Final Years as Division Chair: The End of Pauling’s Chairmanship

Pasadena Independent, June 1958

[Pauling as Administrator; Part 20 of 20]

The final years of Linus Pauling’s tenure as chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology were marked by steady change within the division and the Institute. One shift, first discussed in 1956, was a revision of the freshman chemistry curriculum to incorporate physics-based theoretical approaches that had been developed since 1940. By covering these topics in the first year, Caltech’s undergraduates would be adequately well-equipped to take organic chemistry as sophomores. Other curricular edits focused on removing a handful of junior- and senior-year requirements, thus freeing up room for electives.

Though the undergraduate population was robust enough to merit a rethinking of the coursework being offered, graduate studies at the Institute were suffering. The difficulties that Caltech was facing with attracting graduate students were in turn leading to a lack of people available to teach lower-level undergraduate courses. Seeking to address this problem, Institute President Lee DuBridge suggested to the division chairs that they consider increasing the stipend offered to graduate instructors. Amidst these conversations though, a steady buzz about Pauling’s growing public image, and its potential impact on Caltech’s well-being, could not be avoided. Pressures of this sort ultimately undermined Pauling’s position of leadership at Caltech and resulted in his stepping down from his administrative post.

Just two months after dealing with unfavorable press from conservative columnist Fulton Lewis, Jr. and subsequent threats from major donors to withdraw financial support from Caltech, Pauling appeared on the May 11, 1958 episode of Meet the Press. [Audio of this appearance is included below — credit: and the Gordon Skene Sound Collection]

At first, the panel cordially questioned Pauling about his petition to ban nuclear testing. But as the interview went on, panelists began to ask more leading questions about Pauling being a Communist, and the show became especially heated once the panel brought up Fulton Lewis’ allegations that the petition had cost $10 per signature. Pauling’s own calculations put the correct amount at 3¢ per signature, but he was cut off as he attempted to give his final response. Following the episode, Pauling received scores of letters thanking him for his work and sympathizing with how poorly he had been treated by the interviewers. Some correspondents even sent him money in hopes that their donation might assist with the petition initiative.

A decidedly different cache of letters came into President DuBridge’s office. Among them were expressions of outrage at Pauling’s activities accompanied by threats to withhold future donations to Caltech. DuBridge forwarded “one of many” of these letters to Pauling. Authored by someone who simply signed off as “Disturbed,” the letter writer described themself as being “truly frightened” by Pauling, a “psychopathic” character who was in “consistent alignment with Communist activities.” For Disturbed, Pauling’s appearance on Meet the Press held no redeeming value as far as Caltech was concerned. The author also pointed out that they had no children and threatened to remove Caltech from consideration in their will. For Disturbed, it was beyond to pale to have

men like this fellow in top faculty positions – men who may, for all I know, be in a position to share the secrets of defense production that go on at Cal-Tech.

As for DuBridge, this latest controversy was the last straw. After forwarding Disturbed’s letter, the Caltech president called Pauling into his office to ask that he stop his peace work and to tell him – according to Pauling’s notes – that he was the “laughing stock of people everywhere.” In this meeting, DuBridge stressed that Pauling’s activities were directly interfering with Caltech’s ability to raise money, noting specifically a development fund of $16 million that went to Harvey Mudd College instead. DuBridge also told Pauling that the Institute’s trustees had seriously considered dismissing him, but did not do so because of concerns related to academic freedom.

In response, Pauling told DuBridge that he would continue to follow his conscience, but also put forth a scenario that would give DuBridge a way out of his own political bind. Pauling’s proposal was that he be appointed a Research Professor with no teaching duties so that his salary would only be charged against research funds. Importantly, Pauling also suggested that he step down as Chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. In Pauling’s mind, this revision of duties would help to reduce potential damage to fundraising efforts caused by his public appearances.

A month later, Pauling again suggested to DuBridge that his duties be shifted, but this time asked that he not be appointed a Research Professor – after thinking about it for a while, he realized that he enjoyed teaching too much and did not want to give it up. He was, however, prepared to cede his administrative position immediately, telling DuBridge that he would stay on as chair longer if needed, but would prefer to exit as soon as he could.

