Peter Pauling: Cambridge Struggles, 1954-1956

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Julia and Peter Pauling, 1956.

[The life of Peter Pauling, Part 6 of 9]

The year 1954 was a tumultuous one for Peter Pauling. For one, Jim Watson had left for Caltech, and Peter lamented that his absence was felt, as he was “a positive force, albeit a bit conceited” when it came to social dynamics in the lab. At the same time, Peter’s sister Linda was preparing to move to Cambridge, where her father hoped that Peter might help her to find lab work assisting with crystal structure determinations. (Linda was quite interested in mathematics.) His sister’s imminent arrival excited in Peter visions of European exploration, and especially of skiing.

But while Peter dreamed, serious matters were afoot at the Cavendish Laboratory. Its director, Sir Lawrence Bragg, was planning to resign his Cambridge professorship to take a position as head of the Royal Institution in London. Meanwhile, the lab’s incoming director of physics, Nevill Mott, was widely known to be of the opinion that the unit’s increasing focus on biology needed to be redirected. John Kendrew was worried that the MRC unit that he and Max Perutz headed might be kicked out of the lab, or even the department, entirely.

This uncertainty both distracted Kendrew from Peter’s lack of progress on his myoglobin work, and, in retrospect, made Peter’s lack of enthusiasm for his topic all the more glaring. Indeed, while John Kendrew was worried about the future of their research, Peter was writing to his father that he was unconcerned about Mott’s approval. Rather, as was so often the case, Peter’s main preoccupation was his vehicle, this time a 1930 Mercedes Benz open touring car, described as “18 feet long and mostly engine,” that Peter was now cruising in for special occasions like the May Ball at Peterhouse. Peter’s older brother, Linus Jr., had forwarded him money to purchase the car, hoping that it would be affordable to rebuild the engine. When the cost of doing so turned out to double his investment in the vehicle, Linus Jr. thought it more expedient to simply let his younger brother have the car.

Linus Jr. and Peter formed a strong relationship during Peter’s years at Cambridge, a time period where Linus Jr. and his wife Anita made a habit of travelling around Europe during the summers. This closeness marked something of a renewal of the brothers’ relationship since they had seen little of one another during their more formative years, and as children had little in common. Now, cars in particular emerged as an area in which the two could share their exuberance. Linus Jr. reflected later that, on those trips abroad, he and his wife enjoyed Peter tagging along – his vitality, beaming smile, and friendly nature made him the life of any party.

But this was clearly only one side of Peter Pauling. Privately, he admitted to his mother that he often felt unsure of his path in life, and that he felt unable to meet the challenges of his PhD program. He often wondered whether or not he would be better off simply teaching chemistry, or helping to write his father’s textbooks. These bouts with gloom were contrasted by sudden and excited turns to sociability. Linus Jr. would later point out that their paternal grandmother – Linus Pauling’s mother, Belle – was possibly manic depressive, and was reported to have died in a mental hospital. This, he believed, was likely where Peter had inherited his own emotional instability, and it was during his stint in Cambridge that manic depressive symptoms started to manifest most clearly.


 

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The Paulings in Stockholm, December 1954. Credit: Svenskt Pressfoto.

Linus Pauling’s frustration with Peter’s hoax “Francis Crick letter” had faded by the time that the entire family met in Stockholm for the 1954 Nobel Prize ceremonies. It was there that Pauling was to receive his highest honor to date, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, commemorating his work on the nature of the chemical bond. After a frustrating battle to receive government permission to leave the country – by then, Linus’ political activities were causing him problems with the Passport Office – the Pauling family flew to Copenhagen where they met Peter and Linda. By then, Linda had taken up residence in the basement room that her brother had just left at the “Golden Helix,” as the Crick home on Portugal Place was now known. Once arrived, she worked for a time as Francis and Odile Crick’s au pair.

Watson returned to the Cavendish in 1955 to find the MRC unit on the verge of being squeezed out by Nevill Mott. Finally registering this threat, Peter began to panic, writing to implore his father that he vocalize his positive impressions of the unit’s work and that he recommend that the group be allowed to continue their research there. At the same time, Peter applied for a post-doctoral fellowship grant from the National Science Foundation, hoping to solidify the standing of both himself and the group by bringing additional research money into the lab.

As it turned out, Peter’s maneuver worked: he received the grant, and this was no doubt a boon to his position at a crucial time. It did little to help him in his research, however. He continued to struggle with myoglobin and, increasingly, he placed his fading hopes squarely upon the idea that mercuric tetraiodide ion crystals might be a better candidate for the sorts of analysis that Kendrew and Perutz were beginning to doubt he could complete.


