Pauling’s Nobel Peace Prize

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New York Times, October 11, 1963.

[Part 3 of 6]

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

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


 

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Linus Pauling and Gunnar Jahn, 1963.

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

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

In his memo, Pauling wrote

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

And indeed, there was not.

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


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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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Verdensgang (Olso), December 14, 1963.

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

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

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

 


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Pauling’s Nobel Peace medal, obverse.

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

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Pauling’s Peace medal, reverse.

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

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Pauling’s Nobel Peace certificate.


 

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New York Times, October 11, 1963.

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

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

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

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

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

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Stockholmns Tidinigen, December 19, 1963.

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

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

The Peace Prize

At Deer Flat Ranch, 1964.

At Deer Flat Ranch, 1964. Arthur Herzog, photographer.

Creative Nonfiction by Melinda Gormley and Melissae Fellet

Big Sur and Pasadena, October 10, 1963

There was a knock at the door. Linus Pauling, the 1954 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, got up from the breakfast table to greet a forest ranger from the nearby Salmon Creek station in Big Sur, California. The weather was pleasant, typical for fall on this Thursday morning of October 10, 1963.

“Good morning,” said the freshly shaven Pauling. White hair curled around his ears and at the nape of his neck. It had starting thinning at the temples years ago, and now at the age of 62, his receding hairline left the top of his head practically bald.

“Good morning Dr. Pauling,” the ranger said. “Your daughter called the station. She would like to speak with you.”

Pauling and his wife, Ava Helen, cherished the remoteness and wildness of their second home along the rugged coast of central California. Deer Flat Ranch was a 122-acre parcel of land overlooking the Pacific Ocean that they had purchased with the award money from Pauling’s Nobel Prize. With no electricity and no telephone, it was where they went to slow down from their usually hectic lecturing and travel schedules.

“Do you know what about?” Fear flickered in Pauling’s usually twinkling blue eyes.

The ranger tried to allay his concern. “It’s not serious.”

The ranger knew why Linda had called and he had promised not to ruin the surprise. Pauling likely relayed the news to Ava Helen when he returned to the table where she sat eating breakfast with their two guests.

A head taller than his petite wife, Pauling had found a match in determination and devotion when they’d met as undergraduate students in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1922. For the 40 years of their marriage, they’d lived in Pasadena. In his first 15 years there, Pauling had transitioned from Ph.D. student to chairman of the chemistry department at the California Institute of Technology. While he focused on his research and career, Ava Helen raised their four children. Now their children had families of their own.

The car jostled as they drove the mile of bumpy dirt road between their home and the ranger station. It was unusual for one of their children to try to contact them in Big Sur, and they likely tried to figure out why Linda had called.

“Daddy, have you heard the news?” Linda asked excitedly, when Pauling returned her call.

“No. What news?”

Ava Helen looked on through cat-rimmed glasses.

“You’ve been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!” Pauling, stunned and unable to talk, passed the phone to his wife.


Pauling with Gunnar Jahn, ca. 1960s.

Pauling with Gunnar Jahn, ca. 1960s.

Linus Pauling, and his wife, Ava Helen, arrived at the Norwegian Nobel Institute for their 11:00 AM meeting with Gunnar Jahn. Pauling was likely dressed in a suit and tie. His hair curled around his ears and at the nape of his neck, and at 61 years of age, it had been thin on top for some time now. The petite Ava Helen stood a head shorter than him. Her spirit and conviction matched her husband’s and over thirty-nine and a half years of marriage they had come to see eye to eye on many civil rights and human rights issues.

A year and a half had passed since the 1954 Nobel Prize winning chemist had visited in spring of ’61 to deliver the opening address for the Conference against the Spread of Nuclear Weapons. Gunnar had become a good friend of the Paulings in recent years. The two men held similar views about nuclear disarmament and Linus appreciated his words of encouragement.

The couple was met by Gunnar’s secretary and taken to his office. As Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, he was one-fifth of the panel who determined the recipients for the Nobel Peace Prize each year.

Everyone exchanged greetings before sitting down. Gunnar seemed to speak and move a little more slowly with each passing year.

Eventually Gunnar explained why he had called them to his office. “Dr. Pauling, I tried to get the Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 1962 to you.” Ava Helen and Linus were likely surprised to hear such confidential information.

Gunnar continued, his admiration evident. “I think that you are the most outstanding peace workers in the world. But only one of the four would agree with me. I told them, ‘If you won’t give it to Dr. Pauling, there won’t be any Peace Prize this year.'”

Perhaps Gunnar Jahn slowed down at two months shy of 79, but he still had moxie. During 1962 the Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded.


