submit to greater levels of governmental control.

If Pauling responded to this letter it does not remain extant. What is readily apparent, however, is a noticeable shift to formality in the exchanges that followed. Just eighteen months prior, Pauling had invited Moe to visit Pasadena and spend a couple weeks relaxing at his pool. But going forward, the colleagues would correspond with one another on strictly professional grounds.

Robert Corey’s Fellowship and the Roots of an Argument

Robert Corey

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

In 1949, as the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation tested out its new style of fellowships for established researchers, scholars, and artists, Linus Pauling put forth his California Institute of Technology colleague Robert B. Corey as an ideal candidate for funding. Corey was researching the crystal structure of amino acids, peptides, and proteins, and wanted to develop more refined molecular models to supplement his experimental work; Pauling estimated he would need about $3,500 to do so. Corey did not make it into the first group of new fellows for that year, but Pauling suggested him again the following year and he was approved.

Corey’s accepted project had grown from the year before. A Dr. Palmer, who worked under F. O. Schmitt at Caltech’s Department of Agriculture Regional Laboratory in Albany, California, had been taking x-ray photographs of lysozyme, the bacterial protein found in tears. Palmer no longer had the time to continue the work, but he and Corey thought a trained assistant could come in and continue taking the photos. These would then be brought back to Pasadena for analysis and interpretation in the Corey lab. Pauling wrote to Guggenheim administrator Henry Allen Moe that this was a “very important job” that fit nicely within Caltech’s broader program of protein structure determinations.

When Corey’s case came before the Committee of Selection, evaluator E. B. Wilson suggested that Corey struck him as being a good candidate for Office of Naval Research funding, and as such he would not need Guggenheim support. Upon hearing this, Pauling clarified in a letter to Moe that the circumstances were not quite so straightforward.

As Pauling explained, after Corey applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Office of Naval Research had indeed approached him about a potential collaboration. Pauling followed up by submitting an application for funding, but he had yet to hear back about final approval. He had, however, been informed that the funds, if granted, would come in at $25,000 less than requested. Furthermore, both Pauling and Corey did not like the idea of all their work being backed by the Navy. (By then, Pauling had already made the decision for himself that he would refuse to accept any armed forces funding.)

More importantly, Pauling told Moe that the progress made at Caltech in the last three years was the “greatest advance in the protein field” since Emil Fischer’s discovery that proteins were polypeptides, some fifty years prior. Pauling’s letter was persuasive and the Committee granted Corey $15,000 over two years.

Corey knew that Moe wanted to meet each fellow in person, and so when he was in New York shortly after the beginning of his fellowship in September 1951, he stopped by the Guggenheim Foundation offices. Moe was not there, but Associate Secretary James F. Mathias was available, and the two enjoyed a pleasant conversation. During that trip, Corey needed to go to Connecticut for a week and decided he would try again to meet with Moe afterwards. This time he called first to see if Moe was in the office, and was told that Moe would not see anyone unless it was very important. Because of the brusqueness of the reply, Corey decided against attempting to arrange any future introductory meetings with Moe.

Over a year later, Pauling suggested that Corey stop to visit Moe while on a different swing through New York. Corey was hesitant to do so, explaining what had happened the first time around and adding a new complaint about Moe’s failure to reply to a letter from Corey about his income taxes. Pauling immediately wrote to Moe to find out more from the secretary’s perspective.

Letter from Josephine Leighton, October 27, 1952

Unbeknownst to Pauling, at that time Moe and Mathias were in the midst of answering a questionnaire issued by the House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations, also known as the Cox Committee. Moe’s assistant, Josephine Leighton, responded to Pauling and, while misunderstanding the exact circumstances, attempted to address his concerns by explaining that Moe had just been too busy, working up to eighteen hours a day on the Cox response. Leighton assured Pauling that Moe wanted to meet in person with all the fellows, but simply could not fit it into his schedule at this time.

Pauling clarified that he was describing an event from the previous year, but did not want to bother Moe any further with the matter and told Leighton that it could wait. Nonetheless, Leighton dug deeper and figured out that Moe had been in Washington when Corey had originally visited. She could not, however, explain the unpleasant telephone call, as the expectation was that no one in the office would act that way. She also could find no record of Corey’s letter about his income taxes.

After a few more weeks had passed, Pauling assumed that Moe had finished up his work responding to the Cox Committee and wrote Moe about concerns that he had regarding the public’s perception of the foundation. In particular, it was Pauling’s impression that the granting organization was no longer seen as significant among the most able of scholars, scientists, and artists. This was mainly due to the foundation giving out comparatively smaller amounts than had been the case when Pauling was a fellow in the mid-1920s.

When he received his award, Pauling noted, he was granted $3,500, which was about $1,500 more than the sums offered by National Research Fellowships or the post-doctoral salaries then available at Caltech. By the time of Pauling’s 1952 letter, Caltech’s post-doctoral salaries had reached $4,000 to $4,500, and the pharmaceutical company Merck was providing grants of $6,000 plus travelling expenses. To keep up with this competition, Pauling thought Guggenheim Fellowships should generally average out to $6,000 plus travelling expenses.

Pauling sent a copy of his letter to Louis B. Wright, chair of the Committee of Selection. Wright agreed with Pauling’s point of view, noting that, increasingly, only scholars and scientists from wealthy schools equipped to grant sabbaticals were able to accept Guggenheim Fellowships. Wright, like Pauling, enjoyed the privilege of an extensive Guggenheim stay in Europe in 1928-1929, a trip that would only last six months in 1952 and not much longer were the person to stay at home. Given the choice, Wright felt it better to reduce the number of fellows and increase stipend sums granted.

Moe could not reply to either letter as he was still too tied up with his response to the Cox Committee. He would eventually address Pauling’s concerns, but first the two would need to resolve what developed into a major argument over how the Foundation had handled the Cox Committee questionnaire.

A New Type of Guggenheim Fellowship

Letter from Henry Allen Moe to Linus Pauling, November 1951

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

Melvin Newman’s difficulties working under the fellowship conditions stipulated by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation – particularly that fellows not be permitted to work separate jobs during their award tenures – prompted the Committee of Selection to begin working out a plan for a new type of fellowship. These revised funding guidelines focused mostly on providing support for established researchers without requiring them to step away from their other duties.

