Carol Ikeda and Miyoshi Ikawa

1942i.7

Linus Pauling, 1942

[Ed Note: Parts 5 and 6 of our series detailing Linus Pauling’s work on the serological properties of simple substances both focus on the intriguing life stories of three individuals with whom Pauling worked on this program of research.]

Over the years, Linus Pauling forged close relationships with many of his graduate and doctoral students, offering guidance that, in numerous cases, changed the course of a student’s career. During World War II, he fought particularly hard for two of his research assistants, Miyoshi Ikawa and Carol Ikeda. In both cases, Pauling’s intervention prevented these colleagues from being forcibly interned. Instead, Ikawa and Ikeda each moved on to graduate studies and fruitful careers in science.


Miyoshi “Mike” Ikawa was born in California in 1919 to first generation immigrant parents. He pursued undergraduate studies at Caltech, where he was a member of the Chemistry Club and Tau Beta Pi, and competed on the Fleming House wrestling team. When he graduated in 1941, he was already working in Pauling’s lab, preparing compounds and helping with the first three serological papers. Pauling subsequently served as his graduate advisor.

Carol Ikeda came to Caltech from Texas in 1939, having started his education at Paris Junior College in Texas. He transferred to Caltech with the intent to study chemistry and become an organic chemist. At Caltech, he stood out among many other very bright students; Pauling described him as “one of the top men in the class.” Not one to give compliments lightly, Pauling recognized Ikeda’s potential not only from his performance in class, but also from his work in organic research labs on campus. Before Ikeda had even decided to continue onto graduate studies at Caltech, Pauling had recruited him for the serological project as an assistant in the Immunochemistry department. Indeed, it is especially noteworthy that Ikeda and Ikawa both are listed as co-authors for Pauling’s first three serological papers, given that the first two papers were published while Ikeda and Ikawa were still undergraduates.


Up until World War II, it appeared that Ikawa and Ikeda were each moving well down the path toward successful careers in immunology, organic chemistry, or biochemistry. This all changed when President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 and declared Pasadena to be a military zone.

Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. citizens of Japanese descent faced discrimination on the basis of race as well as suspicions that they would prove more loyal to Japan than to the United States even if they were second- or third-generation citizens. Acutely aware of the mounting tension faced by American-born Japanese, Pauling was determined to support students bearing this burden and to make sure that they could find positions at Caltech for which they were suitably qualified.

Pauling was likewise clear in his understanding that other universities did not share his point of view. In the recommendations that he wrote, he provided full disclosure and acknowledged potential discomforts regarding race, an issue that many administrators would have preferred be left unacknowledged. In one particular reply to a request for recommendations, Pauling wrote

…the two best men scholastically in our graduating class are American born Japanese, Ikawa, and Ikeda. Although one of them has, I think, a satisfactory personality for teaching work, I doubt that you would be interested in appointing him because of his racial handicap.

Some universities responded positively to recommendations of this sort; the University of Iowa, for one, confirmed that race wouldn’t be a problem at all. Rather, Pauling’s Iowa contact assured that the institution shared Pauling’s stance and was committed to considering the qualifications of their applicants regardless of race. The reply went on to state,

While we have not had any American-born Japanese on our teaching staff, I see no reason why they would not get along satisfactorily, if they have the necessary intelligence and ability.


miyoshi-ikawa

Miyoshi Ikawa, 1941

Ikawa and Ikeda had been working on the serological project for more than a year when Pasadena was declared a military zone. Cognizant of the need to help his assistants relocate to a safer area, Pauling had a relatively easy time finding Ikawa a position as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, where he worked under Karl Paul Link. This move ultimately changed the course of Ikawa’s career. Before receiving his doctorate, Ikawa, along with Link and Mark A. Stahmann, synthesized warfarin and obtained a patent for it to be used as a rat poison. By 1950, warfarin (now commonly referred to as Coumadin) was being used to treat blood-clotting disorders such as thrombosis, because it was a strong anticoagulant. It still serves this purpose today.