Extra time was not necessary and Ernest Swift took over the chair on June 30, 1958. The annual report issued by the division marked this major transition by avoiding the politics of the situation. In it, President DuBridge gave his own spin on why Pauling was stepping down, saying, “He has served as Division Chairman for twenty-one years, and his desire for relief is entirely understandable.” The report also noted how, on seemingly equal footing, the transition to the new curriculum structure was continuing to go smoothly.

Once established, Ernest Swift took the division in a different direction, giving more sway to the sub-disciplines within the unit than had Pauling. Lab space was also reorganized, with Pauling and his research teams given less space. Pauling’s salary was likewise reduced from $18,000 to $15,000, a reflection of the argument that Pauling had made two decades earlier that his pay should be increased with the added responsibilities of being division chair.

And despite the hope that Pauling might be able to express his views in public more freely without harming Caltech’s finances, his public persona remained a source of problems. Even after Pauling had stepped down from the chair, President DuBridge continued to send Pauling letters that he had received from those who were upset with his public statements and his alleged communism. Pauling’s response to one such letter was “I think that he is a hopeless case – probably a junior member of the John Birch Society.”

Sadly, Pauling’s second Nobel Prize in 1963 only increased the tension, and neither the Institute nor his own division provided any formal recognition of the honor. Rather, DuBridge went so far as to disparage Pauling’s methods for seeking peace. The snub proved to be too much for Pauling, and not long after accepting the prize he announced that he would be leaving Caltech in favor of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. After a close and hugely productive association that spanned forty-one years, Pauling’s affiliation with Caltech was reduced to that of Research Associate, as defined by a series of unpaid contracts that were renewed annually into the late 1960s.

Final Years as Division Chair: Progress Within, Trouble Without

Linus Pauling, 1958. Photo Credit: Wayne Miller.

[Pauling as Administrator]

Linus Pauling’s last years as Chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology were punctuated by the construction of the Norman W. Church Laboratory for Chemical Biology, which commenced in August 1954. Earlier budget concerns, which threatened to reduce the size of the building and to leave much of it unfurnished, had been partially overcome when an extra $250,000 was allocated for the project. But even this fresh infusion of cash was not enough to get the building over the hump. Full funding was not in hand until the next spring, when a $368,000 construction grant was awarded to provide for the laboratory’s furnishings.

All told, the Church facility cost more then $2 million to complete. It was dedicated in November 1955 as part of the National Academy of Sciences’ annual meeting, which was held at Caltech at Pauling’s urging. Faculty and staff did not fully occupy the building until the following summer, but everybody was pleased with the result and, in particular, the opportunities for collaboration between chemistry and biology that the shared space helped to facilitate. In short, things were continuing to look good for the division under Pauling.

Pauling’s 1956 division report was equally congratulatory. Echoing the tone of earlier years, the report recognized it’s head for developing a division that used chemical methods to advance critical questions that cut across disciplines. Decades before, the report noted, A.A. Noyes had attained similar heights in building a chemical division that was capable of applying physical methods to chemical questions. Now, in 1956, Caltech could boast of a unit that was “strong” in chemistry and chemical engineering and “especially outstanding” in research on molecular structure and the application of chemistry to biology and medicine.

The division’s strengths had a lot to do with the funding that it attracted and, despite some setbacks, Pauling remained fundamental to making this so. One major achievement from this time period was to secure matching funds for the $1,500,000 challenge grant that had been put forth by the Rockefeller Foundation earlier in the decade. Pauling played a key role in solidifying the Rockefeller money in many ways, including his successful authorship of a $450,000 Ford Foundation grant to support his research on the molecular chemistry of mental disease. In addition to being well-funded, the intellectual heft of this particular line of research greatly impressed many of the younger faculty in particular.

While the view inside the division was rosy, Pauling was coming under increasing scrutiny elsewhere. Time and again, Pauling’s loyalty to the United States was being questioned by government and media sources alike, a circumstance that led Caltech’s administration to apply more pressure on Pauling to reduce his profile as an activist.

One noteworthy instance came about in 1958 when Fulton Lewis Jr., a conservative newspaper and radio commentator, attacked Pauling’s recent circulation of a petition that called for an international agreement to end nuclear testing. Lewis accused Pauling of making money off of the petition, estimating that Pauling was earning $10 from each signature. Lewis also charged Pauling with damaging the security of the United States by focusing on the cessation of U.S. testing efforts and overlooking tests being conducted by other nuclear countries.