Though Newman’s case ushered in the change, it was not the first time the Foundation had been asked to bend its policies. An earlier applicant, English professor Frederick A. Pottle, had requested that he be allowed to continue teaching at Yale during his fellowship because he could not afford to go elsewhere unless he took out a loan.

Many other applicants surely sympathized with Pottle’s circumstances. For the fellowship’s entire history, awardees were required to take leaves of absence of at least six months, a stipulation that often proved problematic. As professors, scientists, and professionals, fellows routinely had duties assigned to them that they could not ignore, and the Guggenheim’s rules sometimes required them to focus on these duties over unreasonably short periods of time.

Fellows also commonly had material needs connected to advancing their research that a travel scholarship did not cover. For instance, scientists frequently needed instruments, humanists microfilm, and social scientists help with compiling data, while authors of all backgrounds struggled with publication costs. The six month term of absence caused issues as well and it was argued that shorter term fellowships might work better for some, as it would allow them to forgo summer teaching jobs, for example, in favor of research.

In a letter discussing these problems with the Committee of Selection, Henry Allen Moe, the Secretary General of the Foundation, reminded members that the Foundation was chartered

to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding and the appreciation of beauty, by aiding without distinction on account of race, color or creed, scholars, scientists and artists of either sex in the prosecution of their labor.

For Moe, the freedom from restriction built in to the Fellowships had been successful because the Committee of Selection had only picked “high grade people” who were “truly creative scholars and artists” that “would not consider using the money for anything else.”

The new-style fellowships being pondered were seen by Moe as extending that freedom to older scholars who could also benefit from developmental support. Though it would be designated as a fellowship, the new program would fit with the idea of a “grant-in-aid” to assist fellows on the job.

F.O. Koenig

In September 1949, plans for the new fellowships began to take shape in the form of a trial run. In anticipation, Moe passed along to the Committee of Selection several examples of who might receive the trial fellowships and requested feedback on how much money each might require. Linus Pauling, who was on the Committee, thought the plan a good one and supplied his own list of potential candidates with financial estimates for each.

Several of Pauling’s suggestions were ultimately included in the first batch of new-style fellowships. One of them was M. C. Terry, a retired physician who found a correlation between diabetes and the bitter taste of diphenylthiourea. Pauling supported Terry’s ambition to travel to Jamaica to find out if the correlation was dependent on race.

Another suggestion, Richard W. Lippman, was an unpaid research assistant at the Institute for Medical Research, Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, and the proprietor of a part-time medical practice focusing on renal disease and hypertension. Lippman, who was also Pauling’s personal physician, was working on a book on the interpretation of clinical urine and urine sediment tests, and wanted to include color photographs of the urine sediment since no such images existed in publication. He needed help covering those costs and looked to the Foundation for assistance.

F. O. Koenig already had a fellowship looking at the history of the conservation of energy and the influence of Romantic poets and philosophers on the nomenclature of polarized light. He wished to continue his work by hiring an assistant for clerical and translation work.

Willard F. Libby

The trial run went smoothly enough that the Foundation decided to expand the new fellowships the following year. Once again asked for recommendations, Pauling put forth Willard F. Libby, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago, as a strong candidate for the new program. Libby had received a year-long $2,500 Guggenheim award in 1941 to study the applications of nuclear physics to chemistry, but he was called to work on the Manhattan Project shortly thereafter, leaving his fellowship unfinished. Libby’s more recent research focus was on carbon-14 dating.

Moe visited Libby in Chicago and found both his modesty and his skepticism of his own work to be refreshing, given his high profile. Another member of the Advisory Board, geographer Carl Sauer, strongly endorsed Libby’s candidacy as he expected him to have the best chance of finding and fixing crucial problems with carbon-14 dating. Libby was ultimately approved at $10,000 for two years, and in 1960 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry, specifically for the carbon dating work.

One of Libby’s colleagues was Aristid V. Grosse, a Temple University professor who applied for a fellowship the following year to work on fluorocarbon chemistry. Grosse had received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1940 for studies in nuclear chemistry and biochemistry, but when Moe asked about his potential for the new type of fellowship, Pauling suggested that he had not developed much as a chemist since his previous award. Though Grosse’s work had garnered a good deal of public attention, Pauling felt it to be relatively unimportant, even “trivial.” Pauling also believed that Grosse had taken more credit than was due to him in regards to his collaborations with Libby on carbon-14. Finally, Grosse’s proposed project was, for Pauling, fairly unoriginal and uninteresting.

Despite all of these misgivings, Pauling still considered Grosse to be a contender for the new type of fellowship because of his abilities and his standing as a former fellow. Furthermore, his field was interesting and he requested only a small amount of funding, though Pauling expected that any significant contribution arising from the project would be accidental. In the end Pauling decided not to support him, but expressed a willingness to accept his approval should the rest of the committee regard him as worthy. As it happened, the committee agreed with Pauling and Grosse did not receive a fellowship.

George Burch

Another 1951 candidate for the new type of fellowship was Melville Wolfrom, a chemist at Ohio State University who had just been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. The recipient of a 1939 award, this time around Wolfrom wanted $54,500 per year for two to five years to study carbohydrate chemistry, an amount that was far larger than the sums normally granted. Pauling discussed Wolfram’s case with his Caltech colleague Carl Niemann, who had done some work with carbohydrates. Following this consultation, Pauling offered that Wolfrom was very experimental and hardworking, and had a sound knowledge that placed him as a leader of his field.

Wolfrom’s program, however, struck Pauling as being unoriginal. Pauling also wondered why the Office of Naval Research or the United States Public Health Service was not funding his work, noting that

It has been my opinion that a research project should serve as a satisfactory basis for a new-type fellowship only if it had some unusual character, and that, moreover, support for a research project would not be given in case that it seemed likely that it could be obtained from ordinary sources.

Wolfrom failed Pauling’s criteria on both counts. “There is no large element of chance involved,” he felt, “which might cause the ordinary sources of funds to shy away.” Pauling recommended that no fellowship be given and this guidance was followed.

Towards the end of the year, Pauling suggested that George E. Burch, Professor of Medicine at Tulane University, would be a good candidate for the new type of fellowship, which he would use to hire a research assistant. Burch’s primary knowledge was of the heart, but he was interested in other organs as well.