With the war over, Ikawa was free to return to the West Coast, where he conducted postdoctoral research at Caltech and UC-Berkeley, before moving on to the University of Texas. In the early 1960s, he settled down and became a professor at the University of New Hampshire, where he began focusing on marine biotoxins. In 1972, he and his colleagues established the Paralytic Shellfish Monitoring Program for the state of Maine, a course of action that followed the first evidence of a red tide in the southern Gulf of Maine. Ikawa taught at the University of New Hampshire for twenty years and then spent most of his later career advising technical panels and partaking in peer review committees for federal research grants. He passed away in 2006.


carol-ikeda

Carol Ikeda, 1941

Pauling had a harder time finding a position for Ikeda. In February 1942, shortly after Roosevelt released his executive order, Pauling sent a letter to Robert Millikan – the chairman of the Caltech Executive Council – about Ikeda’s progress and position. In this, Pauling tried to make the case that, while his serological research wasn’t directly related to defense work, its results could be valuable for their medical application. He also pointed out that finding someone as competent as Ikeda to continue these studies would be nearly impossible.

As it turned out, this approach backfired for Pauling, because so many people were nervous about having American-born Japanese involved in any war effort. Consequently, Millikan asked Pauling to vouch for Ikeda’s loyalty in order to allow Ikeda to continue “to undertake, under special arrangement, research work which may involve defense matters.” Pauling vouched for Ikeda’s work, but hesitated to comment on his loyalty, because he felt that someone with a more personal working relationship with Ikeda could give a better answer. He also suggested that Ikeda could be transferred to a teaching position if the issue of loyalty could not be resolved to Millikan’s satisfaction.

As Millikan deliberated, Pauling began to feel that Caltech might not be the best environment for Ikeda, even if he was transferred to a teaching position. In short order, Pauling contacted Michael Heidelberger, a faculty member at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. In doing so, Pauling offered Heidelberger a quid pro quo of sorts, suggesting that Heidelberger accept Ikeda into his program at Columbia in exchange for Pauling hosting one of Heidelberger’s researchers in Pasadena. This plan broke down when the Columbia researcher that Pauling had in mind wrote back to say that he could not accept an appointment at Caltech and that he wished to stay on at Columbia instead.

The situation was not improved much by Heidelberger’s blasé attitude toward the internment camps. Recognizing that “wholly” patriotic people would be unjustly punished, Heidelberger remained unconvinced that there was much that he or Pauling could do to alleviate the issue, an opinion shared by many. As would later become the norm, Pauling stood out here as a lonely voice in the scientific community.

For Ikeda, things worked out at the last minute. In April 1942, just two weeks before Ikeda was assigned to report to a camp, Pauling managed to find him a graduate position at the University of Nebraska, where he completed his Ph.D. in 1945. In 1947, Ikeda accepted an offer of employment from DuPont in Delaware, and then later moved within the company to Philadelphia. In 1962, he received a patent for a resinous coating material that he developed while working for DuPont. He passed away in Phoenix, Arizona in 1996, having enjoyed a successful life and career.

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The End of Artificial Antibodies

Illustration of bivalent antibodies attaching to complementary antigen molecules. Image extracted from a glass plate display, “Pictures of Antibodies,” prepared for the First International Poliomyelitis Conference, New York. The caption accompanying this image reads: “In vitro or in vivo bivalent antibodies may become attached to complementary portions of antigen molcules.”

[Part 3 of 3]

Though highly controversial, Linus Pauling’s claim that he had created artificial antibodies gave him a boost in funding. Many of his backers realized that if Pauling was correct he had just revolutionized modern medicine and they were just as eager as he was for his project to succeed. Since he now had more money, Pauling hoped he could expand his staff, though the war greatly prohibited this effort. Pauling lamented:

Unfortunately the amount of war work which is being done now here is so great that the usual seminars and informal discussions of science have decreased somewhat in number, but still a good bit of work in pure science is being carried on.