Celebrating in Pasadena, 1963.

Celebrating in Pasadena, 1963.

Nearly a year had passed between the day that the Paulings sat in Gunnar Jahn’s office and Pauling received his daughter’s phone call and learning that in 1963 he was being awarded the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize.

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling were planning to celebrate that day, but for a different reason. More than 200 nuclear tests by the United States and Soviet Union during 1961 and 1962 had forced the countries’ leaders into diplomatic talks about prohibiting nuclear weapons testing, finally facing an issue that had been in the public debates for decades. The product of those talks, the Limited Test Ban Treaty, went in to effect that same October day in 1963. The treaty allowed underground testing of nuclear weapons, yet outlawed testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater.

Pauling was one of many scientists who had been involved in the public debates around nuclear weapons testing, and he had worked for more than fifteen years to seek an international agreement of disarmament. Enacting the Limited Test Ban Treaty was a first step toward the peaceful world that Pauling envisioned, and the Norwegian awards committee recognized his ceaseless political efforts with the Nobel Peace Prize.

The phone at the ranger station in Big Sur rang with frequent calls, and Pauling responded to reporters’ questions about the prize for the next several hours.

“It is recognition of the work I and other scientists have been doing in educating people about the need for a treaty to end nuclear testing.”

“I have regretted the necessity of taking time from my scientific work for activities in the direction of world peace. But I have no doubt whatever about the correctness of my decisions. I’m glad I’ve done what I have done. I have no regrets.”

“I have no doubt that I shall continue to express my opinion publicly about any issue I feel is important and about which I feel I have something to say.”

He and Ava Helen drove back to their ranch to collect some of their things and then decided to drive the roughly 300 miles to their home in Pasadena. In their rush to get home, they forgot the bottle of champagne they had planned to drink that night to celebrate the Limited Test Ban Treaty.

Reporters went to the Pauling’s home in Pasadena. Not finding him there, many waited, ready to take pictures and ask questions.

Pauling arrived ready too. Hours of interviews at the Salmon Creek Ranger Station, along with the long drive home, had given him time to craft responses to the questions reporters asked most.

“Which of your two Nobel Prizes do you consider more significant?” asked a reporter from the Associated Press.

“Today’s, I think, perhaps because I feel so strongly about the need for peace and an end to human suffering from wars,” Pauling responded. “There may be another reason, too. Perhaps it’s because I view today’s prize as a reward for conscience and duty – the earlier prize came as a result of work that I enjoy so much. I have made many sacrifices over the years for the cause of peace. I would have been happier – except for the dictates of my conscience – to work solely in scientific fields.”

Following his curiosity and conscience Pauling achieved high public recognition as both a scientist and political activist. His two unshared Nobel Prizes – the 1954 prize in chemistry and 1962 peace prize – attest to this as do the many other accolades he received throughout his life.

Linus Pauling Receives the Nobel Peace Prize

The Pauling family anticipating Linus Pauling's Nobel lecture, December 11, 1963. (Photo credit: Aftenposten)

The Pauling family anticipating Linus Pauling’s Nobel lecture, December 11, 1963. (Photo credit: Aftenposten)

On December 10th, 1963, Linus Pauling accepted the belated Nobel Peace Prize for 1962. Attended by the Norwegian royal family and various government representatives, the ceremonies took place in Festival Hall at the University of Oslo in Norway – separate, as per tradition, from the other Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm, Sweden. Pauling shared the ceremonies with the winners of the 1963 Nobel Peace Prize – an award split between the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies in commemoration of the centennial of the founding of the Red Cross.

Gunnar Jahn, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, introduced Pauling before presenting him with the prize. In his remarks, Jahn reconstructed the advances and setbacks of the post-war peace movement in which Pauling had so prominently operated since the dropping of atomic bombs by the United States on Japan. Escalating Cold War tensions and the arms race soon rendered as unlikely any hopes for an immediate era of peace. The nascent post-war peace movement, according to Jahn, “lost impetus and faded away. But Linus Pauling marched on: for him retreat was impossible.”

While Pauling”s peace work was surely political in nature, Jahn drew attention to the importance of Pauling’s scientific attitude in researching and determining the effects that atmospheric radiation may have on future generations. Even critics of Pauling, including the physicist and nuclear weapons engineer Edward Teller, did not fundamentally disagree with him concerning the harmfulness of fallout from nuclear tests. Where Teller and Pauling did conflict centered more on questions as to whether or not these harmful effects outweighed the advantages that they provided to the United States with respect to the Soviets. Pauling thought they did; Teller disagreed.