Pauling had visited Burch’s laboratory in New Orleans and was quite impressed by what he saw. Motivations connected to his own research also played a role in Pauling’s recommendation, as he hoped Burch would run clinical tests on the use of controlled amounts of carbon monoxide in controlling sickle cell anemia, a treatment based on Pauling’s previous findings.

Moe was able to visit Burch in New Orleans and agreed with Pauling’s assessment. He also thought William Love, whom Burch wanted to hire, to be a good candidate for the assistantship. The only thing Moe was uncertain about was whether to give him the $5,000 for one year that he had requested or to extend it to $15,000 over three years.

The new-type fellowships proved to be both successful and popular, and they opened up Guggenheim funding to a large group of researchers who had previously needed to look elsewhere. As we’ll explore in a future blog post, Pauling himself would also benefit from one of these fellowships later on in his career.

A Small Variation From Conventional Procedure: The Case of Melvin Newman

Melvin Newman

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

As the Second World War receded into the past, scientists in the United States increasingly turned away from national defense research and back toward the fundamentals of science. This shift was reflected in the Fellowship applications received by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and also required the Foundation to rethink pieces of how it had operated up to that point.

One applicant who helped usher in change, if unwittingly, was Ohio State University chemist Melvin S. Newman. Newman’s ask was for two six-month periods devoted to discussing methods of laboratory training for graduate students in organic chemistry, culminating in his authorship of a book on the subject. Newman thought this area of teaching to generally be the weakest component of the graduate chemistry curriculum, a belief that had been confirmed during recent visits to different universities. By sharing what he had done with his own laboratories, Newman hoped to raise awareness of the need to improve training. The Foundation agreed and he was awarded $3,000 to pursue his proposal.

It was the Guggenheim Foundation’s policy that Fellows dedicate their whole tenure to their proposed work, meaning that they could not hold other jobs at the same time. Nor could they split up their Fellowship into shorter non-consecutive periods of time. Henry Allen Moe, the Secretary General of the Foundation, informed Newman of these points in his notification letter, sent at the end of March 1949. In his application, Newman had indicated the University of Southern California had offered him a guest lecturer opportunity that was pending, so the Committee of Selection decided to award him $1,000 on top of the $2,000 that he had requested. Doing so, the committee felt, would allow Newman to forgo the planned teaching and dedicate himself fully to his Fellowship work.

While waiting to hear if he had obtained a Guggenheim Fellowship, Newman continued to explore other opportunities, and just before receiving Moe’s notification letter, Newman finalized an agreement to teach for the summer at the University of California, Los Angeles. Thinking it possible to accept the Fellowship and still teach, Newman sent Moe a letter in April, requesting a split of his funding into a four-month period for 1949 followed by six months for 1951. On his way to teaching at UCLA, Newman planned to make Guggenheim-funded visits to universities in Kansas and Colorado, and then to Stanford, Berkeley, Oregon, and Washington while on the West Coast. The teaching duties that had been assigned to him were light, and he anticipated making good progress on his organic chemistry book while in L.A. Moe appeared to be flexible to these requests and asked for the dates that Newman planned to make his visits. Newman replied with the requested information and assumed that everything was in order.

At the beginning of July, Moe wrote to Newman that he had not heard anything from him and wanted to find out what was going on. Having assumed that his last letter had reached Moe, Newman was surprised by the request. He had already begun visiting laboratories and took April 1 as the start date of his fellowship, thinking he only needed to clarify some details. Newman had been teaching at UCLA since June 20, at which point he considered himself to be off his Fellowship. He would pick up his Fellowship again at the end of his teaching stint on August 13, and would continue in that vein until returning to Ohio State on September 30.

In his response, Moe reminded Newman that he could not teach during his Fellowship nor interrupt the six-month period that had been previously defined in his notification letter. As a result, Moe considered the time that Newman had described as not counting toward his Fellowship. Instead, Newman could take one of his six month periods during each of the following two years, 1950 and 1951, or even use a chunk of time in 1952 if needed.

Newman was very confused by Moe’s letter. As Moe had not directly responded to Newman’s correspondence in April, he had assumed that Moe understood why he could not cancel his teaching appointment at UCLA and had tacitly agreed to his plans for how he would spend his time as a Fellow. At his own expense, Newman had already visited several universities where he was introduced as a Guggenheim Fellow, and he was expecting to be reimbursed for these visits. It came as a disappointment then to learn that he had not, in fact, been a Fellow during that time and that the reimbursement would not be forthcoming. More fundamentally, Newman did not understand why splitting his fellowship up to allow him to teach for eight weeks was a problem, as it did not interfere with his Fellowship work plan. Since Linus Pauling was nearby, Newman asked to speak with him in person to try and gain clarity on the Foundation’s point of view.

Newman later in life.

Pauling was more than happy to talk with Newman to get the whole matter straightened out, and in advance of their meeting, Moe forwarded copies of the letters that he and Newman had exchanged. Prior to the meeting, Pauling decided that it was best to stick to the original stipulations of the Fellowship that had been communicated to Newman, and that said that he could not split up his six month term to teach.

After speaking with Newman in person, Pauling’s point of view remained largely unchanged, though the meeting did uncover the likelihood that Newman’s April request letter was evidently lost in transit. Pauling also sympathized with Newman’s need to cover current expenses for his wife and four children, but none of this was enough to convince Pauling to revise the original conditions of the Fellowship. Rather than accommodate what had already happened, Pauling suggested that Newman instead rethink what he could do as a Fellow going forward.

Newman had recently been promoted at Ohio State and was eligible to receive six months of paid leave after teaching for a year and a half. With this leave and the Fellowship in hand, Pauling figured that instead of spending a year in the United States, Newman could spend nine months in Europe. In a letter to Moe, Pauling even broke down how Newman should allocate his time, telling him to divide it between stints in England and Switzerland. Pauling did allow that it would be up to Newman to decide in which country he would spend six months and in which he would spend three.

Moe conveyed Pauling’s suggestions to Newman in a letter and, after a month passed with no response, he reached out again. This time, Newman replied and included a copy of the crucial April letter that had been lost the first time he sent it.