After reading Lewis’ column, T. C. Coleman, President of the Engineering Company of Los Angeles, wrote to Caltech President Lee DuBridge expressing his view that this was just another reminder of how Pauling was tarnishing Caltech’s image. Coleman then threatened to withhold any future financial support from the Institute

unless I again become convinced that a truly loyal attitude prevails, and that prominent staff members such as Dr. Pauling will be required to show cause why their political activities are not detrimental to the college and the country which deserves this loyalty.

In issuing this warning, Coleman claimed that he was not trying to suppress Pauling’s ability to express his opinions, nor was he concerned that Pauling would influence Caltech’s students, since, as Coleman put it, “as they mature they will grow more conservative.” What Coleman was most concerned about was that Pauling was not taking seriously the “heavy responsibility” that came with representing Caltech to a public who might be more easily persuaded by his views because of his scientific credentials. Coleman was sure that Caltech would have already dismissed him had Pauling not been such a well-respected scientist internationally and leader within the Institute.

President DuBridge forwarded Coleman’s letter to Pauling and to Albert Ruddock, the chair of the Institute’s Board of Trustees. Ruddock responded directly to Coleman and in vigorous defense of Pauling, noting that his “unconventional opinions” were not evidence of disloyalty – a trait that Caltech would not tolerate. Ruddock further pointed out that accusing Pauling of being disloyal was absurd since his opinions on banning nuclear tests had by then been adopted by President Eisenhower. From there, Ruddock suggested that Pauling’s political activities had not interfered at all with his science, and that he was still “supreme in his field.” In fact,

The very independence of thought that leads Dr. Pauling into certain attitudes and opinions to which you and many others object is that which lies at the very basis of investigational research.

The board, Ruddock explained, would be hypocritical if they punished Pauling for exercising independent thought in one area, and encouraged it in another. Furthermore, disciplining Pauling would open a “Pandora’s Box of difficulties” that would “explode” as other faculty members rushed to defend Pauling, even if they did not agree with his activities.

For his part, Pauling’s only response was to DuBridge. Having read Fulton’s article, Coleman’s letter, and Ruddock’s reply, Pauling explained to the Caltech president that Fulton’s column was misleading in more ways than one. For starters, his petition called for both the United States and the Soviet Union to stop their nuclear tests. Pauling also corrected Fulton’s calculation of how much each signature cost, putting it at three cents each. Pauling himself bore most of this cost as he had hired a secretary to help him with the circulation effort, which was global in scope.

Pauling then confided his intent to file a libel lawsuit against Lewis using, with DuBridge’s permission, Coleman’s letter as evidence. Pauling concluded his letter as follows:

Let me say that I feel that the United States of America is in great danger from the group of powerful but misguided men, among them T. C. Coleman, who attempt to misuse their power in the way illustrated by Mr. Coleman’s letter.

Unfortunately for Pauling, letters like Coleman’s would continue to come across DuBridge’s desk, and the pressure on Pauling would continue to mount. It was only a matter of time until Pauling would decide to step down as Chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

A Cold War Division Chair: Pauling Under Investigation

[Pauling as Administrator]

As Chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, Linus Pauling was obligated to deliver an annual report each year to Institute President Lee DuBridge. As he compiled these reports, Pauling solicited comments from members of the division that focused primarily on their research progress over the previous year.

In 1952, using the Division of Biology’s report as a model, Pauling added some specifics to his usual request for comment. This time around, he needed information about funding sources; a 100-500 word description of work completed that would be accessible to the general reader; and a list of awards received and publications authored. These extra details painted a generally positive portrait of the division, though they did not always reflect the budgetary strains being felt across the unit.

While Pauling oversaw an influx of funding that allowed the division to expand, the money on hand never seemed to be quite enough. As a result, Pauling needed to keep a close watch on the division’s budget, tracking staff salaries, fellowships, supplies, and special funds. In doing so, Pauling sometimes uncovered what appeared to be frivolous spending in unexpected places.