As the final year of Peter’s program dawned in fall 1955, the frequency of his drives about the grounds to impress the girls dropped to what Jim Watson considered a startlingly low level. Perhaps realizing the “do or die” position that he was in with respect to his research, Peter seemed to be redoubling his focus on finishing his degree.

During this same period, Peter had begun seeing a young woman by the name of Julia, who was a student at a nearby all-women’s school. Jim Watson, curious about the situation, queried several girls that he knew from the school, but most were silent, and Julia herself became conspicuously absent as the New Year drew closer.

Meanwhile, Peter’s father had been working to prepare his son for life after Cambridge, offering him an appointment in the Caltech Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering as a Research Fellow focusing on the crystalline structure of globular proteins, to be determined through the use of x-ray diffraction. Pauling wrote to his son

We have a real need here for someone who has had the sort of experience in taking x-ray photographs of crystals that you have obtained. I think our effort to determine the complete structure of a crystalline globular protein is going to be successful, and that you might like to be associated with the successful effort.

Peter did not respond immediately, taking about a week to think about the proposal. It may well be that he was simply overwhelmed by both the work to be done and the festivities to be had during his final months at Cambridge. Plus, it seemed that the job his father had offered likely would be waiting for him as soon as he had finished his program in England.


Few had seen much of Peter in the run-up to Jim Watson and Linda Pauling’s practical joke of a dinner party. In response to a rumor that Watson and Linda were seeing one another, the two decided in good fun to host a get-together, thus driving speculation into a frenzy by implying an impending announcement that, in fact, was never to come. Peter was invited and did show up, but much to the surprise of the hosts, he was not his usual grinning, charming self. Instead, he seemed sentimental and full of a solemn interest in the future of his friends at Cambridge. Watson and Linda later realized that, on this particular evening, Peter was wrestling with a weighty issue: he was soon to become a father.


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The Pauling family on Christmas Day, 1956. Peter and Julia sit at right.

A letter sent by Peter’s parents in early 1956 concluded with an expression of excitement: Linus and Ava Helen would be visiting soon and would look on with pride as they witnessed their son receiving his Cambridge Ph.D. In his response, Peter explained that this day, sadly, would never come. Though he felt that she was a “clever, delicate, and lovely girl,” Peter had not made Julia an “honest woman,” and for this he would be sent down from Cambridge and not be allowed to take a degree. Accordingly, this also meant that he would not qualify for the position that his father had offered him at Caltech.

When he learned of his situation, John Kendrew suggested that Peter might be able to transfer both the remainder of his fellowship with the National Science Foundation, and also the completion of his doctoral research, to the Royal Institution in London, where Sir Lawrence Bragg – his old program director at the Cavendish – was now director of the Davy-Faraday research lab. By then, however, Peter had decided to marry the mother of his child, and arrangements were quickly made by Linda Pauling for a quiet civil wedding that was out of the spotlight and not attended by Linus or Ava Helen.

Peter and Julia were married on March 13, 1956 at the Cambridge Register Office on Castle Hill. Peter’s bride was given away by her father, and with no family members other than Linda present, Peter’s sister acted as the sole adjudicator of the Pauling family’s approval of the union. Peter’s Cambridge advisor, John Kendrew, stood with him as his best man. Following the wedding, a reception was held at Kendrew’s home at Tennis Court Road, after which Peter put on his trademark grin and, with Julia, vanished in a new Porsche. Before the year was out, Linda Pauling, struggling financially and burdened by an expired work visa, returned to Pasadena.

Between 1957 and 1959, Kendrew and Perutz successfully modelled the molecular structure of myoglobin that Peter had been working on. In this, the Cavendish once more beat Caltech to the punch, as the position that Linus had offered to Peter was meant to contribute to a similar problem. Myoglobin was the first ever protein to have its atomic structure determined, and Kendrew and Perutz shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry for this achievement in 1962.

Barclay Kamb, 1931-2011

Barclay Kamb, 1994.

“I have just read an article about time by Hsü in PNAS.  I have not been able to understand it all.  However, he thanks you, so perhaps sometime when you come to the ranch you can explain his ideas to me.”

-Linus Pauling, letter to Barclay Kamb, December 3, 1992.

Geologist and former Caltech Vice President and Provost W. Barclay Kamb died on April 21 at the age of 79.  Caltech has published a nice remembrance of Kamb, which is available here.

Kamb, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, was a particularly distinguished scholar of the Antarctic who made many significant breakthroughs in his studies of the structure of ice and the nature of glaciers.  His influence on polar studies is evident in many ways; glacial researchers today make use of the Kamb-Engelhardt Hot Water Drill, to list one example, and an Antarctic ice stream was, in 2003, named the Kamb Ice Stream in his honor.

Barclay Kamb was also Linus Pauling’s son-in-law, and it is through this prism that we share a bit more about his life.