Newman further explained that he had not responded to Moe earlier because he wanted time to think things over. In doing so, he came to realize that his intentions for his Fellowship may not have been clear in his original application, as he had come to understand himself as being more of a scientific missionary than someone seeking to improve himself. As such, he did not think that having an uninterrupted Fellowship tenure was especially important. Newman also did not find any of Pauling’s suggestions to be very convincing because he oversaw a large research group at Ohio State and could not easily get away from an extended period overseas.

What Newman did want was for the Committee of Selection to accept as Fellowship time the three months that he had spent in 1949 visiting organic chemistry instructors. He also asked that the Foundation approve an additional six month period for him to work in 1951. If they could not see to doing so, Newman asked that his name be dropped as a Fellow, writing that

I would not want the hollow distinction of having my name listed when I know that those responsible for the activities of the Foundation can not find sufficient enthusiasm for my plans to allow for a small variation from conventional procedure.

Clearly aware that Newman was irked, Moe agreed to bring his case before the Committee and to speak with him the next time he was in New York.

Unbeknownst to Newman, while all of this was going on the Foundation was preparing to begin awarding Fellowships that would accommodate his specific situation, as well as others who faced similar circumstances. In the end, the Committee ultimately agreed with Newman on the matter and he remained a Fellow until 1951.

Pauling’s Guggenheim Work During His Battle With Nephritis

Pauling family portrait taken in 1941. Back of photograph is annotated, “1941. Daddy very ill.”

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

In 1941, Linus Pauling’s second year on the Committee of Selection for the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, he developed a serious renal disease, glomerulonephritis, that often proved fatal. The onset of this disease emerged during a period of travel that coincided with the Committee’s second meeting of the year, on March 8th and 9th. The night before the first meeting, swelling in Pauling’s face became so pronounced that he was forced to acknowledge it during his acceptance speech for the William H. Nichols Medal, granted to him by the New York Section of the American Chemical Society. In his remarks, Pauling joked

I am happy also that this occasion has brought me in touch with many old friends – with Paul Emmett and Joe Mayer and many others. Several of them said to me tonight that I appeared to be getting fat. This is not so. You know, when I was a boy in Oregon I used to go around a great deal in the green, damp Oregon woods, and I always came into contact with poison oak, which caused my face to swell and my eyes to swell shut, and me to apply so much lead acetate solution that it is a wonder that I didn’t die of lead poisoning. Yesterday I must have bumped into something similar, for my face began to swell, and I began to be afraid that I would have to speak here tonight with my eyes swollen shut – which I could have done, with the practice I have had speaking in the dark.

Well, while I was wondering what the responsible protein could have been, I decided that it was a visitation – that I was being punished for thinking wicked thoughts. The other day I said “It is too bad that something doesn’t happen to Senator Wheeler [Anti-interventionist Senator Burton Wheeler] – nothing serious, just something that would lay him up with his eyes shut for two or three weeks” and my wife said “No what you want is something that would keep his mouth shut – his eyes are closed already.”

After speaking with physicians from the Rockefeller Foundation who were able to properly diagnose him, Pauling made plans to see Thomas Addis, a renal disease specialist at Stanford. He did not, however, beg out of the Committee of Selection meetings, though he left immediately afterwards.

Once Pauling made it back to Pasadena, he was peppered with letters from Guggenheim Foundation Secretary Henry Allen Moe, who wanted Pauling’s input on applicants but, more pressingly, urged Pauling to take care of himself. Following a heavily restricted diet put forth by Dr. Addis, Pauling gradually improved and, by September, reported feeling much better.

Noting this, Moe asked Pauling if he would be interested in traveling to Buenos Aires for six months the following spring to represent the Foundation as a chemist interested in biological questions. Pauling was initially receptive to the idea, writing that it sounded “fun, and perhaps good for me,” but he eventually concluded that he was too busy with war work to seriously entertain the possibility. Though he remained on the Addis diet for quite a long time, Pauling’s most pressing issues with nephritis appeared to be largely behind him. However, five and half years later, Pauling still had to deal with the lingering effects of his poor health.

Thomas Addis, 1920s

In March 1947, Linus and Ava Helen were busy planning a trip to Oxford University, where Pauling was slated to begin a tenure as George Eastman Visiting Professor. Pauling had also been invited to receive an honorary doctorate from Cambridge that June. Knowing of these forthcoming travels, Addis suggested that Ava Helen take the lead in finding the couple a residence, one outfitted with kitchen suitable to preparing the types of foods that Pauling would need to stay as healthy as possible. The search proved difficult and was compounded by financial issues that Moe and the Foundation eventually helped to ameliorate.

Pauling’s delicate condition also led Addis to suggest that the Paulings travel across the Atlantic by boat rather than plane. But even with three months to go before their planned departure, arranging passage seemed close to impossible. As options began to run out, Pauling asked Moe if he would contact the British ambassador to the U.S., Lord Inverchapel, to see if any room might be available on a government ship. Moe was happy to do so, explaining Pauling’s situation to the diplomat and emphasizing its significance to the two nations’ scholarly relationship. Inverchapel made no promises in his reply, telling Moe that all routes were fully booked, but that he would place Pauling on a waiting list should anything arise. Pauling thanked Moe for trying, but also noted that the situation was less critical now, as Addis had given him the okay to fly and had placed him on a regimen in preparation.

Before he left for Oxford, Pauling got to thinking about Addis’ nephritis treatment and how well it had worked for him. Pauling thought it better than any other treatment then in use and wanted Addis to speak with researchers in England about it. Addis was eager to do so, but hamstrung by a lack of funding. Pauling relayed the details of Addis’ situation with Frank Aydelotte, the Chair of the Foundation’s Committee of Selection, who suggested that Addis could obtain a Guggenheim Fellowship to support his travel. Secretary Moe, on the other hand, did not think Guggenheim funds to be the best avenue of support and recommended that Addis try the Rockefeller Foundation first. If that did not work out, then Moe promised he would reconsider Addis’ case.

Richard Lippman, circa 1950s

Thomas Addis never received a Guggenheim Fellowship, but after he passed away in 1949, his colleague Richard Lippman did. Lippman had worked on renal disease with Addis for two years at the Stanford University School of Medicine in San Francisco, and had also served in the Medical Reserve Corps during the Second World War. After concluding his stint with Addis, Lippman moved south to the Institute for Medical Research at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, where he also became Pauling’s personal physician.