In 1951 for example, Pauling asked division staff to be careful about publishing in journals that charged page fees for article reprint orders. That year, Pauling noted, the division had spent $2,500 on reprints, including $700 for covers alone. Going forward, Pauling asked that, unless absolutely necessary, reprints be ordered without covers; a small sacrifice to conserve resources.

While modifying reprint ordering practices promised to save the division a bit of money, Pauling’s own activities outside of the division began to impact the division’s budget in a far more substantial way. By 1951, Pauling’s work as an anti-nuclear activist had been targeted for suspicion by external forces as well as Caltech’s own administration. That same year, a tangible outcome of this suspicion hit the division’s bottom line hard when the United States Public Health Service denied Pauling a $40,000 grant on the basis of his alleged communist ties.

Around this time, with Red Scare fears intensifying, Caltech decided that all individuals serving on the Institute’s Contracts Committee be required to pass a low-level security clearance, to be administered by the Industrial Employment Review Board (IERB). In part because it was meant to be a routine, low-stakes review, this directive was something that should have posed no complications for Pauling. However, problems did indeed arise after Pauling’s name was erroneously (and accidentally) included on a list of upper level administrators connected to Project Vista, a top secret hydrogen bomb research program with which Pauling, in actual fact, had no affiliation.

As a scientist, Pauling’s IERB case was to be evaluated by a military panel. At the beginning of August 1951, Pauling received notice from Lieutenant Colonel W. J. King that he had been denied a security clearance due to his being a “member of” and a “close associate” of the Communist Party since 1943. In backing this claim, King cited as evidence Pauling’s support of “known Communists,” a likely reference to the fundraising effort that Pauling had helped lead for Sidney Weinbaum’s defense the previous year. Pauling adamantly denied the charges, calling anyone who accused him of being a communist a “liar.” Pauling did concede that he may have defended communists in the past, but also maintained that he had the right to defend those who “deserve to be defended.”

King informed Pauling that he could submit evidence in his own defense before a final decision was made, at which point Pauling turned to his scientific colleagues, asking them to vouch for him through character reference letters. In making this appeal, Pauling sent out a form letter describing how he had signed the Espionage Act several times over the previous eleven years, a period during which he had carried out war work that made use of large amounts of classified information. The letter also stressed that Pauling wanted to continue working on similar research as a “service to the Government,” but that he would not be able to do so without approval from the IERB. The letter concluded with Pauling’s feeling that his own political actions to “help improve our national politics and to prevent and rectify injustices to individuals” should not be held against him.

One supporter, Frank Aydelotte of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust, told the IERB that Pauling was definitely not a communist. In his letter of reference, Aydelotte wrote

Professor Pauling is a liberal; he is a man of great personal courage who would not hesitate to defend anyone whom he believed to be the victim of injustice, but he is at the same time a man of complete integrity and proven loyalty to the United States Government.

But not all of the colleagues solicited by Pauling gave their unconditional support. One of them, Karl Compton, the Chairman of the Corporation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, asserted that Pauling’s scientific and personal character were admirable, but also pointed out that he had never spoken with Pauling about communism and so could not say whether or not Pauling was a communist.

Caltech President Lee DuBridge also agreed to write a letter of support for Pauling, but added that he was not surprised by the decision that the IERB had reached, an admission that shocked Pauling. For DuBridge, the issue was mostly a headache that he wanted settled “one way or another.” As Pauling’s activities had come under increasing scrutiny, some of the Institute’s trustees had threatened to leave the board, and DuBridge himself was in danger of being replaced if he could not find a way to keep Pauling in line.

By the end of September, it appeared that the letters of support had fallen on deaf ears when Pauling’s clearance was once again denied. Following Pauling’s immediate appeal, another month passed until the Project Vista clerical error came to light. And while this revelation led to a momentary lessening of tensions, problems related to Pauling’s public persona would only continue to interfere with his duties at Caltech and within his division.

A Cold War Division Chair: Political Activism and Institutional Pressure

Linus Pauling, 1950

[Pauling as Administrator]

Even before becoming Chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, Linus Pauling had been viewed by some of his colleagues, particularly his predecessor A.A. Noyes, as being inclined to delegate responsibilities. This tendency became more evident following the conclusion of World War II, as the push to promote biochemical research within the division moved forward. While Pauling continued to steer the division toward a future focused intently on biochemistry – advocating for and securing funds to support biochemical medical research – he also began to withdraw from other duties, shifting some of them to his colleagues.