Pauling and Gunnar Jahn, ca. 1963.

Pauling and Gunnar Jahn, ca. 1963.

Jahn then recounted how the public started paying close attention to Pauling in 1958 as he presented to United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld a petition signed by 11,021 scientists from fifty different countries calling for the end of above-ground nuclear weapons testing. Because of the petition, Pauling was called before Congress and questioned about alleged communist ties which, not for the first time, he denied. By Jahn’s estimation, the hearing only served to make Pauling a more popular and sympathetic character and he continued to speak out more and more.

For Jahn, Pauling’s 1961 visit to Moscow, during which he delivered a lecture on disarmament to the Soviet Academy of Science, illustrated Pauling’s importance in propelling the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which came into effect two years later. While there, Pauling unsuccessfully sought to meet with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Unbowed, he instead sent Khrushchev two letters and a draft nuclear test ban agreement. “In the main,” Jahn emphasized, Pauling’s

proposal tallies with the test-ban agreement of July 23, 1963.  Yet no one would suggest that the nuclear-test ban in itself is the work of Linus Pauling… But, does anyone believe that this treaty would have been reached now, if there had been no responsible scientist who, tirelessly, unflinchingly, year in year out, had impressed on the authorities and on the general public the real menace of nuclear tests?

Ultimately, for Jahn, it was as a scientist that Pauling helped move the world toward peace. Looking forward, Pauling’s proposed World Council for Peace Research would bring together bright minds from the sciences and humanities under the auspices of the United Nations in hopes of seeking out new institutional models and paths of diplomacy for a nuclear-armed world. Jahn closed by suggesting that “through his campaign Linus Pauling manifests the ethical responsibility which science – in his opinion – bears for the fate of mankind, today and in the future.”


Associated Press photo published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 10, 1963.

Associated Press photo published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 10, 1963.

After concluding, Jahn called Pauling to the stage; applause and a standing ovation from the crowd quickly followed. After the applause had died down and Jahn presented Pauling with the gold Nobel medal and a certificate, Pauling delivered a brief acceptance speech, calling the prize “the greatest honor that any person can be given.” But Pauling also recognized that his prize was likewise a testament to “the work of many other people who have striven to bring hope for permanent peace to a world that now contains nuclear weapons that might destroy our civilization.”

Pauling went on to draw similarities between himself, the first scientist to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Alfred Nobel, who endowed the Nobel Foundation. Both were chemical engineers interested in scientific nomenclature and atomic structure. Both owned patents on explosive devises – Nobel the inventor of dynamite and Pauling an expert on rocket propellants and explosive powders whose skills came to bear during World War II. And both expanded their interests into biology and medicine as well. Many had described Nobel as a pessimist, but Pauling wished to assure his audience that this was not the case and that, like himself, Nobel was an optimist who saw it as “worthwhile to encourage work for fraternity among nations”


Pauling, holding the case containing his Nobel diploma, being congratulated by Norwegian King Olav V. Image originally published in Morgenbladet, December 11, 1963.

Pauling, holding the case containing his Nobel certificate, being congratulated by Norwegian King Olav V. Image originally published in Morgenbladet, December 11, 1963.

The following day, December 11th, Pauling gave his Nobel Lecture, “Science and Peace.” In it he described how the advent of nuclear bombs was “forcing us to move into a new period in the history of the world, a period of peace and reason.” Development of nuclear weapons showed how science and peace were closely related. Not only were scientists involved in the creation of nuclear weapons, they had also been a leading group in the peace movement, bringing public awareness to the dangers of such weapons.

Pauling recounted how Leo Szilard – whose 1939 letter to President Roosevelt (and co-signed by Albert Einstein) had led to the Manhattan Project – urged Roosevelt in 1945 to control nuclear weapons through an international system, a plea that was issued before the first bombs had been dropped. While Szilard’s appeal fell flat, it was followed, in 1946, by the creation of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, a group overseen by Szilard, Einstein and seven others, including Pauling. Over the next five years, the committee warned of the potentially catastrophic consequences of nuclear war and advocated for the only defense possible: “law and order” along with a “future thinking that must prevent wars.”

Pauling's Nobel certificate, 1963.

Pauling’s Nobel certificate, 1963.

Other groups followed. For Pauling, the Pugwash Conferences, headed by Bertrand Russell from 1957 to 1963, were particularly influential in bringing attention to the harmful effects of nuclear testing and, ultimately, the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty. It was during this time that nuclear fallout, the subject of Pauling’s 1958 petition, became of greater concern. The importance of fallout centered on the potential genetic mutations to which several generations would be exposed. Pauling quoted the recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy to support his point: “The loss of even one human life, or malformation of even one baby – who may be born long after we are gone – should be of concern to us all.”