To help remedy this situation, Pauling corresponded frequently with William C. Boyd of Boston University’s School of Medicine, trying to persuade him to transfer to Caltech over the summer. Boyd refused, stating that he had too many other medical defense projects, though suggesting that “perhaps it will not be too late when the war is over, unless it goes on for 10 years or more, as some pessimistic writers predict.” Pauling also failed to hire two other well-known researchers, Henry F. Treffers, and A.M. Pappenheimer. Both declined because he was only able to offer a one year position. Indeed, from 1942-1943, Pauling actively tried to find staff for his lab, offering a $3,500 one-year position and draft deference. Despite this, most of the competent researchers he wanted were otherwise employed doing war work. He was able to hire Leland H. Pence in December of 1942, and in 1945 Frank Johnson visited from Princeton and worked at the lab in Caltech a bit. These individuals were, however, the exceptions, and Pauling was generally unsuccessful with his offers of employment.

Pauling was also facing other staff issues that were relics of the era. Among his group were two employees who were born and raised in the United States, but whose families were Japanese, Carol Ikeda and Miyoshi Ikawa. All too cognizant of the forthcoming policy of internment, Pauling began corresponding with Michael Heidelberg of Columbia University, hoping that he could temporarily trade employees as a method of getting Ikeda, at least, to a less hostile location. The plan did not work out, and Heidelberger ended one of his letters to Pauling bemoaning the fact that “…unfortunately a lot of wholly patriotic people are going to suffer.” Pauling was eventually able to get both Ikeda and Ikawa into graduate programs, though doing so took a substantial amount of work.


Dan Campbell and Linus Pauling, 1943.

Even though William Boyd had refused a job, he and Pauling continued to correspond frequently. Boyd was critical of Pauling’s theories on antibodies, warning his colleague that “preconceived notions evidently play a big role in the field [of immunochemistry.]” Boyd told Pauling to be careful with his research and his declarations, as he had often made arguments that he felt infallible only to have his colleagues inform him that they were unconvinced.

In August 1942, five months after issuing his controversial press release, Pauling finally published his research on artificial antibodies in an article titled “The Manufacture of Antibodies in vitro,” which appeared in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. As with the press release, Pauling’s paper was somewhat lacking in detail and many scientists found it hard to replicate his experiments. Those who did, such as Pauling’s valued colleague Karl Landsteiner, were unable to obtain the same results that Pauling had reported. Despite this, Pauling remained convinced that his research was valid and worth pursuing. However, Pauling’s collaborator Dan Campbell seemed to be the only one who could successfully produce the antibodies, and even those were weak and ineffective.

In early 1943 the Rockefeller Foundation assigned Frank Blair Hanson to assume some of the work that Warren Weaver had been conducting, and right away it was clear that Hanson was notably “less entranced than Weaver with Pauling’s work.” Despite the fact that he agreed to continue funding Pauling’s artificial antibody research, he was skeptical of its worth and began polling immunologists across the country to that end. They did not respond favorably – even Landsteiner believed that there was a less than 50% chance that Pauling had actually created artificial antibodies. As a result of these lackluster opinions, Hanson cut Pauling’s funding by half.

Pauling proceeded nonetheless, his enthusiasm still strong. His next move was to submit a patent application, “Process of Producing Antibodies.” The response that he received was not what he wanted to hear:

The claims are again rejected for lack of utility as no evidence has been presented to show that the antibodies alleged to be produced by the claimed have any utility at all… The claims are rejected as being too broad, functional, and indefinite…the claims are rejected for lack of invention…all the claims are rejected.

Pauling was disheartened by this response but still confident that he could salvage the project. However, shortly afterward he received a letter from the Rockefeller Foundation informing him that they did not approve of researchers using their funds to apply for medical patents. Because of the letter, and the general ineffectiveness of the research, Pauling opted not to pursue his patent application any further.

Illustration of the antibody-antigen framework. The caption accompanying this image reads: “…[An] antibody-antigen framework which may precipitate from a solution or be taken up by phagocytic cells.”