Kamb, a San Jose native who then went by the surname of Ray, entered Caltech at the age of 16 in 1948.  He completed his physics degree in 1952 and went on to obtain a Ph. D. in geology in 1956.  It was during his graduate years that Kamb caught the eye of Linus Pauling – Kamb’s doctoral adviser, under whom he was investigating the structure of zunyite – who thought very highly of the young scholar.  So highly, in fact, that he and Ava Helen began hatching a plan.  Biographer Tom Hager writes

From the moment [Linda Pauling] arrived [home from a trip to Europe], they threw her together as often as as long as possible with a favorite graduate student of Pauling’s, a handsome and brilliant young geologist named Barclay Kamb.  By the summer of 1957, Linda had settled down:  She was living at home, making money by assisting [Robert] Corey at Caltech, and occasionally cooking dinner for Kamb, who was, Pauling was happy to note, ‘hanging around our house quite a bit.’  The matchmaking worked.  On a beautiful day in September 1957, Pauling walked across the front lawn of his Sierra Madre home with Linda on his arm, in front of two hundred guests, and delivered her to Barclay Kamb – now a Caltech assistant professor of geology – for the purpose of marriage.

Linda and Barclay Kamb, 1957.

Pauling and Kamb quickly developed a very close relationship that was further cemented by their shared passion for scientific inquiry.  In 1990 Pauling nominated Kamb for the M. J. Buerger Award in crystallography, and in his nomination letter he quipped

He is recognized as having extraordinary ability.  When I get stuck on a problem, I go to him for help.  He is my son-in-law, so he finds it difficult to turn down my appeal.

Indeed, in reviewing their lengthy correspondence, it is overwhelmingly evident that science was a frequent topic of conversation between Pauling and his son-in-law.  The duo published seven papers together, on topics ranging from the effects of strontium-90 on mice, to the structure of lithiophorite to resonating valence bonds in hyperelectronic metals.  And in their letters, countless additional topics are explored from melting points in metals to an investigation of pseudobrookite.

Linda and Barclay Kamb, 1963.

In addition to his scientific acumen, Pauling admired Kamb’s writing skills – “Your ability at writing in a clear manner is so unusual that it would be a terrible waste if you did not write some good books,” Pauling opined in 1961 – and on multiple occasions enlisted his aid in the revision of both of his legendary texts General Chemistry and College Chemistry.  Many years later, in 2001, Kamb would serve as lead editor for the two volume set, Linus Pauling: Selected Scientific Papers.

Amusingly to the contemporary reader, Pauling also commandeered his son-in-law’s services – and title – for the more pedestrian task of fighting the construction of a trail that the Forest Service planned to build near his property.  “Perhaps you could write to him,” Pauling requested, “signing your letter as Professor of Geology and Geophysics, and saying that you have observed this trail in its relation to the beach 300-foot stretch along the cliff…where there is an absence of shrubbery that would prevent rocks from falling onto the trail.”

We leave it to Tom Hager to describe the fallout from a different and much more important cliff-related incident – during which Linus, at age 59, famously spent the night trapped on a ledge overlooking the Pacific Ocean – that once again served as evidence of the close relationship between Pauling and Kamb.

When they found him at noon the next day, Pauling was emotionally shaken and physically exhausted.  But he swallowed all that – almost as a matter of habit…

On Monday morning, less than twenty-four hours after his rescue, Pauling walked into his office at Caltech.  The news of his disappearance had been carried nationwide on the news wires, and everyone in his research group had been worried.  Now they festooned his office door with a large ‘Welcome Back, Dr. Pauling’ banner, and one of the secretaries baked a cake decorated with a little toy man on a cliff and a mermaid in the water below.  There was a small cheer when he arrived.  Pauling looked at the cake, then, without a word to anyone, walked into his private office and shut the door.  The little crowd that had gathered to greet him was stunned.  A moment later, a sheet of notepaper was pushed under the door; it was a request from Pauling to cancel his class and all other appointments.

No one knew quite what to do.  Pauling’s son-in-law, Barclay Kamb, was as close to him as anyone; he was called in, and the situation was explained to him.  Kamb knocked softly on Pauling’s door, then went inside to talk to him.  Something was seriously wrong.  Pauling seemed aware of his surroundings but unable to say a word.  Kamb decided to take him home.

Pauling did not say a word all the way back to his house and remained mute as Ava Helen put him to bed.  The trauma of the cliff episode had put him in a state of shock… When Linda visited with his new grandchildren, he began to cry.  It was the first time anyone had seen him emotionally vulnerable, in anything less than full control.