With much support from Pauling, Lippman applied for a 1950 Guggenheim Fellowship to go towards the cost of color plates for a book that he had written and to hire an assistant to help him review Addis’ papers. Pauling found Lippman’s proposals “very important in all their aspects” and they ultimately won generous support, including a $3,600 stipend for one year, $1,500 for working with Addis’ papers, and $1,500 towards the publication of his book. (A $500 Dictaphone was not approved.) Lippman received a renewal the following year, garnering another $3,600 to research renal functions and $1,400 to study Addis’ papers.

In 1960, Pauling himself applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship to support his own work, noting in his application that he had “conquered” his nephritis. Moe was very happy to hear this as he still remembered how Pauling had experienced his first acute episode around the time of the 1941 Committee meeting. In the intervening years, Moe helped navigate some of the logistical consequences of Pauling’s illness and Pauling used his own experience with the disease to put forth quality candidates for Guggenheim Fellowships.

The Fellowship of Walter Pitts

Walter Pitts

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

Linus Pauling’s roles on two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation committees – the Committee of Selection and the Advisory Board – brought with them several responsibilities. Much of the work that he took on, including judging applications and recommending candidates from the outside, was fairly routine. In other instances, Pauling was asked to perform duties that went above and beyond those typically required of his committee colleagues. One such instance came about with the curious case of a 1945 Fellowship granted to a mathematical logician, Walter Pitts.

A brilliant, complex individual, Detroit native Walter Pitts was shuttling between studies at MIT and private sector work during the time of his Guggenheim award. At some point after beginning his Fellowship, Pitts broke a vertebra and ended up in a Los Angeles hospital. The neurophysiologist Warren McCulloch, who was working with Pitts to develop a logic of nerve activities, wrote to Henry Allen Moe, the Secretary of the Guggenheim Foundation, that Pitts was restless and wanting to leave the hospital against his doctors’ recommendations. As a salve, McCulloch hoped Moe could arrange for “some interesting young men” to visit Pitts and keep him occupied.

Moe, in turn, wrote to Pauling and asked that he look into the details of Pitts’s condition and the status of his finances. If it seemed necessary, the Guggenheim Foundation would agree to pay for Pitts’s transfer to the University of California Hospital in San Francisco, where he could interact with, and even be treated by, neurosurgeon Howard Nafziger.

By the time that Pauling had tracked Pitts down, he found that he was out of the hospital and in a cast. Pauling also learned that Pitts was suffering from a compression fracture, which was not causing too much trouble, and that his spinal cord was not damaged. Pitts made plans to visit Pauling at Caltech in about two weeks, a meeting that Pauling was looking forward to because of his interest in Pitts’s research connecting complex mathematical calculations to problems in physiology and medicine. Pauling also reported that Pitts was planning a trip to Mexico City, despite the need to continue wearing his cast for about six months. Moe was relieved to learn that the two planned to meet in person.

Shortly before the time of that meeting, Jerome Lettvin, Pitts’s friend and physician, called Pauling to ask if he knew of any places in the Pasadena area where he and Pitts might stay while Pitts continued his recovery. Linus and Ava Helen promptly began searching for possibilities and ultimately arranged for Pitts to stay in a guest apartment owned by Edward Crellin, a retired Pasadena steel magnate and large donor to Caltech’s chemistry division. The next day, Pitts called to say that a room at another friend’s place in Covina had opened up and they would not need the Crellin apartment after all. Though he was slightly confused by the situation, Pauling was not bothered.

Henry Allen Moe, on the other hand, was beginning to worry. He had only received one telegraph about the situation so far, and Lettvin had not responded to additional requests for information. Pitts was receiving a $2,000 stipend at $166 a month and, with no other resources, Moe did not think it would be enough to get by. At their scheduled meeting, Pauling was specifically charged with learning more about Pitts’s financial needs.

As it turned out, that meeting never took place. After Pitts failed to show, Pauling tracked him down anew and found that he was back in the hospital, this time for surgery related to a puncture wound on his knee that was not healing. Pauling initiated contact and Pitts once again made plans to see Pauling once he had been discharged. Pauling also convinced Pitts to submit a statement of the extra expenses that he had incurred because of his injuries. The two would follow up on these and other issues when they talked in person.

Once they had finally met, Pauling sent Moe his report. “Pitts is a strange fellow,” he confided, but “extremely able” in matters related to both mathematics and physiology. Notably, Pauling had pressed Pitts for his opinion of the physicist Nicolas Rashevsky, who had also looked to apply mathematics to biological phenomena. Pitts’s take agreed with Pauling’s, leading Pauling to deduce that he had “common sense” in addition to scholarly acumen. “Nevertheless, he is strange,” Pauling wrote, “one of the strange, brilliant people.”

From what he could tell, Pauling also felt Pitts to be recovering as expected, though he was still in a cast and limping from his knee operation. The hospital statement for Pitts’s surgery was likewise in hand, but Pitts had already made a $75 down payment and did not want to be reimbursed. Nonetheless, Pauling felt they should still follow Moe’s suggestion of providing medical funds so that Pitts could get his teeth fixed.

Happily, after all of his difficulties Pitts was eventually able to carry out his work as a Fellow, which resulted in a joint paper, published with Warren McCulloch, on neurological functions related to the perception of forms. Pitts was awarded another Guggenheim Fellowship a year later. He is remembered today as having been a major figure in the field of generative sciences who made significant theoretical contributions to areas of study including neuroscience, computer science and artificial intelligence.

The Guggenheim Foundation during the Second World War

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

The onset of World War II greatly reduced the quantity of applicants seeking fellowship support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Where 1,700 people had applied for support in 1939, only 1,200 applications were submitted in 1940. At the outset, this dip didn’t concern Foundation Secretary Henry Allen Moe too terribly much since, as he wrote to Linus Pauling, there was less “sheer junk” making its way into the pool.

By 1942, a year after the United States entered the war, the number of applications had dropped to 800. By then Moe was telling Pauling that very few were “first-rate” and expressed hope that more would come in past the submission deadline.

In the midst of these dim circumstances, Moe described the Foundation as “only a candle in the dark,” and asked Pauling and other Committee of Selection members for candidate suggestions. Pauling responded by recommending Verner Schomaker, a Ph.D. student working in his Caltech laboratory.