A significant factor behind the need to delegate was Pauling’s increasing involvement in peace activism and, particularly, his schedule of public speaking related to the use and testing of nuclear weapons. These activities ultimately brought Pauling before Caltech’s Board of Trustees, who contemplated his dismissal.

In 1949 the board communicated to Caltech President Lee DuBridge that public statements being made by Pauling on issues of peace and nuclear weapons were “damaging” to Caltech’s reputation. In response, Pauling is said to have “pledged” to DuBridge that he would cut back on his political activism, since he did not want his political views to interfere with his scientific work. President Truman’s decision to develop a hydrogen bomb the next year changed Pauling’s mind however, and he was again brought to the attention of Caltech’s leadership. This time, Pauling told DuBridge that he wished to speak with the trustees directly.

Meanwhile, the board had formed a committee made up of five trustees and five faculty members who were asked to determine whether or not Pauling should be dismissed from Caltech. In a statement dated July 14, 1950, Pauling expressed shock at having learned of this unexpected action by the trustees. In particular, Pauling’s tenure rank and hugely successful twenty-eight year career at Caltech had not prepared him for such an extreme possibility.

Three days later, on July 17, Pauling was given the chance to speak to the board and repeated to the trustees what he had earlier told DuBridge: he wanted to cut back on his political activities. But this ambition was couched, with Pauling noting that

I still propose to do this, at a rate determined by the world situation; however, I remain unwilling to pledge myself to cease all political activities.

Regardless, Pauling made it clear that he did not want to harm Caltech and would do “anything compatible with my conscience and my principles” to protect its reputation.

Sidney Weinbaum

In actual fact, Pauling did not believe that he was harming Caltech’s reputation at all. Rather, after surveying several colleagues and students who told him that his activities had caused no “appreciable damage” to them, Pauling concluded that he was actually helping the institution’s standing.

President DuBridge harbored a decidedly different point of view, informing the board that “many staff members” had told him that Pauling’s actions had “damaged them greatly.” These sentiments focused in particular on Pauling’s support for Sidney Weinbaum, a Russian émigré who became a United States citizen in 1927 and completed his Ph.D. at Caltech in 1933.

Weinbaum, who was Pauling’s research assistant in 1929, had been charged with being a communist, and his case eventually drew the FBI to Caltech. This led to Weinbaum’s removal, as a possible security risk, from his position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1949. During his appeal, which was supported by Caltech, Weinbaum denied being a communist. The government subsequently dropped their previous allegations against Weinbaum in favor of new charges of perjury, for which he was arrested.

Pauling and Weinbaum were friends, so much so that the Paulings offered a room in their home to Weinbaum’s spouse following his arrest. Pauling also offered $2,000 for Weinbaum’s legal defense, and helped to raise more from other sources.

But DuBridge did not like the potential optics of the situation and suggested in particular that Pauling raise money by word of mouth, and not through the mail. An undated form letter authored by Pauling and five others, and appealing for money to support Weinbaum’s case, suggests that Pauling either ignored DuBridge’s advice or that DuBridge was trying to reel Pauling back in. Ultimately, Pauling’s efforts did not take, and Weinbaum was sentenced to four years in prison.

As the year moved forward, Pauling’s public persona continued to emerge as a source of concern for DuBridge and Caltech’s board. In October 1950, Pauling came under further scrutiny after being named by Senator Joseph McCarthy as a communist. McCarthy fanned the flames of this allegation by also defining Pauling as an atomic scientist who had received classified information from the Atomic Energy Commission as a result of his connections with the Guggenheim Foundation. The Senator was quick to add that the foundation was rumored to have “a flagrant record of giving fellowships to Communists.”

Responding internally, Pauling explained to Charles Newton, DuBridge’s assistant, that he was only on the Committee of Selection for the Guggenheim Foundation and could in no way be involved with the organization in the ways that McCarthy had suggested. Pauling added that McCarthy was likely targeting him for his peace work.