While Barclay was a great asset to Linus in many respects, it is clear that the father-in-law often served a similar role.  For one, it is worth noting that the Kamb family accepted Linus and Ava Helen’s invitation to move into the original Pauling family home in Pasadena once Linus left Caltech in favor of a position in Santa Barbara. The correspondence also indicates that Pauling acted as watch dog for Kamb in at least one instance, writing to express his indignation to an author of a paper on high-pressure ice forms who had neglected to adequately cite Kamb’s original research in the field. (The offender responded apologetically and issued a correction.)

In the main, it is clear that Linus Pauling’s overriding feeling toward Barclay Kamb was one of pride.  He was fond, for instance, of recounting a New Yorker article on flooding in southern California that referred to Kamb as “the smartest man in the world.”

Pauling family photograph, 1976.

And the fondness was clearly mutual, as perhaps best summarized by a handwritten letter penned by Kamb from his station at “Outstream Bravo” camp in Antarctica.  The letter is dated December 22, 1993, a point in time when Pauling was quite ill with the cancer that would claim his life eight months later.  In what Kamb conceivably could have regarded as a final communication with his father-in-law, he wrote with affection.

Here I am in the far south (latitude 83.5° S) doing my field work on the Antarctic Ice Sheet, but wishing I could be at home with Linda and able to come to visit you.  At times there is excitement and exhilaration here, and it is rewarding to me scientifically, but there is also a lot of plain hard work and a somewhat dreary existence.

One thing that I greatly miss during these long trips to Antarctica is the chance to discuss scientific subjects with you, which I so much enjoy when Linda and I come to visit.  This goes back many, many years, of course, and has been a great inspiration for me, and especially rewarding when we were able to produce joint papers as a result.  You have given me much good scientific (and other!) advice over the years, and I greatly appreciate it.  Particularly valuable to me was your suggestion that I work on the structure of the ice phases, which was a gold mine of interesting science.

…I am counting the days until I can get this job here done and come home to Linda, and I hope very soon after that we can come up to visit you.  I look forward to it very much…

Linda and Barclay Kamb with Lucile, Linus and Pauline Pauling, 1986.


For more insight into Barclay Kamb’s life and character, see this biographical text from “Welcome Barclay…Thank You Gene,” a Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences event marking Kamb’s assumption of the Division Chairmanship in October 1972.

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The Paulings Go to England, 1947-1948

Crellin Pauling on the Queen Mary, 1948.

[Ed Note: Throughout 2011 the Pauling Blog will be featuring stories of the Paulings’ travels around the world.  This is part 1 of 5 in a series exploring the Paulings’ time in England, where they lived and worked for parts of two years after the close of World War II.]

The Second World War had come to a close and Linus Pauling was in transition from his war-time work back to the regular goings-on at the California Institute of Technology when he received an enticing invitation. Frank Aydelotte, American Secretary for the Rhodes Scholarship Trust and director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (academic home of such greats as Albert Einstein), wrote Pauling in January of 1946 proposing his appointment as the George Eastman Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford for the coming academic year.

The appointment would include a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol College – among the oldest of Oxford’s thirty-eight colleges. It was an attractive offer; with only two or three lectures a week required of him, Pauling would have ample time to visit other European universities and steep in the vibrant culture of international chemistry.

Pauling felt deeply honored by the invitation and was anxious to return to Europe once more after his last visit in 1930. But the appointment would have to wait a year while he remained in Pasadena to develop the chemistry and biology programs at CIT and finish his freshman text, General Chemistry, published in 1947. After much correspondence between Aydelotte and Pauling it was decided in early 1947 that he would serve as Eastman Professor for the winter and spring terms of 1948.

Though the professorship was postponed, Linus and Ava Helen managed to squeeze in a visit to England and Switzerland in June and July of 1947 for a mix of vacation and conferences. As was typical, the Paulings were kept busy with a multitude of social affairs. But after much hustle and bustle in Cambridge, where Pauling received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Cambridge, and Oxford, where he made preparations for his coming professorship, some quiet days in London and Stockholm were found, which the couple “devoted exclusively to resting and sight-seeing.”

Pauling receiving an honorary doctorate of science from the Earl of Athlone, University of London. July 1947.

Pauling’s role at the forefront of American chemistry (he would learn right before embarking on his voyage in December 1947 that he had been chosen as President-Elect of the American Chemical Society) also garnered him a key place in chemical matters abroad, and his July was filled to the brim with meetings and conferences. After three days at the International Congress of Experimental Cytology in Stockholm, he returned to England for the International Congress of Pure and Applied Chemistry. This event coincided with the International Union of Chemistry, where Pauling presided as Congress Lecturer, as well as the Centenary Celebration of The Chemical Society at the University of London.

At the latter event, Pauling received another honorary degree and delivered an after-dinner speech on behalf of his fellow honorary graduates.  In it, he called scientists to action and leadership in ending war and expressed hope that soon there would be a “supra-national world government, and that we shall all be fellow citizens, citizens of the world.”