As matters stood in 1963, Pauling warned that the time to effectively control nuclear weapons was fast slipping away. The test-ban treaty was, Pauling lamented, already two years too late and had not prevented the large volume of testing that took place after the Soviets – who were quickly followed by the United States – had broken the 1959 testing moratorium in 1961. The failure to end testing outright before 1960 led to the explosion of 450 of the 600 megatons detonated during all nuclear tests.

Pauling's Nobel certificate case, 1963.

Pauling’s Nobel certificate case, 1963.

Because of the sheer number of nuclear weapons in existence (Pauling estimated some 320,000 megatons) limited war was not a feasible plan due to “the likelihood that a little war would grow into a world catastrophe,” both immediate and long-term. Abolishing all war was the only way out. But standing in the path of the abolition of war were people in powerful positions who did not recognize the present dangers and the need to end war. Pauling also saw China’s exclusion from the United Nations, which prevented the nation from taking part in any discussions on disarmament, as an additional roadblock to a lasting world peace.

To get around these blockades, Pauling proposed joint national and international control of nuclear weapons as well as an inspection treaty aiming to prevent the development of biological and chemical weapons, which could become a threat of equal measure to nuclear weapons. Additionally, Pauling felt that small-scale wars should be abolished and international laws established to prevent larger nations from dominating smaller ones.

The challenges of the era were great but Pauling ended optimistically:

We, you and I, are privileged to be alive during this extraordinary age, this unique epoch in the history of the world, the epoch of demarcation between the past millennia of war and suffering and the future, the great future of peace, justice, morality and human well-being… I am confident that we shall succeed in this great task; that the world community will thereby be freed not only from the suffering caused by war but also, through the better use of the earth’s resources, of the discoveries of scientists, and of the efforts of mankind, from hunger, disease, illiteracy, and fear; and that we shall in the course of time be enabled to build a world characterized by economic, political, and social justice for all human beings, and a culture worthy of man’s intelligence.


The Nobel medal, obverse.

The Nobel medal, obverse.

The response to Pauling’s speech by the American press was fairly tame. Most headlines simply issued variations on “Pauling Gets His Prize.” A handful of headlines delved into the substance of Pauling’s lecture, one noting “Pauling Accepts Award, Sees World without War in Sight.” Others emphasized the means by which he sought to end war, e.g. “Pauling Urges UN Veto Power on Nuclear Arms.”

The substance of the articles, most of which relied upon Associated Press copy, continued to focus on Pauling’s past controversies and suspected communism. From his lecture, the reports tended to highlight his homage to the late President Kennedy and the dollar amount of his prize. When Pauling’s policy proposals came up, mostly in larger papers that did not rely on the Associated Press, China’s admission to the United Nations and UN veto power over the use of nuclear weapons were seen as relevant and potentially controversial.

Absent from the press coverage was any discussion of the science of Pauling’s lecture. This included his claims concerning the harmful health effects of nuclear weapons as well as his descriptions of the increases in size and number of nuclear weapons. No article mentioned “genetic mutations” or “megatons” as Pauling had done in his lecture.

The Nobel medal, reverse.

The Nobel medal, reverse.

One bit of critical commentary, published in the Wall Street Journal, came out a week after Pauling’s speech. Author William Henry Chamberlin dismissed Pauling’s views on peace as both unpopular and overly simplistic. Pauling’s reasoning ran counter to the thinking of all US presidents since Truman – namely, that the only avenue to peace is to make as many weapons as the Soviets. Chamberlin noted that even scientists – specifically Edward Teller – agreed.

In Chamberlin’s estimation, Pauling was merely an alarmist. Further, Pauling had no impact whatsoever on the Partial Test Ban Treaty. The idea for the treaty had emerged out of the governments of the United States and Great Britain long ago and its delay in ratification was due solely to foot-dragging from the Soviets. Chamberlin also discounted Pauling’s claim to be a representative of a world-wide movement for peace by characterizing his efforts as “a one-man crusade.”

Pauline Gebelle as pictured in the Portland Oregonian, December 17, 1963.

Pauline Geballe as pictured in the Portland Oregonian, December 17, 1963.

