Later Japan

Linus Pauling with President Matsuda at Tokai University, 1975.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ava Helen Pauling and Dr. Yashie Souma, 1980.

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

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

Morishige's prescription.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pauling’s Early Development as a Peace Activist

Linus Pauling, 1940s.

Before America’s involvement in World War II, Linus Pauling was openly in favor of intervention to stop the spread of fascism, a menace that he considered dangerous to the stability of world peace. He was horrified by stories emerging from Europe, some pertaining to the treatment of well-respected scientists. He later received pleas from colleagues who were unable to attain visas and thus escape to the United States, and was disturbed and saddened by his inability to aid acquaintances that desperately sought his help.

Throughout the ensuing military engagement, the U.S. government financed research at levels unheard of in previous times. Linus Pauling and many others at Caltech gladly aided the war effort in their own way, and benefited greatly from generous war time funding in the process. Several divisions of the Institute changed dramatically as a result, responding to the growing needs of the armed forces.

Pauling oversaw the development of several devices and innovations, mostly medical in nature, that were meant to be used for the war effort. Near the beginning of the war, he co-manufactured an apparatus that could measure oxygen levels in submarines using a magnetic field. Towards the war’s end, he was developing an artificial substitute for blood plasma, which received substantial attention from the press. He also spent a considerable amount of time examining and testing combustible powders at Caltech’s rapidly expanding powder-research facilities. As the war was drawing to an end however, Pauling began shifting his research focus from federally funded war projects to Rockefeller-oriented protein work.

Though Pauling was mildly active in political affairs before the onset of the war, he tended to keep such views private. He was often too caught up in his work to spare much attention for such things, but he also valued principles of neutrality and objectivity, qualities that stemmed from his scientific research and academic training. Pauling began to change his mind however, when faced with a growing mix of racism, extreme nationalism and atomic peril. Among other stimuli, including countless discussions with Ava Helen, two particular events affected Pauling’s willful political silence during the course of the war.

The first incident involved a talented Japanese-American student. Caltech resided in a zone that required all Japanese and Japanese Americans within to move to internment camps. Realizing the seriousness of his plight, the student turned to Pauling for help. After a difficult search, Pauling finally found him a job on the east coast, but the injustice of the affair caused Pauling some discomfort.

A second event involved George H. Nimaki, a returned Japanese-American evacuee, who was temporarily employed by the Paulings as a gardener at their home. One morning in March of 1945, the Paulings woke up to graffiti on their garage door. Some one had painted, in bright red, “Americans die but we love Japs – Japs work here Pauling” alongside an image of the rising sun flag. Pauling was appalled, and equally appalled by subsequent threats made against him and his family after he spoke out in condemnation of the incident.

These two events began to shift Pauling towards a more active and open involvement in public affairs.  Another would soon cement this attitude.


On August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki a few days later. Among other less apparent ramifications, the use of the bombs signaled the end of the war. The day after the first bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, a day he never forgot, Pauling read of the story in a local newspaper. He was immediately interested in the physics of the bomb, but did not share in the euphoria that was sweeping the nation.

During the war Pauling had been offered a spot at the chemistry division of the Manhattan Project, where the atomic bomb was developed, but he had had little personal interest in the opportunity. Following the bombings in Japan, groups of concerned scientists that had accepted the Los Alamos offer began discussing the effects of their work. The devastation which resulted from the use of atomic weapons began to weigh heavily on many of them. Consequently, they began distributing  information about the role that atomic weapons might play in a rapidly changing world.

Linus Pauling speaking in Tampa, Florida. 1950s.

Pauling received much of this material, and began to attend informal and formal meetings where issues, such as civilian control of atomic weapons and technology, were the main topic of discussion. As Pauling increased his involvement with the growing movement, his political views began to surface more readily. After hearing what many other scientists had to say, and reflecting on his own beliefs, Pauling became openly supportive of sharing atomic secrets with Russia, and of increased cooperation generally. While on a trip in September, Pauling wrote to Ava Helen about his growing concerns, noting that

[Samuel] Allison has made a strong public statement against keeping the A-bomb secret from Russia. . . I think that Union now with Russia is the only hope for the world.

Pauling learned more and more about the science of the bomb, and began giving talks around southern California, his first at the Rotary Club in Hollywood. As time went on, he began to incorporate international relations and politics into his talks, but most people found his non-science discourse dry and unconvincing. After one of these early speeches, Ava Helen told Pauling that he should stop discussing war and peace. He later wrote that her comments changed his life. Pauling struggled with the advice, plagued by inner turmoil.

I thought ‘What shall I do? I am convinced that scientists should speak to their fellow human beings not only about science, but also about atomic bombs, the nature of war, the need to change international relations, the need to achieve peace in the world. But my wife says that I should not give talks of this sort because I am not able to speak authoritatively. Either I should stop, or I should learn to speak authoritatively.’

From this point on, Pauling devoted half of his time to peace and the abolition of war. He began to read about international relations and law, treaties, history and other information related to the peace movement. Pauling tackled social science much the same way that he approached chemistry, focusing on function, frameworks and the interests that motivated different groups of people within certain circles of debate. His new speeches were often concerned with world union and peace with other nations. He shared Ava Helen’s opinion that a single world government would make war unnecessary, and thus safeguard against the use of nuclear weapons. He believed in the ability of basic human connections to overcome political disagreements, as can be seen in this excerpt from a speech that he gave to the Russian-American club in November 1945:

We must all strive for that great goal of world union – of perpetual unity between nations . . . all that remains now is for the final steps to be taken. The steps that lead to union of the great powers. And the world will be safe forever, and we shall see the beginning of a new era of continuing peace and happiness.

In the years following the end of the war, Pauling maintained a great faith in the possibility of world peace. As a result, he became involved with a number of organizations and issues that would later be subjects of  substantial controversy.

Early in his new-found political advocacy, Pauling enjoyed a minor victory in the form of the defeat of the May-Johnson Bill. According to its opponents, the bill would likely have given the military near-complete control over atomic weapons and technology, though ostensibly with the cooperation of scientists and civilian board members. The victory was short lived however. A fast-growing political movement that was both pro-nuclear and exceedingly anti-communist began to overwhelm members of organizations that valued peace and international cooperation. The following years would test Pauling’s commitment to the peace movement, as well as his personal and social convictions.