Their two-month escape primed the Paulings’ excitement for their extended stay the coming year. However, the planning for the upcoming trip proved to be almost as difficult as the initial decision of when to go.

With England in the beginning stages of recovery from the war, travel in the UK was less than ideal. Securing a house for the five Paulings proved such a difficult task that the entire trip was on the verge of being canceled a month before departure. Ultimately the family decided to make the sacrifice of staying in a hotel – Linton Lodge – for several weeks until a small flat was finally procured for them.

The strict food rationing implemented in England during wartime carried over into the post-war years and presented a challenge for Ava Helen in preparing the very strict low protein diet necessary for keeping the effects of her husband’s nephritis at bay. Linus Pauling’s doctor, Thomas Addis, even wrote to The Ration Board to ensure that the visiting scientist would be able to receive the forty grams of protein (from eggs, milk, cheese, cereals, vegetables and fruits – not meat, chicken or fish) required by his unique 2,500-3,000 calorie diet.

Indeed, Pauling left no stone unturned in his planning, even writing to a doctor friend for advice on preventing seasickness. Despite initial skepticism that schools would be found for the children over in England, Ava Helen managed to enroll nine-year-old Crellin in the Dragon School – where he was the best man in his form – and fifteen-year-old Linda in the Oxford High School for girls, of which she maintained fond memories of the navy blue uniforms and fit in quite well, aside from her difficult Latin classes. Peter Pauling had just started his first term at Caltech, but was able to keep up with his studies overseas by studying independently with tutoring from an American Rhodes Scholar. Linus Pauling, Jr had just married Anita Oser – the great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller and Cyrus Hall McCormick – and the young couple remained in the States while the family embarked on their adventure.

Linus, Peter, Crellin, Linda and Ava Helen Pauling, 1947.

The excitement started for the Pauling children before they even boarded the Queen Mary and set sail for England on December 26.  During the holiday period, New York City was experiencing its worst snowstorm in years and it was the first time the three sunny California natives had seen the snow. Despite the marvels of the winter wonderland, the family really was stuck, and it was only by a stroke of luck (and some extra cash up front) that the Paulings were able to convince a taxi driver to push his way through to the docks and get them to their ship on time. They celebrated New Year’s Eve on the boat and in an interview Linda recalled that the members of the Canadian Ski Team, who were also on the same Atlantic voyage, were dancing with her all night – that is, until they found out that she was only 14!

Linus Pauling must have spent some time during the journey across the sea in introspective thought, for it was during this trip that he wrote his famous pledge, on the back of a piece of cardboard announcing one of his lectures: “I hereby make avowal that from this day henceforth I shall include mention of world peace in every lecture and address that I give.”  This pledge was just the first of many important moments in Pauling’s life that would occur as a result of his time in England.

A Sentimental Trip

Ava Helen Pauling, June 1981.

In the final months of 1981, Ava Helen Pauling was slowing down and making her final public appearances. She was spending as much time as possible with her husband and children, but encouraged Linus to stay busy and travel because of his difficulty dealing with emotional distress. She had been diagnosed with a form of inoperable cancer, and had decided against the use of chemotherapy.

According to his family, Linus Pauling was convinced that he would be able to save her through the use of vitamin C and other supplements. He was unable to talk about her final arrangements so preparations, including Ava’s memorial service preferences and her desire to be cremated, were discussed with her daughter Linda over a long weekend. After surgeries, a long term fight with cancer and a number of other medical complications, Ava Helen died in her home on December 7.

Following the death of his wife of nearly sixty years, Pauling was, understandably, quite lost. His children helped guide him through the funeral arrangements and Ava’s memorial service, andthough he gladly accepted their help, he was very resistant to other offers of assistance in the every day aspects of life. He stayed as busy as he could, and over the course of 1982 published three papers on the nucleus of the atom – a highly abstract program of work that afforded him some measure of escape from his grief.

He remained very lonely however, and was often lost in thought. According to those who knew him, Pauling was having trouble accepting the reality of his wife’s death. Biographer Thomas Hager wrote:

He still talked to her, holding phantom conversations as he spooned his vitamin C powder into his juice in the morning. He still looked for her, expecting to see her in the doorway, asking him to stop and take a walk, to come to lunch. He would cry and look out to sea. Then he would get back to work.

Though he was managing to get by under the circumstances, maintaining his health and taking care of himself during the following months, there remained a need for some kind of a mechanism that would allow him to deal with his grief. Just such an opportunity came in the form of his sixtieth Oregon Agricultural College class reunion. He decided to attend, and set off on what would become a long and meaningful journey.

Sixtieth anniversary reunion of the Oregon Agricultural College class of 1922.  Lucile and Linus Pauling are located second row from bottom, left.