With interest in his politics hanging over his status at Caltech like a sword of Damocles, Pauling remained in the dark about any conclusions reached by the Board of Trustees’ select review committee, before which he had never been called to testify. Another twelve years would pass before DuBridge finally informed Pauling that the committee had recommended, in May 1952, that nothing be done to punish Pauling. Instead, the committee suggested that Pauling be continually pressed to end his political activities in order to forestall criticism of the Institute. And indeed, as time went on, the internal pressure on Pauling was increased.

Though Pauling’s political activism began to intrude more frequently on his daily responsibilities, he continued to take pride in heading Caltech’s chemistry division, which was racking up the successes. In 1950, Pauling reported to division staff that the Committee on Professional Training had given the chemistry program an overall grade of A, as well as A grades in physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and analytic chemistry, with a lone B issued for organic chemistry. Pauling delighted in boasting of these types of accomplishments, and also continued to actively work with incoming students.

One such student, Fernando L. Carraro of Brazil, first wrote to Pauling in 1950, expressing an interest in Pauling’s research on antibodies. Over subsequent exchanges, it became clear that Carraro wanted to study with him at Caltech. In response, Pauling suggested that Carraro apply to the Institute in 1953, and that he also seek funding from the Guggenheim Fellowship for Latin American students. In the meantime, Carraro wanted to know what he should study, to which Pauling offered the idea of mathematics.

In providing guidance related to the Guggenheim fellowship, Pauling further suggested that Carraro could focus on the structure of proteins, the application of quantum mechanics to molecular structure, or the analysis of gas molecules by electron diffraction during his stint in Pasadena. Pauling also warned Carraro that he would likely not be given a graduate assistantship since he had not attended an American university.

Carraro’s fellowship was ultimately approved and he studied under Pauling from 1954 to 1955. Though a small story in the grand scheme of Pauling’s life, his interactions with this student from Brazil serve as evidence that, despite everything else that was vying for his attention, he continued to set aside time for those wishing to learn.

Chairing the Division After the War: Organizing the Peace

Linus Pauling, 1946

[Pauling as Administrator]

As the government’s demand for research and development projects began to wane following the end of the Second World War, the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology began a period of reorganization. One early change was a shift in policy for graduate studies wherein only those able to attend full time were admitted. The division also instituted a requirement that graduate students from the Biology division working under someone in Chemistry receive permission from their Biology adviser first.

But amidst these and other changes, one very important continuation remained: the division’s involvement with military research. One such activity that ultimately involved Linus Pauling was led by two division members from the Chemical Engineering group, B. H. Sage and Dean Lacey, who had assumed a post-war contract from the Bureau of Ordnance on improving double-base propellant processing. This classified work to develop “smokeless powder” was less pure chemistry and more straight up engineering. As such, the contract was in potential conflict with the division’s policy on accepting funding that restricted publication.

Noting this, Sage went to Pauling for his approval. And as the division chair, Pauling judged the research to be worthy of an exception, telling Sage, “I do not see how you can avoid doing work of this sort; it seems to me to be clearly your duty, in view of your experience.”

Typical of the administrator’s burden, Pauling swiftly turned his attention to mediating a dispute between Sage and J. Holmes Sturdivant over shared responsibilities at the Chemistry Shop. The problem came to Pauling’s attention in November 1946 when Sturdivant informed Pauling that the Chemical Engineering group had “contributed essentially nothing toward the maintenance of the Chemistry Shop facilities” despite spending 10% to 17% of their time using the shop. Sturdivant subsequently requested that Pauling require Chemical Engineering to contribute at least 5% of their time over the course of a year towards maintenance. To make up for past indiscretions, Sturdivant also suggested that the engineers allocate 100 hours to shop maintenance over the next month.

Sage, speaking on behalf of the Chemical Engineering group, expressed annoyance with Sturdivant’s requests, and claimed that the engineers had in fact done routine maintenance and housekeeping, while also taking “complete responsibility for the maintenance of the small so-called Chemical Engineering Shop.” (Pauling, apparently puzzled by Sage’s reference to a Chemical Engineering Shop, underlined this line of text with a question mark next to it.) Sage also pointed out that the extra amount of time that Sturdivant wanted the engineers to spend on maintenance would accrue to an additional 17% of their time spent in the shop. Sage concluded with a request that the group receive $50 a month more to help cover shop-related overhead costs paid to the division, something that they had not been asked to pay in the past.