Contrary to Chamberlin’s stance, on the same day the Portland Oregonian published a short article profiling Pauling’s freshman physiography teacher at Washington High School, Pauline Geballe. Pauling pointed to her as one who had helped to ignite his interest in science and the two had kept in touch over the years. Geballe herself, through the League of Women Voters, was also part of the peace movement. On behalf of the group, she had recently queried Pauling for insight into questions of disarmament. Pauling responded by sending her a copy of No More War! from which Geballe read aloud the next time the group met. Geballe and her colleagues seemed to evidence that, just as he had been stating for the previous two months and likewise in his Nobel acceptance speech, Pauling was merely a representative of a much larger movement, if still a polarizing and extremely prominent one.

Pauling’s Peace Prize

On October 10, 1963, Linus Pauling received notice that he was to be history's first recipient of two unshared Nobel Prizes.

On October 10, 1963, Linus Pauling received notice that he was to be history’s first recipient of two unshared Nobel Prizes.

Like many other Nobel Prize winners, Linus Pauling discovered that he had been awarded the Peace Prize in a dramatic way. The news was announced on October 10th, 1963, while Pauling was at his Big Sur ranch – an intentionally secluded space lacking a telephone to say nothing of a television. He, Ava Helen and some friends had already planned on celebrating that morning, as October 10th would also mark the formal beginning of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which put an end to above-ground nuclear tests among the world’s major nuclear powers. As he wrote in his research notebook:

Ava Helen and I had come to the ranch with Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Durr. We had bought a bottle of champagne, which we planned to drink to celebrate the treaty. At 8:15am, as we were sitting down to breakfast, the forest ranger, Ralph Haskin, came to the cabin. He said that Linda had telephoned and had asked that Ava Helen and I both come to the ranger station and telephone her. I asked if he knew what was the matter, and he said that he thought that it wasn’t serious. (Linda had told him and asked him not to tell us.) We finished breakfast, drove to the station, and telephoned Linda. She said that I had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1962. (She first asked me if I had heard the news. I said no.) I spent most of the day at the station, answering the telephone and giving interviews. We forgot to open the champagne. On 11 October, we drove to Carmel. Ralph Atkinson had champagne at hand. It’s our first celebration.

The fact that Pauling received the 1962 prize in 1963 is extremely telling. As Pauling wrote in a confidential note to self:

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

And indeed there was not.


Life magazine, October 25, 1963.

Life magazine, October 25, 1963.

Jahn’s conflict with his colleagues was symbolic of the differing attitudes with which news of Pauling’s Peace Prize was greeted, especially in America. While the public and many of Pauling’s friends sent him a flood of congratulatory letters and telegraphs, pro-nuclear scientists, much of the mainstream media and official agents of the U.S. government were unhappy about Pauling’s accolade.

Perhaps most famously, on October 25th, 1963, Life Magazine published an editorial titled “A Weird Insult from Norway,” which, as one might imagine, criticized the Nobel committee’s decision. The critique attacked Pauling’s prize from two directions. First, the editors pointed out that the recognition of Pauling’s peace work by the Norwegian committee was, in effect, a condemnation of contemporary research on nuclear science. The magazine argued that if efforts to ban nuclear tests were deemed worthy of respect, then efforts to promote nuclear research were conversely discredited. By this logic, Pauling’s Nobel Peace Prize was presumed to be an insult to other scientists engaged in nuclear weapons research.

Second, the Life editorial sought to undermine Pauling’s importance to the nuclear disarmament movement. The magazine stressed that the real reason why the Partial Test Ban Treaty came into being was not because Pauling’s famous 1958 appeal finally changed the minds of governments, but rather because President Kennedy’s firm stance against the construction of missile bases in Cuba during October of the previous year had, to a large degree, helped shape sentiment in favor of disarmament on a global scale.

While Pauling received many letters of support from those who were outraged by the editorial, few were quite so colorful as that penned by his friend Ernst Scharrer. Scharrer, at the time a faculty member at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, began by dismissing as folly the logic behind Life‘s critique. From there Scharrer compared the editors’ published opinion to Adolf Hitler’s response to Carl von Ossietzky’s 1935 Peace prize. As Hitler secretly began rearming Germany, in the process ignoring the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, Ossietzky revealed the news to the world by publishing details of the militarization. When this effort won Ossietzky the Nobel Peace Prize, Hitler declared that, henceforth, German citizens were forbidden to accept Nobel prizes. Though of lesser consequence, Scharrer’s point was that Life‘s critique was similarly unjustified, partisan and petty.


Linus Pauling debating Edward Teller on the topic of nuclear fallout: “The Nuclear Bomb Tests…Is Fallout Overrated?” KQED-TV, San Francisco. February 20, 1958.

What explains the divergence of views over Pauling’s peace efforts? To answer this, it helps to go back to the central questions of the nuclear test debate.