His first stop was Dayton, Washington where he had worked for the Warren Construction Company in July 1923. He and his wife had spent a month there just after being married, and Pauling wished to revisit a number of locations that had meaning to the couple. He went to the intersection where the hotel they had stayed in once stood, and he walked around town and noted the place where Ava had outscored him on an IQ test they had taken.

The following morning he drove across the border into Oregon, visiting Arlington and then Condon, where he visited the grave of his grandfather Linus Wilson Darling for the first time. He spent the next day on the Oregon coast, seeking out former vacation and employment spots in Seaside and Tillamook, and then drove to Corvallis for a few days before attending his class reunion at Oregon State University.

The day after his reunion, Pauling spoke on the capitol steps in Salem, discussing nuclear weapons and the need for peace. He spoke later that same night, once again on peace topics, at the First Methodist Church in Portland. The next day he met with his sisters and a cousin to deliver to the director of the Oregon Historical Society the diaries that Linus Wilson Darling had kept in the late 19th century.

After lunch with his relatives he began his drive back home, stopping at a portion of highway along Grave Creek – he had spent five months in 1919 working on the highway there, sleeping in a tent near a covered bridge. At the time of his visit, the covered bridge was still in existence but the highway was partially destroyed, having been intersected by the construction of Interstate 5.

Pauling finally made it home two days before his wedding anniversary, having driven a total of 2,400 miles. It appears that the trip was just what he had needed, providing a frame of reference and partial relief from his loss. In a letter to an old friend, Pauling described his travels simply and decisively: “I went on this trip mainly to visit places where I had lived long ago.”

Linus Pauling, June 1982.

Following his return, Pauling decided to move out of the Portola Valley house that he and his wife had shared together. His youngest son Crellin moved in with his family, while Pauling bought a condominium on the Stanford University campus. He moved some of his belongings to his ranch at Big Sur, and others to Stanford. He decorated his new home with pictures of Ava and himself, framed awards, and furniture from their travels. The changes helped, but only to a degree. In September he wrote to his best friend, Lloyd Jeffress, “I am getting along pretty well, but I still feel quite lonesome. I have been working hard.”

Pauling became involved once again with his institute, and in early 1983 settled a lawsuit that had been consuming valuable time and resources. He spent half of his time at his ranch, and the other half in Palo Alto. He developed a routine, waking up before five in the morning, and reading himself to sleep at night after a full day of research and theory. Despite his loneliness, Pauling would live for another twelve years, continuing to pursue his scientific work, speak on world peace and manage his affairs.

Checking in on Condon

Main Street, Condon, Oregon. August 2009.

Main Street, Condon, Oregon. August 2009.

Over time we have written with some frequency about Condon, Oregon, the small farming community where Linus Pauling spent much of his youth.  And though we have come know a fair amount about the history of this little town in Gilliam County, it was not until recently that the Blog had an opportunity to actually visit the area and take a few pictures.  Here are a few things that we saw:

Herman Pauling’s pharmacy building, written about here, no longer exists.  In its place is a lovely little park.

Former location of Herman Pauling's drugstore.  Now a park on Main Street, Condon.

Former location of Herman Pauling's drugstore. Now a park on Main Street, Condon.

Gone too is Pauling’s first school – the Condon Grade School built in 1903.

Condon Grade School, built 1903.  Photo courtesy of the Gilliam County Library.

Condon Grade School, built 1903. Photo courtesy of the Gilliam County Library.

Linus Pauling (far right) with his Condon elementary classmates, 1909.

Linus Pauling (far right) with his Condon elementary classmates, 1909.

We had known about Pauling Field at the Condon State Airport, but this was our first glimpse.

Pauling Field, Condon State Aiport.

Pauling Field, Condon State Aiport.

We had also known about Linus Wilson Darling’s (Pauling’s maternal grandfather) grave, which is located at the Condon City Cemetery, but did not realize that he was buried next to Florence Darling, one of his six children, a toddler who died twenty-two years before her father at the age of two.

The Condon Cemetary.

The Condon City Cemetery.

Linus Wilson Darling's marker, Condon cemetary.

Linus Wilson Darling's marker, Condon City Cemetery.

Grave of Florence Darling, Condon cemetary.

Grave of Florence Darling, Condon City Cemetery.

Close inspection of L. W. Darling’s marker indicates that he was very proud of his fraternal memberships – the plaque notes that “Here Rests a Woodman of the World” and elsewhere bears a symbol of the Knights of Pythias.  And though most of the marker has not been restored, the spherical stone at its peak appears to have been turned to a more symmetrical position, at least when compared with this 1988 photo.

Linda Pauling Kamb, Linus, Pauline and Lucile Pauling at the grave of L. W. Darling, Condon, Oregon. 1988.