For Pauling, Schomaker was a good fit on multiple levels, partly because he was relatively young. (As Pauling wrote to Moe, “In these days especially, I think that the young men need encouragement.”) It is worth noting as well that Pauling’s encouragement may have come across like coercion, with Schomaker later recalling that “Pauling had forced me to apply for the Guggenheim Fellowship.”

Verner Schomaker, 1953. Credit: Caltech Archives.

Regardless of the circumstances, Schomaker was close to completing his Ph.D. and sought to do work with Harvard chemist E. Bright Wilson – also a Pauling protege – on molecular spectroscopy. In his letter of reference, Pauling told Moe that Schomaker “may well be the most able man among those receiving doctorates in chemistry here in the last five years.” Blessed with “great native ability,” Shomaker was well-trained, very interested in his work, thorough, and original. That said, Pauling perceived that Schomaker’s “feeling of inferiority and self deprecation” had kept him from publishing his results to that point. Once he was awarded the Fellowship, Pauling hoped that this would change.

As the United States war effort began to take up more researchers’ time, many Fellows were obligated to defer their Guggenheim projects. Though he was not involved directly with war work, Schomaker felt a similar pressure, and six months after his $2,000 grant had been approved, he asked for a deferral so that he might finish publishing an article that he had been working on. Upon consultation, Pauling advised that he split his twelve months of Foundation support over two years, which would enable him to spend more time back east. Schomaker agreed, and made plans to study under George Kistiakowsky at Michigan in addition to his stint with Bright Wilson.

During the war, Fellows were also more inclined to back out of their projects entirely. This created a new set of problems for Secretary Moe, who was left scrambling to fill gaps after final decisions appeared to have been made. Verner Schomaker was part of this trend: a month after asking for a deferral, he attempted to resign the remainder of his tenure because he began to feel overloaded. Of particular concern was an increased teaching load that he had been asked to take on, the result of so many others being called away to the war effort.

In explaining this situation, Pauling confided to Moe that Schomaker’s “personality is rather complex” and sometimes got in the way of him completing tasks. Pauling still wanted his student to finish the Fellowship and, thus prompted, Moe decided not to accept his resignation. In the end, Schomaker ultimately used his Guggenheim funds to go to Copenhagen in 1947, where he was able to gain insight on the occurrence of phase-shift in diffraction.

As the war years moved forward and application numbers declined, Moe remained committed to not lowering the Foundation’s standards. As a result, no Fellowships in mathematics, physics or chemistry were awarded in 1943, and only a handful were granted in the biological sciences. Instead, most of the Fellowships that were extended that year went towards support of the arts and humanities.

Amidst these circumstances, Moe and the Foundation worked to reorganize their guidelines such that Fellows were allowed to carry out their war work – and contribute to “the progress, or survival, of our civilization” – by deferring the terms of their awards or by using their Guggenheim support to assist them in their government-sponsored initiatives. In 1942, the Trustees also appropriated $7,500 for additional fellowships related to emergency war work, to be distributed at any point during the year.

One recipient of this special funding was Glenn T. Trewartha of the University of Wisconsin. The Army and Navy both had requested that Trewartha revise his study, A Reconnaissance Geography of Japan, that he had first published in 1934 with the assistance of a Guggenheim Fellowship. This time around, Trewartha asked for $2,250 for five months, an amount Pauling agreed was appropriate. In the end, he was awarded $3,000 for twelve months.

Another strategy to continue awarding Fellowships without lowering selection standards was to redirect money towards researchers who might not normally have had the capacity to apply. In particular, Moe and the Trustees anticipated that many professors would have a lighter teaching load, given that a large percentage of their students had been conscripted into military service. The Foundation accordingly chose to lend assistance to several scholars of this type by providing money not allocated for more traditional Fellowships.

Though the war years required numerous adjustments, Moe kept much of his focus on an eventual return to more normal functions. In his communications with the Committee of Selection, Moe particularly emphasized the need to be ready for the reintegration of academic personnel into non-war activities. To this end, the Foundation developed a Post-Service Fellowship that offered awards of $2,500 per year to help those transitioning out of service in the armed forces or with the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Pauling, who was busy working on national defense projects himself, was especially pleased to learn that the Foundation would be emphasizing fundamental research for applicants who had completed their wartime assignments.

As hints that the war might be coming to an end began to enter the conversation, Moe expected to receive an increasing number of applications for Post-Service Fellowships. The first of these was awarded in 1943 to Lieutenant George P. Cuttino, who applied while still on active duty in North Africa. Cuttino’s funding was meant to support his study of Anglo-French relations during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The following year, a Post-Service grant in chemistry went to Melvin Calvin, recently removed from a stint with the OSRD and, in 1961, the recipient of a Nobel Prize for his work on photosynthesis. With his Fellowship, Calvin studied new organic synthesis methods at Moscow State University in the Soviet Union.

During the last of the war years, the Post-Service Fellowships did not catch on to the degree that Moe had anticipated. In 1945, Moe had scheduled an extra summer meeting of the Committee of Selection specifically for evaluation of Post-Service Fellowships, but with only sixty applications in hand, he decided to postpone the meeting until September.

After the war, applications quickly increased for mathematics and the sciences, but complications with selection continued to arise. For instance, when W. G. McMillan, Jr. applied in 1945, his most recent work had been on separating Uranium-235 for the Manhattan Project, which was top secret. As a Fellow, McMillan wished to work with Edward Teller at the University of Chicago, but because McMillan could not share his experience, Moe was uncertain how to judge his candidacy. Pauling was less concerned; McMillan’s references were solid and Teller could supply more information if necessary. The Committee of Selection agreed and granted him a Fellowship. 

The war years proved to be a difficult period for the Guggenheim Foundation, which encountered numerous obstacles to fulfilling its mission, especially with regards to science. But like many other institutions at the time, it found ways to adapt and fulfill its goals while also supporting the broader war effort.

Pauling’s Input on Some Notable Guggenheim Applicants

Linus Pauling, 1950s

[Pauling and the Guggenheim Foundation]

During the years of Linus Pauling’s association with the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, many high profile individuals were awarded fellowships. The year 1951, for instance, saw Rachel Carson of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service – and future author of the environmental classic Silent Spring – awarded $3,000 for a one-year study of the ecology of Atlantic coast animals. That same year, the experimental poet e. e. cummings received $3,000 to support his creative writing. Though in many cases Pauling’s only involvement was as a voter, he occasionally spoke to or was in contact with people who had achieved or would gain wider recognition.