As 1943 progressed, Pauling continued to piece together a better understanding of how antibodies adhere to antigens. Later that year, he and Campbell published a paper in Physiological Review which further elaborated on their idea that shape was the primary determinant of antibody functions. They wrote that while many of their colleagues at other institutions felt that antibody formation adhered to a “lattice theory,” they did not, because their research showed that the structures created by antibody/antigen precipitation were not regular enough. Instead, they coined the phrase “framework theory” to describe their idea.

By the winter of 1943-1944, Pauling had at last concluded that the artificial antibody research was going nowhere. This was a difficult admission for Pauling because, despite the fact that progress in the research was still slow, he was convinced that he could make it work if given more time. Unfortunately for him, the war effort demanded quicker results and actively prohibited greater focus on antibodies. In the end, he decided to abandon the artificial antibodies research. Pauling never retracted his support for the work, though many years later Dan Campbell admitted that a laboratory technician had “shaded” the results to fit what he thought Pauling wanted to see.


The failure of the artificial antibodies project allowed Pauling to move on to more productive lines of research. He continued to build his ideas on how exactly antibodies function, and by 1945 he was able to prove that shape was indeed what caused antibodies to adhere to antigens. In Pauling’s description, the antibodies would fit to the antigens like a glove, at which point they adhered, not due to orthodox chemical bonds, but because of another weak, poorly understood force.

The force that causes antibodies to bind with antigens is called the van der Waal’s force. It is a very weak, almost imperceptible subatomic bond between two molecules existing in extremely close proximity. Historically, due to their weakness, van der Waal’s forces had been ignored as viable components of biochemical reactions. However, Pauling was able to show that the extremely tight fit between antibodies and antigens exposed a large surface area across which the van der Waal’s force could become a factor. The fit had to be precise, as even one or two atoms being out of place would effectively break the hold that the van der Waal’s force put into place. This concept, known variously as molecular complementarity or biological specificity, cast a great deal of light on a central mystery of molecular biology. With it, Pauling was additionally able to confirm his earlier hypothesis that antibodies are bivalent.

As World War II drew to a close, Pauling shifted his focus away from antibodies and back towards a more general study of the shape, creation, and function of proteins. Pauling’s focus on proteins was long lived, stretching at least twenty-five years from 1933-1958. His foray into antibodies was notably shorter, a nine-year interlude from 1936-1945. Yet in this time, he had managed to dramatically impact immunochemistry with his discovery that antibodies are bivalent and his insights into how they work. These accomplishments are made even more impressive when considering that Pauling was neither an immunochemist nor an immunobiologist by trade. As was so often the case during his life, he threw himself into the challenge with characteristic enthusiasm, and managed to make major contributions to the field.

Pauling’s First Interaction with the FBI

Transcript of an anonymous letter sent to Linus Pauling. March 9, 1945.

[Part 2 of 7]

In contrast to the adversarial tone that would later come to define their relationship, Linus Pauling’s first interactions with the FBI were largely benign and without conflict.

The earliest known documents in the FBI’s records concerning Linus Pauling date to 1935. That year, Linus and his wife Ava Helen were members of a National Academy of Sciences group who went through a Bureau office on an April tour.

The next year, Pauling was one of many scientific experts whose backgrounds were checked to see if they might qualify as expert FBI witnesses for various court cases. A special agent in charge of the report concluded the following:

Relative to Linus Pauling, Chemist, it was ascertained that Mr. Pauling has been associated with the California Institute of Technology for some years and bears an excellent reputation. He is considered to be one of the outstanding chemists in the entire United States.

It was not learned, however, that Mr. Pauling has testified in the courts in Southern California. It is the belief of informants that he would have no difficulty in qualifying.

A more personal introduction to the FBI came about with the defacement of Pauling’s property in early March of 1945. At that time George H. Nimaki, recently released from a Japanese relocation center, was hired to work part time at the Paulings’ Pasadena home while waiting to be inducted into the United States Army. On one of following mornings, Pauling woke to find a crude message on his garage door that had been painted by vandals the night before. “Americans die but we love japs, japs work here Pauling,” was hastily smeared around a depiction of the Japanese flag.