In response, Sturdivant told Pauling and Sage that the increase in overhead charges had to do with changes made during the war as research shifted to other areas. Specifically, the Committee on Institute Shops had recommended that all campus shops charge overhead to the groups that used them. Sturdivant, seeking to appease Sage on some level, then recommended lowering the Chemical Engineering group’s overhead charge to $20 per month for the next 18 months. Pauling agreed that this was a reasonable compromise and the dispute was settled.

Anticipating future disputes of this sort, Pauling inquired with upper administration about the possibility of devoting new space on campus to chemical engineering. As it turned out, nothing major was to happen for another decade — not until 1956 did Caltech break ground for a new building dedicated to the division’s engineers.

Lee DuBridge, 1948

As a member of the Institute’s Executive Committee, Pauling was well-positioned to work with the incoming Lee A. DuBridge, the first person to officially hold the title of President of Caltech. Before starting in Pasadena, DuBridge had spent six years as the first director of the radiation laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And though he officially became Caltech’s president in the fall of 1946, he began working with Pauling before then to begin implementing his vision for the Institute.

DuBridge and Pauling shared a similar point of view on faculty pay: to recruit and retain the best, the Institute had to offer high salaries. With this idea in mind, they first worked together to hire John G. Kirkwood as Professor of Chemistry, meeting in Washington, D.C., (DuBridge hadn’t yet moved to California) in April 1946 to discuss the best way to attract him. At the end of their meeting, they decided that $10,000 per year would do it.

Once Pauling was back in Pasadena, he wrote to DuBridge that the Executive Committee thought the amount was too high, as only a “few people” – including Pauling – made that much at the Institute. DuBridge was disappointed by this news, writing that

My first reaction is to say a salary of this amount has got to come as a fairly common figure in the near future if we are to get and keep good men – and therefore lets go ahead in this case.

Thus emboldened, Pauling reached out to Kirkwood, who replied that he would need to think about the offer. DuBridge had not expected this response and was also a bit perturbed at Pauling, since he had meant for Pauling to merely inquire with Kirkwood about his potential interest at that salary level. In the end, Kirkwood accepted the position, but only remained at Caltech until 1951, leaving to take up the Sterling Professorship at Yale.

Membership on the Executive Committee also obligated Pauling to spend time filling positions outside of his own division. While at Cornell, John Kirkwood had worked closely with physicist Hans A. Bethe, whom Pauling had tried to persuade to come to Caltech to replace Robert Oppenheimer in 1946. The previous fall, Caltech had offered Oppenheimer $10,000 to return to Pasadena now that his war-time service at the Los Alamos Laboratory had concluded. Not long after, the Institute tried to sweeten the deal by offering him the chairmanship of the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Electrical Engineering.

These offers were not enough to convince Oppenheimer to stay, and he ended up as Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Bethe was likewise not convinced that Pasadena would make for a good fit and suggested that Pauling make an inquiry with Robert F. Christy, who had worked with Oppenheimer at Los Alamos and had been involved with the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago as well. Pauling heeded this advice and Christy went on to spend the rest of his career at Caltech.

Bringing in new faculty members and keeping the peace between current employees consistently occupied Pauling’s time as a division chair. The imperative to reorganize research objectives following the end of World War II only made those tasks more urgent and weighty.

The Price of Affiliation

Linus Pauling, 1950s

[Part 2 of 2]

Nearly halfway through the twentieth century, many scientists who had held classified security clearances during the Second World War were being blacklisted from their profession. Post-war, the clearance process for work on classified projects became subject to increased scrutiny, a duty which fell under the dual jurisdiction of regional personnel security boards and the military. The boards could revoke clearance upon examination of an applicant’s personal information, and could choose not to present evidence for their conclusions.

In such instances where an applicant wished to challenge the decision, an appeal could be issued to the Industrial Employment Review Board (IERB), which allowed individuals to present their case in person. Civilian scientists that came before the board were judged by a military review panel, whose decision on the matter was final.

As a part of his general duties after the war, Linus Pauling worked on a committee that reviewed grant requests for Caltech’s Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, many of which involved classified information for work on restricted projects supported by the Department of Defense. Because of new Caltech policies, people in Pauling’s position were required to submit an application for low level security clearance, a stipulation which Pauling agreed to but otherwise took little interest in.