Garrett Hardin

In 1952 Henry Allen Moe, the Foundation’s Secretary, was looking for an assistant to help him comb through Fellowship applications. One person he had in mind was Garrett Hardin, a biologist at the Santa Barbara College of the University of California. During his tenure at Santa Barbara, Hardin had focused on improving the school’s biology curriculum. Partly as a result of this work, Hardin authored an extremely successful textbook titled Biology: Its Human Implications that was earning him some $10,000 per year in royalties.

Moe feared that the financial windfall from the biology text would put Hardin in a position to turn down any offers to leave California and devote time to tasks outside of revising and updating his book. Regardless, Moe wanted Pauling to interview Hardin and then supply his opinion on whether or not the biologist would be a good fit for the Foundation. Hardin had applied for a Fellowship that year, and Moe suggested that Pauling use this as a pretense for the interview. Moe also wanted Pauling and Ava Helen to visit as a couple with Hardin and his wife Jane to help round out a fuller and clearer impression. Pauling was advised that he could treat the trip as a vacation for which he would be reimbursed by the Foundation.

Pauling agreed to the task, noting that he did not need the Foundation to pay for his trip since he already had a funded visit to Ventura County on the calendar, to be sponsored by a high school teachers group. After meeting with the teachers, Pauling spoke with Hardin and stayed overnight, something he would have ended up doing anyway since a large storm had come in.

Having completed his trip, Pauling reported that he did not think Hardin would be a good candidate to assist Moe, nor even a good candidate for a Fellowship. According to Pauling, Hardin was “too helter-skelter in his actions, and probably also in his thinking” to work well as an assistant. And while he appeared to form good solid opinions of others, Pauling harbored doubts about Hardin’s thoroughness, a quality of high importance for Moe’s assistants.

Pauling’s main objection to Hardin’s Fellowship application was that the plan that it outlined was too weak. In his proposal, Hardin indicated a desire to “harmonize” the disagreement between R. A. Fischer and Sewall Wright’s dueling interpretations of Theodosius Dobzhansky’s work on population genetics. Wright thought that Dobzhansky’s views supported his own “shifting balance” theory, which posited that random genetic drift could overcome the stability of isolated populations created by natural selection. Fischer disagreed with this notion.

When Pauling pressed Hardin to explain how he would harmonize the opposing viewpoints, Hardin apparently lost his nerve and admitted to an incomplete understanding of Wright and Dobzhansky’s positions. Hardin further disappointed Pauling when he criticized George Gaylord Simpson’s books on evolution by saying that they had many mistakes in them, without qualifying that Simpson was a very good paleontologist and popular science writer. A week after Pauling submitted his report, Moe replied that he and Associate Secretary James F. Mathias had been admiring Pauling’s letter as a “complete, and completely perfect, communication” that told them all they needed to know and more.

While he was neither offered the assistant position nor a Fellowship, Garrett Hardin went on to become a popular, if controversial, science writer. Of particular note was his 1968 book The Tragedy of the Commons, which addressed overpopulation as moral rather than a technological problem. Many of his subsequent books amplified this position.

George Gamow

In 1952, after twelve years of service, Pauling rotated off of the Committee of Selection, but Moe continued to request his input on certain applicants, especially for those individuals working on research close to his own. In one instance, when solicited in 1956, Pauling thought there was “no doubt” that Columbia University biochemist Erwin Chargaff deserved another Guggenheim to extend his recent work with DNA.

The following year, Pauling took a contrary view in recommending against George Washington University physicist and cosmologist George Gamow, who was working on protein synthesis. Though he had spent little time studying protein structure, Gamow sought funding for a trip to England to learn more about it with Frederick Sanger and Francis Crick. Pauling did not imagine that Sanger and Crick particularly wanted Gamow to make the visit and did not expect Gamow to make a substantial contribution to the field. For Pauling, the small number of papers that Gamow had already published on the topic did not say anything especially new and were unlikely to stand up once all the open questions had been settled.

Pauling considered Gamow to be a very good popular science writer, but not a top-tier scientist in any sense. This assessment was surely colored by a personal exchange wherein Gamow sent Pauling a manuscript that he intended to publish on protein structures the put forth ideas very similar to those formulated by Pauling and Robert Corey. In going through the paper, Pauling found a flaw in Gamow’s argument that threw off his numbers. But when Pauling wrote him about it, not only did Gamow fail to respond, he later published the manuscript without taking Pauling’s criticism into account.

Timothy Leary. Credit: Philip H. Bailey

Another applicant whom Moe asked Pauling to review was psychologist Timothy Leary, who submitted a proposal in 1959. While on faculty at Harvard, Leary began working with Richard Alpert to research the psychological effects of psilocybin, a potential overlap with Pauling’s interests in the biochemical basis of mental diseases.

Moe passed the application along to Pauling telling him that others had already looked it over, at which point Pauling saw that one literary critic had called it “horrible!” and a psychologist had dismissed the ideas as “pseudo-science.” Moe and board member E. B. Wilson were not so sure and wanted Pauling’s open mind to provide an opinion. If Pauling thought it necessary, Moe told him he should meet with Leary in person.

Pauling quickly decided that a meeting would not be necessary. Though the plan was very original, Pauling did not think it had much chance of going anywhere were it funded. That said, Pauling also admitted that his ignorance of some of the subject matter had the potential to obscure any of the possibilities and so made no formal recommendation either way. Moe appreciated Pauling looking at Leary’s application and figured he was “chasing the wrong hunch.” In the end, Leary and Alpert carried out their research without support from the Guggenheim Foundation but had their project shut down by Harvard in 1963. Soon afterward, Leary became a prominent figure promoting the use of psychedelics.

Linus Pauling’s association with the Guggenheim Foundation provided him with a great many opportunities to meet and learn about a wide array of people whom he would not otherwise have known. That Henry Allen Moe turned to Pauling for his opinion on such a diverse group of people, including several who worked outside of Pauling’s areas of expertise, is indicative of the high value that Moe placed on Pauling’s judgments.