Opposing viewpoints on these questions were summed up in a televised debate between Linus Pauling and Edward Teller titled “Fallout and Disarmament” and broadcast on San Francisco’s KQED-TV in 1958. Teller spoke for the pro-nuclear camp in first explicitly stating that, as with Pauling, peace was his goal. The focus of the controversy, then, was how best to bring about a world in peace. The conflict centered on whether the process should involve nuclear weapons. The still somewhat unknown side effects associated with the manufacture and testing of nuclear weapons also made this in an issue of pitched debate. It was known that nuclear bombs could crush islands into dust and spread them into the atmosphere over the course of a few seconds. What’s more, rare, toxic elements were also clearly created alongside the release of large amounts of radiation. But no one knew exactly what might happen to our bodies when exposed to regular, if lower, levels of these atomic-era materials.

Faced with this uncertainty, the two sides came into conflict on the question of what the development of nuclear weapons might bring to American society. Edward Teller thought them beneficial in that the ability to manufacture these massive weapons meant that the U.S. could match and possibly overcome the Soviet Union in terms of military strength. It was this balance between the two military superpowers, Teller claimed, that would guarantee peace. In the absence of this dynamic, war was presumed to be inevitable, with the side that failed to develop a matching nuclear capacity finding itself at a distinct disadvantage. For Teller, the arms race necessitated the testing of nuclear weapons. The real stake was military strength – peace was based on force. In addition, and of major consequence to his position, Teller maintained a very optimistic view on the health effects of prolonged exposure to fallout levels of radiation. He even pointed out the possibility that increased mutations resulting from fallout could be regarded as a source for enhanced evolution of species.

Pauling couldn’t have disagreed more vehemently. He thought the construction of nuclear weapons to be a bane of world society and emphasized the environmental and health costs imposed by the development of such weapons. Morality was another of Pauling’s weapons with which to attack Teller’s arguments. If it was understood that developing weapons to strengthen national security came at the cost of decreases in public health and environmental stability, the effort, even if well-intentioned, was morally corrupt and ought to be brought to a close as soon as possible. Furthermore, as a fundamental principle, world conflicts should be settled at the negotiating table instead of the battlefield. Pauling also expended much energy in compiling evidence on the ill effects of increased environmental radiation. One example that he often cited was the increase in the incidence of children born with birth defects after World War II and its nuclear conclusion. By directing his audience’s attentions to the impact of atomic gamesmanship on future generations, Pauling stressed the seriousness of the issue and re-emphasized the morality of his argument.


Editorial cartoon published in the York Gazette and Daily by Walt Partymiller, September 20, 1962.

The crux of the Pauling-Teller debate was still in play by the time that Pauling received the 1963 prize. While Life magazine was criticizing the decision of Norway’s Nobel committee to reward Pauling’s peace work, his emphasis on moral action was being enthusiastically supported by his friends and many others in the public arena. In particular, Pauling’s concern over the harmful health effects of atmospheric radiation on future generations gained a lot of attention among the public. This positive response was reflected in many letters of congratulation from ordinary people who wholeheartedly endorsed Pauling’s appeals. Typical was an October 13th, 1963 letter, written by a widow with two boys:

To me you have been vindicated in the eyes of the world. These stupid, loud-mouthed patriots, as they consider themselves, should have to eat their words. I am not a college educated person, and I do not pretend to know what the ultimate outcome of this testing program would be, but I have read enough to make me very fearful as you are. I think we all should consider the future generations – not just ourselves, as you did. But few would be as brave and heroic as you, and would ‘stick our necks out’ as you did. You are a truly great American and a great humanitarian, which is more important! Someday people will speak of you as the great man you really are. I feel so relieved that you have won this prize, as I have been very bitter over the criticism of you. I have resented it so much, but now I feel people will change in their opinion of you…if they don’t, these few ‘screwballs’ you should not care. Most of us are as happy as if we won that prize ourselves. I know I am! Usually it seems, they wait until you die to relent and say a person is truly great and deserves the highest honor. So I feel so grateful that this was done while you still can appreciate the fact that you are considered by many a hero, if there ever was one!

The contrast between the critique of Pauling’s peace prize from Life and the support that he received from much of the public displayed again the pivot point of the nuclear test debate, an issue whose resolution was still many years in the future.  For the remainder of 2013, as we mark the fiftieth anniversary of Pauling’s second Nobel award, we will explore his preparation for Oslo throughout the months of November and December 1963 as he continued to speak and write, often at great personal cost, during a turbulent time in world history.

The Hiroshima Appeal

Linus Pauling in Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1959.