Linda Pauling Kamb, Linus, Pauline and Lucile Pauling at the grave of L. W. Darling, Condon, Oregon. 1988.


Our trip to Condon was rendered decidedly more fruitful by a visit to the terrific Gilliam County Historical Society museum which features, among other artifacts, an antique bicycle-powered jigsaw.  The society’s collections also include a few very rare images of William P. Murphy (Condon’s “other” Nobel Prize winner) who, as it turns out, was a member of Condon High School’s first graduating class in 1909.

The Condon High School class of 1909.  William P. Murphy (incorrectly identified as Will J. Murphy) is seated at the far right.

The Condon High School class of 1909. William P. Murphy (incorrectly identified as Will J. Murphey) is seated at the far right.

Here’s an Oregonian image of Murphy and his family as they set off to Sweden for the Nobel festivities in 1935.

William P. Murphy and family en route to Sweden.  Image first published in the Sunday Oregonian, July 21, 1935.

William P. Murphy and family en route to Sweden. Image first published in the Sunday Oregonian, July 21, 1935.

The Historical Society’s Pauling-related collection includes a fabulous vertical file of stories that appeared in the local media throughout the years.  One such article, written in 1969 during Pauling’s trip to Corvallis for the centennial celebration of Oregon State University, recounts many of the more interesting details of Pauling’s colorful family history.

All the Darlings were highly intelligent people, although some had quite a percentage of oddity.  W. L. Darling, ‘Bill’ a brother of L. W. Darling, was a paper hanger and a painter.  He was also a confirmed spiritualist.  His control was an Indian named ‘Red Cloud.’  Chatting with the spirits was an every evening affair with Bill.  He was trying to get the spirits to tell him the location of the lost gold mine in the Lonerock Country.

The article further notes that

Pauling’s aunt Stella Darling was a safe expert.  She could open any safe and had a national reputation.  She once traveled to London, England to open a safe.

The vertical file likewise includes documentation of various births, weddings and deaths, most of which are written with a great deal of local flavor.

Announcement of Herman Pauling's wedding to Belle Darling, Condon Globe, May 1900.

Announcement of Herman Pauling's wedding to Belle Darling, Condon Globe, May 1900.

Announcement of the births of Linus and Pauline Pauling, and the death of Herman Pauling. Condon Globe and Condon Times, 1901, 1902, 1910.

Announcement of the births of Linus and Pauline Pauling, and the death of Herman Pauling. Condon Globe and Condon Times, 1901, 1902, 1910.

Announcement of the birth of Lucile Pauling, Condon Globe, 1904.

Announcement of the birth of Lucile Pauling, Condon Globe, 1904.

Our favorite item though, is this announcement of the marriage of either H. C. Pauling or Louis Carl Pauling to Miss Ava Helen Miller, as reported in the Condon Globe Times on June 29, 1923.  Note, in particular, the flipped ninth line of the first paragraph – part of the cost of doing business during the era of handset news type.

"Former Condon Boy Married," Condon Globe Times, June 29, 1923.

"Former Condon Boy Married," Condon Globe Times, June 29, 1923.

Condon is not an easy place to access – it was built to serve the needs of area farmers and is nowhere near a major highway.  Our afternoon in the town was, however, defined by the kind of small-town hospitality that would seem a cliché were it not so genuine.  We’re already planning a return visit.

For more stories of Linus Pauling’s life and times in Oregon, see our continuing series commemorating the Oregon150 celebration or visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Oregon 150

Stuck on a Cliff

New York Herald Tribune, February 1, 1960

New York Herald Tribune, February 1, 1960

On the morning of January 30, 1960, Linus Pauling told his wife Ava Helen that he would be out checking the fence lines along the boundaries of their ranch near Big Sur, California. A little before 10:00AM, Ava Helen watched as Linus walked towards the coast south of their cabin but did not notice – as Pauling mistakenly believed she had – as he veered away from the fence line and toward Salmon Cone, a small mountain in the Santa Lucia chain near the Pauling home. Linus was dressed comfortably, wearing slacks, a light jacket, and his characteristic beret. He and Ava Helen had planned to meet for lunch and thought that a friend would perhaps stop by around noon, both expecting Pauling to be back by that time.

For several years Pauling had been interested in finding the mouth of nearby Salmon Creek. He got the idea that the mouth was around China Camp area instead of Salmon Cone, and climbed several ledges that allowed him to walk east to investigate his theory. After a time he found and followed a deer path up several hundred more feet. The deer trail came to an end, but Pauling thought that he saw a spot twenty or thirty feet above him where the path picked up again and began trying to make his way to it over loose rocks. Unable to move east as he had hoped, Pauling was unable to retrace his steps back down or go further up the slope safely. A sickening realization washed over him – he was stuck.