After speaking out against the incident in the local newspaper, denouncing the “misguided people” responsible for the act, Pauling received a number of anonymous letters and phone calls. The calls and letters contained threats of violence, a number of distasteful ill wishes placed upon the Pauling family in general, and demands that Pauling stop giving the incident publicity. Receiving no aid from local authorities, the Paulings turned to the American Civil Liberties Union for help, after which time the local sheriff was forced to post a guard outside the Pauling household.

The incident eventually faded into the background for most Pasadenans, but the matter was subsequently turned over to the FBI. The typewritten letters that had been sent to Pauling were given to an FBI lab, where agents attempted to decipher the make of the typewriter used in hopes of determining whether or not any of the letters had been written by the same person. In anticipation of a potential prosecution, lab agents were also directed to search through an anonymous letter file in an attempt to make a positive personal identification of the culprits.

As part of their investigation, FBI agents also went to the Pauling residence and Pauling’s office at Caltech, interviewing both Linus and Ava Helen, from which agents compiled a list of people who might possibly have known that Nimaki was employed at the Pauling home. While primarily aiding the investigation, the interviews also granted the FBI its first look at Pauling, as well as an opportunity to log a brief physical description that would be stored from that time forward in his personal agency file:

Sex: Male
Height: 6′
Weight: 170 pounds
Hair: Gray-black
Eyes: Gray
Complexion: Ruddy
Occupation: Professor, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California
Marital Status: Married
Color: White
Build: Tall and slender
Nationality: American

Agents pursued a number of potential leads in the case, using sources in the Pasadena Police Department, the Postmaster’s office at Altadena and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office Subversive Detail. The Police Department was contacted for any information about local residents protesting the Paulings’ gardener, which might have helped to identify the subjects in the case. Likewise, the Postmaster was contacted to see whether any of Pauling’s neighbors owned a typewriter, and to ascertain whether or not typewritten letters had been picked up at any of the addresses.

The Sheriff Department’s armed guard was removed from the Pauling residence two weeks following the incident. FBI lab agents examined the threatening letters which had been addressed to Pauling over the ensuing months, but found that they had all been written on different typewriters. Some of the letter samples were searched for other identifiable markers, but no latent fingerprints could be found on any of the materials. The FBI continued their investigation until mid-July, but no suspects were ever detained or apprehended.

Perhaps of greater consequence is the fact that this investigation would mark the first and last time that Pauling was ever a direct beneficiary of FBI services. From this time forward, whenever Pauling’s name was mentioned in FBI correspondence, he was either the subject or co-subject of proposed wrongdoing.

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.

An Outspoken Man

Linus Pauling. 1940s.

Linus Pauling. 1940s.

“Do you think that an American who insists on making up his own mind, who objects to being told what to do, to being pushed around by officious officials, is thereby made un-American? I do not. I think that he is being more American than people who do not object.”
– Linus Pauling. Letter to the Board of Regents, University of Hawaii. March 30, 1951.

Before embarking on his multi-decade long crusade for world peace, Linus Pauling began to address injustices on a decidedly more local level.

December 8, 1941 was a memorable day on the normally quiet Caltech campus. That morning, the campus was bristling with military vehicles manned by the National Guard troops. The Caltech registrar, an officer in the National Guard, had called them in to “defend” the Caltech campus. Notices were posted for an emergency convocation at 10:00 a.m. in Culbertson Hall and students were drafted to guard doors not manned by the National Guard and armed with pick axe handles.

Classrooms were empty and groups were listening to the radio and discussing the evolving news coming from Pearl Harbor. At 10 a.m. we dutifully assembled in Culbertson Hall where our registrar, in full National Guard uniform complete with pistols, gave a most intemperate speech about the dastardly “Japs” that would have done credit to any American Legion hall that day.

Linus Pauling was standing in the back of the hall as he had come in late and interrupted the speech by bursting out with the question “By what authority have you called this impromptu convocation?” He then proceeded to remind the registrar that Caltech was known for being a place of thoughtful and factual reason but the registrar had turned it into a place of pure hysteria. The student body stood up and clapped for Linus. The registrar dismissed the meeting and retreated in some disarray. For many of us, Linus won his Nobel Peace Prize that day!