Linus Pauling in Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1959.

“The principal action of the Fifth World Conference was to prepare and approve this statement, which is called The Hiroshima Appeal. I enclose a copy of this Appeal, which seems to me to be a good document.”

-Linus Pauling, letter to Gunnar Jahn, September 4, 1959.

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Hiroshima Appeal, written by a group of delegates, headed by Linus Pauling, in attendance at the Fifth World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, held in Hiroshima, Japan.

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling maintained a long and sympathetic relationship with the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, the sponsoring organization of the World Conferences (dozens have been held), and their participation in the Fifth World Conference came at a time when their peace activism was at its greatest intensity.

The Paulings arrived in Japan in the midst of an incredibly-heavy travel schedule. They had started their summer with a two-week scientific trip to England and a nine-lecture No More War! tour through West Germany. Following that came their visit with Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné, French Equatorial Africa (present-day Gabon), after which they returned to Europe for the Triennial World Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In early August they jetted to Japan, then returned home for a couple months – long enough for Pauling to deliver the 1959 Messenger Lectures series at Cornell University – before heading down under to participate in the two-week Australia and New Zealand Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament.

Albert Schweitzer and Linus Pauling at the Schweitzer compound, Lambéréne, Gabon. 1959.

Albert Schweitzer and Linus Pauling at the Schweitzer compound, Lambéréne, Gabon. 1959.

The Hiroshima conference came about at an interesting time for the peace movement. Though millions had been spurred toward an anti-war stance by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by the fourteenth-anniversary of those attacks attitudes were beginning to sway, even in Japan. In writing to the Austrian philosopher Günther Anders, Pauling noted that the biggest change between the Fifth World Congress and those that had preceded it was the attitude of the Japanese government which,

“under [Prime Minister Nobusuke] Kishi, has now changed its policy from that of the new Japanese constitution, which is opposed to military armaments. The government is attempting to revise the security pact with the United States (and the United States government is also in favor of this revision) in such a way as to lead to the rapid remilitarization of Japan. In consequence of this change in the Japanese government, the government withheld its subsidy of the Hiroshima Conference this year.”

Unsurprisingly, the text of the finalized Hiroshima Appeal reacts in direct opposition to the posture that the Kishi government was assuming.  Specifically, the document calls for “An international agreement that would result in the permanent neutralization of West and East Germany and adjacent countries and also of Japan….No revisions of present treaties, no new military alliances should be made that would permit arming nations with nuclear weapons or prevent this eventual demilitarization.”

This emphasis on international agreements to control the development of nuclear weapons programs, as well as specific support for the three-nations nuclear testing treaty being hammered out in Geneva, form the heart of the Appeal.

The Hiroshima Appeal, adopted August 6, 1959.

The Hiroshima Appeal, adopted August 6, 1959.

Given that the conference took place in 1959, it should come as no surprise that the gathering was plagued by suspicions of communist activity. Indeed, four delegates to the event – Wayland Young and Arthur Goss of Britain, Rolf Schroers and Carola Stern of West Germany – walked out in protest of what they felt was heavy communist infiltration. In particular, the boycotters felt that the conference was failing to condemn any nuclear ambitions that may have been emerging in China, a charge that Pauling (who did favor the admission of China to the United Nations) flatly denied.

In his letter to Anders, Pauling detailed his perspective on the conflict:

“The appeal was written after Schroers walked out of the conference. There seemed to be a general feeling that he and Wayland Young, from England, were determined to make trouble. I was not present at the preliminary meeting, with which Schroers was dissatisfied. I was present, however, at all of the following meetings, and I participated vigorously in the discussions. I think that the arguments that I presented were effective. It seems pretty clear, from the Hiroshima Appeal, that the conference did not suffer much from the walkout by Schroers and his associates. On the other hand, if there had been a really serious difference of opinion, with real domination by communists, then it might not have been possible to get a good appeal accepted, and the walkout by Schroers and his associates might have been a very serious matter.”

The Hiroshima Appeal is just one of hundreds that Linus and Ava Helen Pauling contributed to in some way. In hindsight, it is difficult to judge the real-world impact of these types of documents.  For example, what became of the issues specific to the Hiroshima Appeal?  On the one hand, the Geneva talks, propelled somewhat by the Paulings’ famous bomb-test petition, did lead to a limited test ban treaty in 1963.  On the other hand, re-unified Germany shares nuclear weapons within the NATO alliance and Japan, though still officially non-nuclear, is considered by many to be a de facto nuclear state, owing to its well-developed material and technological infrastructure.