Reading for the Guggenheim Foundation

Linus Pauling, reading with Linus Jr., 1925.

[Happy 12th birthday to us! We began this venture in early March 2008 and today, nearly 800,000 words later, we’re excited to still be exploring the life and impact of Linus Pauling. We celebrate by continuing our close look at Pauling’s work for the Guggenheim Foundation.]

As a member of both the Committee of Selection and the Advisory Board for the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Linus Pauling not only read the thick application digests prepared by Foundation Secretary Henry Allen Moe each year, he also read books authored by select applicants. Doing so helped Pauling to make more informed decisions when casting his vote on whether or not to award a Fellowship. Given his background as a scientist, Pauling’s reading also helped Moe and other committee members better understand the nature and import of particular applicants’ work.

Some of the books that Pauling read during his time on the Committee aligned fairly closely to his scientific interests. Among these were Von Zahlen und Figuren by Hans Rademacher and Otto Toeplitz, and Mathematics and the Imagination by Edward Kasner and James R. Newman. Pauling also delved into books on history and sociology, The Mind of the South by W. J. Cash being one of them.

Reading in Kyoto, Japan, 1955

Fiction titles likewise made their way onto the reading list, including Jesse Stuart’s Taps for Private Tussie, Dorothy Baker’s Trio, Millen Brand’s Outward Room, Nelson Algren’s Never Come Morning, Lawrence Lipton’s Brother, the Laugh is Bitter, Paul Goodman’s Grand Piano and Don Juan, and Vladimir Nabokov’s Camera Obscura and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

Sometimes Pauling was able to read these books on his train rides home from Committee meetings in New York; when he reached Pasadena, he would send the books back to Moe and share his opinions. These evaluations were just as straightforward as those that he submitted when evaluating scientific proposals. He liked, for instance, Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising, thought Wallace Stegner was “first rate,” and that Eudora Welty was a “crackerjack” offering “wonderful” stories.

His negative assessments were just as explicit. Vladimir Pozner’s First Harvest, was “lacking in penetration” and ill translated, Edward Newhouse was “good but rather flashy,” and Christina Stead was “no good” in part due to a style that was “labored and verbose.”

The fiction authors Pauling read for his first Committee of Selection meeting in 1940 were Christine Weston and Harold Sinclair. Pauling judged Sinclair to be “a first-class man” and expressed no objections to his fellowship being renewed, provided that he also be recommended by a specialist. (As it turned out, no specialist made such a recommendation and Sinclair’s support was not renewed. )

Pauling was more critical of Weston’s Be Thou the Bride, which followed two families in Maine through a tale of adultery, arson, and other dramatic events. For Pauling, the writing just wasn’t there, and in his report to Moe he suggested that

He [sic] is a careless writer, far from precise in the use of words and even capable of making gross grammatical errors. His [sic] thinking is similarly careless.

Unlike Sinclair though, the specialist assigned to Weston’s novel recommended it, and she was awarded a Fellowship that year. Weston would apply again in 1943 after having written Indigo, which was set in India around the time of the First World War. This time Pauling’s opinions were not recorded and Weston did not receive a Fellowship.

Pauling also read books that overlapped more directly with his areas of expertise. In 1942, Muriel Rukeyser had just published a biography of the nineteenth-century American physicist Willard Gibbs, and Moe was particularly interested in Pauling’s opinion of the text.

The reviews were mixed at best. While he found her “clever” and a good writer, it was clear to Pauling that Rukeyser did not understand Gibbs and had based much of her work on secondary sources. In one particularly glaring passage, Rukeyser had presented Gibbs’ phase rule as a definition when it was anything but. Moreover, when she applied the rule to specific cases, she conflated salt – as in sodium chloride – with the much broader category of salt compounds. Pauling then explained to Moe how he would write about the phase rule were he taking on Rukeyser’s project.

Interestingly enough, the criticism did not sink in. In his reply, Moe offered that it was “very sweet” of Pauling to help him understand some of the science, even though it had mostly remained impenetrable. Moe also noted that others to whom he had spoken, including Committee of Selection members E. B. Wilson and Florence R. Sabin, had liked Rukeyser’s book.

Pauling was frustrated by this response, writing Moe, “Damn it, I wasn’t trying to be sweet when I wrote to you about Miss Rukeyser’s book.” He explained again the nature of his complaints but also expressed a willingness to reassess if Moe did not think the criticisms relevant. The Committee of Selection must have thought they were not as Rukeyser was ultimately granted a Fellowship that year.

In other instances, Pauling’s opinion held serve. When anthropologist Victor von Hagen applied for a 1949 Fellowship, Pauling felt compelled to read his book, Aztec and Mayan Paper Makers, published a few years earlier.

Once done, Pauling came away less than impressed. The only argument that he found interesting was that the Aztecs and Maya had made paper from fig tree bark rather than agave, but even this struck Pauling as old news — he suspected “some German investigators” had made the discovery as early as 1910. The presence of typos – like setting the date of the first European paper mill in Mexico at 1850 rather than 1550 or 1580 – also grated. For Pauling the book did not justify a Fellowship, an assessment with which Moe and the rest of the committee agreed.

Herman and Nina Schneider, who wrote science books for children, applied for a 1952 Fellowship. In years past, they had published several titles including How Big is Big?, You Among the Stars, and Let’s Look Under the City. Pauling read them and was, once again, underwhelmed. While some of the experiments they described were clever, others were no good at all. Pauling noted that he had discussed the books with his son Peter, who pointed out that the authors’ were incorrect in describing how an ice cube in a mitten would stay colder longer than one left unwrapped. As Pauling told Moe, both of the ice cubes would remain at the same temperature, but the wrapped one would melt more slowly.

Pauling was also disappointed in the Schneiders’ illustrations. One depicting a passenger-laden ski lift placed the center of mass in the wrong location. Other images were confusing because of poor perspectives. On the contrary, Pauling found that Fritz Kahn’s Man in Structure and Function, though written for adults, showed the type of imagination needed for a children’s book. So while he did not support a fellowship for the Schneiders, he would for Kahn were he interested.

Being on the Guggenheim Foundation’s Committee of Selection gave Pauling the chance to read many books he would not have read otherwise. And like other experiences of being on the Committee, Pauling genuinely appreciated the opportunity, though his assessments did not always carry the day.