On July 31, 1951 however, Pauling was notified by the IERB that his most recent request for clearance to work with classified military information had been denied. Before explaining his rights to appeal the decision, the reasons for his denial were freely expressed by the board:

Information indicates that you have been a member of the Communist Party and close associate of Communist Party members from 1943 to the present time; you have also been affiliated with or a member of numerous organizations which espouse Communist Party ideologies and on many occasions you have openly defended known Communists and Communist ideologies.

Pauling promptly requested a hearing before the board. He was soon notified of his options, and provided with an extended justification for his clearance denial. The reply from the review board included a detailed listing of Pauling’s many suspected connections to communism and communist organizations. The itemization noted, among other transgressions, his affiliations with the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, the National Council of the Arts Sciences and Professions, the Progressive Citizens of America, and a lengthy list of people and causes that had received Pauling’s support or opposition over the previous several years. Nearly all of the listings had been cited by the Attorney General of the United States as subversive and/or communist. Having presented the lengthy list, the Executive Officer of the IERB, Donald Mare, concluded that

The foregoing information and all the investigative evidence in your case file, when considered in connection with the duties of your position as a research consultant on classified information of the Department of Defense at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, indicates that you might voluntarily or involuntarily act against the security interests of the United States, and that your employment in that position might constitute a danger to national security.

Pauling was informed that the board would be hearing cases on the West Coast during the week of November 12, at which point he scheduled an appearance. Caltech President Lee DuBridge did not immediately reply to Pauling’s inquiry about Caltech-funded legal defense and delayed the assignment of a lawyer to Pauling, thus forcing Pauling to find his own. The event precipitated one of Pauling’s first close interactions with Abraham Lincoln Wirin, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who would provide him with vital legal counsel over the next several decades.

A. L. Wirin

At his appearance before the IERB, Pauling read a thirteen-page statement about his life, beliefs and the value of his work to the nation. After further discussion and examination of his character witnesses, the board ended the hearing inconclusively, informing Pauling and his counsel that a follow-up hearing would be pursued later in Washington, D.C.

Several days before his next hearing was scheduled to take place, Pauling met with Mr. Wirin and President DuBridge. At this meeting, DuBridge informed Pauling that the whole controversy with the IERB had resulted from an administrative oversight. DuBridge had discovered that Pauling’s name was mistakenly added to a list of researchers requesting top secret clearance for a hydrogen bomb research program called Project Vista. It seems that the mistake had made the entire discussion of Pauling’s affiliations a moot point, as the low level security classification required for Pauling’s position would likely have passed through the clearance process without incident.

After some discussion, DuBridge agreed that the basic “Confidential” clearance would likely continue to be satisfactory for Pauling’s work on the division’s Contracts Committee. He wrote a letter to that effect, clarifying the list error, which Pauling promptly delivered to the IERB. After presenting DuBridge’s letter to the Board, Pauling’s clearance was shortly reinstated.

Though the troubling events ended mostly in his favor, Pauling was understandably shaken by the ordeal. Had the low-level security clearance not been reinstated, Pauling’s ability to operate effectively in his position at Caltech would have been greatly jeopardized. Pauling was cowed by the experience, and after talking with his wife Ava Helen, decided to tone down the political aspects of his public profile.

Shortly thereafter, Pauling resigned from the NCASP, then declined a nomination from the American Association of Scientific Workers for a continued position as one of the organization’s vice-presidents. Pauling also resigned his vice-presidency of the World Federation of Scientific Workers, citing an inability to effectively perform his duties as an officer.  Nonetheless, even as he distanced himself from several people and organizations, Pauling found himself under continued scrutiny from investigators and other interested parties.

Though Pauling felt a pressing need to withdraw from some of his controversial associations, it was not long before he began to re-initiate contact. Pauling accepted the National Vice-Presidency of AAScW for 1952-53, less than a year after his initial refusal, and continued to receive and save AAScW newsletters throughout the 1950s. He also maintained contact with J. D. Bernal and others within the World Federation of Scientific Workers well into the 1980s. While the events of 1951 proved that Pauling could be temporarily intimidated or constrained, they also demonstrated his resilient commitment to peace-related activism and organization.