That noted, one might not argue with Pauling’s feeling that “conferences of this sort do a valuable service, in aiding in the presentation of information about the present world situation to the people of the world.” Indeed, in discussing the China flap with Gunther Anders, Pauling summed up his basic perspective nicely: “There are many other points of this sort that need to be discussed. The way to solve these great problems is not, however, just to walk out of the discussion, as was done by Schroers.”

Learn more about the Hiroshima Appeal and the Paulings’ legacy of peace work at the website Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement: A Documentary History, available on the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Pauling’s Contacts with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Linus Pauling is recognized as one of the greatest peace activists of the 20th century. From the end of World War II until his death in 1994, Pauling was a central figure in the fight for nuclear disarmament and a great proponent of human rights. Though his primary focus was international peace and weapons reduction, he was a strong supporter of the civil rights and women’s liberation movements. Unsurprisingly, his political activities brought him in close contact with some of history’s greatest activists. In honor of today’s Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday anniversary, the Pauling Blog would like to discuss Pauling’s connection with King in the struggle for peace.

Pauling and King first met in 1960 while King was in Pasadena lecturing on racial equality. By the late 1950s, King had firmly established himself as a civil rights leader in the African American community through his organization of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1957 founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Pauling had witnessed King’s work in the southern U.S., and was much impressed with the energetic young man. Despite Pauling’s personal rejection of religion, a core value for King, the two men developed a mutual respect for one another, working in the parallel fields of civil rights and international peace, and often intersected at moments critical to the peace movement.

In late 1960, Pauling contacted King, requesting his support for a conference opposing the distribution of nuclear arms to the United States’ NATO allies. King responded promptly, emphasizing his belief in Pauling’s work. He noted that he could not attend the conference himself, but wrote “Always know, however, that you have my absolute support”.

In 1964, King wrote another letter to Pauling, congratulating him for his receipt of Temple Beth Zion’s Annual Passover-Liberty Award. In particular, King remarked that

This award, like many others that you have received, is indicative of the great respect and admiration that men of good will have for you for your brilliant and untiring efforts to make world peace a reality. I can think of no one who more justly deserves such significant honors. Your work and the use of your brilliant mind for such creative ends will stand out as one of the significant epics of the twentieth century. Your deep humanitarian concern, genuine good will, and your unswerving devotion to the cause of peace and justice will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn.

The two men, though not close friends, were characterized by a number of striking similarities that no doubt provoked a certain kinship between them. Both men were academics, with Pauling having taken a doctorate in chemistry from Caltech and King a doctorate in Philosophy from Boston University. Both were well-read, highly-educated and known for their powerful public speeches.  And interestingly, neither Pauling nor King ever graduated from high school, despite being bright and capable students.

Likewise, both men fought against, and were persecuted by, the U.S. government and the mainstream American press. Throughout their respective careers, both men were dogged by accusations of Communism. Pauling was directly accused of Communist activity, while King’s advisers, Stanley Levison and Hunter Pitts O’Dell, were linked to the Communist party through House Un-American Activities Committee investigations and FBI informants. Neither man gave into the popular pressure, however, a shared stubborn resistance that partly explains their historical fame as activists.

In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize, only two years after Pauling himself had received the award. In a letter to Gunnar Jahn, a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Linus noted that “We are very happy, as I am sure you are, that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964 to Martin Luther King has been received with such great approval. I was especially pleased that the people of Oslo were so enthusiastic, as reported in Time and Newsweek, and in the American newspapers, also.”

Linus Pauling was not the only member of the Pauling family engaged in King’s work. His oldest son, Linus, Jr., was also much impressed by the civil rights movement. On March 25, 1965, Linus, Jr. joined other activists in a four day march from Selma, Alabama, to the state’s capital of Montgomery. Linus, Jr., a licensed physician, provided medical care to other marchers along the way, and was even pictured in a Newsweek article chronicling the event.

It goes without saying that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has had a profound effect on the social, cultural and political landscape of the modern United States. His words and actions have served as a catalyst for some of the largest social changes that have occurred in the last fifty years, many of which are still, of course, in progress. Linus Pauling was proud to have been a part of these changes, and to have served to better the lives of those around him.

For more information on Linus Pauling and the Peace Movement, please visit our documentary history website.  Documents on that site that are relevant to Pauling’s relationship with Dr. King are as follows:

“Notice of Candidacy for the Electoral College.” 1964.

Note from Linus Pauling to Martin Luther King, Jr. March 18, 1965.

Letter from Linus Pauling to Martin Luther King, Jr. June 21, 1965.

“An Appeal by Recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.” 1965.

“Note to Self.” May 2, 1967.