(Doug Strain, 2000, as quoted in Mead, Clifford and Thomas Hager. Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2001. 251. [Now available in paperback])

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Paulings worked to aid Japanese-Americans unfairly persecuted by their community and their government. In response, the Pauling home was vandalized and the family threatened. Later in life, as a result of his activism on behalf of a variety of peace efforts, Pauling would be publicly attacked as a Communist and a traitor. Despite the incendiary accusations thrown his way, throughout his life Pauling consistently acted on his own personal beliefs. His convictions eventually resulted in his receipt of the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize, making him the only individual in history with two unshared Nobel prizes.

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

Anti-Japanese Sentiment and the Rise of Pauling the Peace Activist

“I do not know who is responsible for this un-American act. The people in Pasadena and the surrounding region are, in general, intelligent and patriotic. I have, however, come in contact with a few people who do not know what the Bill of Rights is and what the Four Freedoms are and what the principles are for which the United Nations are fighting. I suspect that the trespass on our home was carried out by one or more of these misguided people who believe that American citizens should be persecuted in the same way that the Nazis have persecuted the Jewish citizens of Germany and the conquered territories.”

– Linus Pauling. “Vandals Victimize Scientist’s Home Where Nisei Employed,” Pasadena Independent. March 7, 1945.

Linus Pauling, now known as one of the twentieth-century’s foremost crusaders for peace, spent much of the first half of his life as a relatively apolitical individual. Up to the early 1940s, Pauling’s politics trended to the center-right — when asked, he typically labeled himself a “Roosevelt Republican.” In the main, however, science was Pauling’s passion and world affairs didn’t enter his thoughts too often. As with many Americans though, a series of events related to World War II dramatically shifted Pauling’s perspective.

After the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese and Japanese-Americans living on the United States’ west coast were moved to internment camps by the federal government. This action was deemed necessary as a means of protecting both American interests as well as the well-being of loyal Japanese Americans.

Ava Helen Pauling reacted strongly to the internment program, volunteering at the local ACLU chapter to raise awareness of a policy that she felt to be brazenly racist. Her husband’s chief response was a series of unsuccessful attempts to secure east coast fellowships for a number of Caltech graduate researchers, most notably an immunochemistry researcher named Carol Ikeda.

For the most part though, Pauling’s primary focus during World War II was an ambitious program of research related to a number of military applications supporting the war effort — an oxygen meter for airplanes and submarines, a blood plasma substitute, rocket propellants and invisible inks. Three years after the war’s conclusion, Pauling would receive the Presidential Medal for Merit in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the Allied cause.

Pauling’s political inclinations remained relatively mild until March of 1945, when the family hired a Japanese-American gardener for a brief period prior to his scheduled reporting for duty in the U.S. Army. A few days following the gardener’s hire, the Paulings were shocked to find anti-Japanese graffiti scrawled on their garage and mailbox. A series of subsequent hate letters and death threats were the chilling work of the Paulings’ neighbors:

“We happen to be one of a groupe [sic] who fully intend to burn your home, tire [sic] and feather your body, unless you get rid of that jap….the more publicity you give this matter, the sooner we will take care of you just like Al Capone did some years ago… [signed] A neighbor.”

Pauling, still deeply engaged in his scientific war work, was outraged that his loyalties might be questioned and his family threatened. With aid from the ACLU, he was able to prod the unsympathetic local sheriff into providing a guard to protect his wife and children against violence. While none of the threats were carried out, the “Japanese Gardener Incident” proved to be an important event in Pauling’s life, as it provided an eye-opening glimpse of the intolerance that would become a hallmark of the McCarthy Era.

The leftward shift in Pauling’s political thinking was finalized by the horrible carnage left in the wake of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan at the end of the war. Encouraged by Ava Helen, who had been deeply troubled by reactionary currents in mainstream American culture well before her husband, Linus Pauling quickly emerged as one of the world’s most prolific activists in support of peace.

Read more about this story on the website “Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement.”