A map included with the Herald Tribune article.

A map included with the Herald Tribune article.

The ledge on which he was perched was about three feet by six feet. Loose rocks, leaves, and sticks covered the ledge; behind him was a sheer rock face. Pauling sat on the ledge for several hours thinking that Ava Helen would walk along the beach and see him stranded on the ledge but, as afternoon moved into evening, came to realize that he might have to stay the entire night perched on the little cliff. Having reached this conclusion, he began to dig a little hole with his walking stick in which he could sit. He dug until he had made the hole two feet by three feet and about a foot deep. He then used the extra dirt to create an eighteen-inch mound around the hole. His resting area completed, Pauling intently pondered a route off the ledge, only to become too frightened to continue on his own. Soon it was dark.

Pauling did not want to fall asleep during his long night on the cliff because, for one, he was afraid he would not hear the calls of searchers. More importantly, Pauling was very concerned that, in the midst of sleep, he might roll off of the precipice and into the crashing ocean below. In order to remain awake, Pauling engaged in a variety of mental tasks. For a while he lectured to the waves about the nature of the chemical bond. He also listed the various properties of the elements of the periodic table. As the night dragged on, Pauling counted as high as he was able in as many languages as he could – German, Italian, French and eventually English. He even used his walking stick to try to tell time based on the positions of the constellations. In an effort to stay warm as well as awake, Pauling tried to move one limb or another at all times.

Moving his arms and legs was only part of Pauling’s process of keeping warm on this January night. Earlier in the evening, having decided that it would be necessary and prudent to remain on the cliff in the small hole that he had dug, Pauling began pulling up some of the bushes that were located near his little ledge. He broke them up into smaller pieces and placed them on the damp bottom of the hole. He then laid some of the intact branches over himself. He was not happy with the results, however, as he had to constantly pull out small leaves and twigs from inside his clothes – eventually he just broke the bushes into twigs, which he used as both mattress and blanket. Still wishing to be a bit warmer, Pauling unfolded the map that he had brought with him and laid it over himself. He later told his family that the map helped immensely although, luckily, it was not as cold a night as could have been the case.

Notes by Ava Helen Pauling. January 30, 1960.

Notes by Ava Helen Pauling. January 30, 1960.

As Linus was settling in for the night, Ava Helen had sprung into action to find him. When he missed their lunch date, Ava Helen had assumed that he had simply lost track of time and did not worry too much. But when 4:15 PM rolled around and there was still no sign of her husband, she went to the nearby ranger station for help and to call her son-in-law Barclay Kamb. As it turned out, a ranger came close to Pauling’s ledge near Salmon Cone but Pauling was unable to attract his attention and the ranger moved on to search other areas. At 11:30PM, a deputy sheriff from Monterrey called off the search for the night. The weather conditions were not conducive to a search – intermittent clouds and fog enshrouded the area from early evening until well-after Pauling had been rescued.

Undeterred, Barclay Kamb reached the ranch around 2:30AM and began searching for an hour and a half in the direction that Ava Helen had last seen Pauling…the wrong direction. At 6:00AM, he began searching in the same area again. Just before 10:00AM, Pauling finally heard another one of the searchers – a man named Terry Currence who was walking along the beach below the ledge. Pauling called to him and Currence scrambled in Pauling’s direction. Terry then called to the deputy sheriff, who maneuvered to a spot a little ways above Pauling. Currence was sent by the deputy sheriff to tell Ava Helen that Pauling had been found alive and well, and to send some rope back. While waiting for the rope, Pauling and the sheriff made their way off of the cliff using one of the paths that Pauling had been afraid to follow unassisted.

New York Times, February 1, 1960.

New York Times, February 1, 1960.

Pauling was in good spirits as he was led back to his cabin, even joking with the rescue team. Upon returning home, Pauling had lunch and some coffee. Ava Helen shooed-away the reporters who had assembled and thanked everyone who had helped to find her husband. The two packed up their car and the following day drove back to Pasadena. On Tuesday, Pauling went to his Caltech laboratory to give a lecture. When he reached his office, he walked past the small party that his office had put together to welcome his return and went into his office without saying a word. He locked his office and shoved a note under the door requesting that his day be cleared. His staff was unsure of what to do so they called in Barclay Kamb. Barclay came to Pauling’s office and drove him home.

Once home, Ava Helen put him to bed and called the doctor. Pauling had gone into mild shock and was told to rest in bed for several days. He was likewise afflicted with a severe case of poison oak, an unfortunate side effect of his bedding on the ledge. Pauling remained in bed and barely spoke; he cried at the sight of his grandchildren when Linda brought them over for a visit. The emotional and physical exhaustion that he suffered from his night on the cliff forced Pauling to take a much-needed rest and to finally let out some of the emotions that he had been bottling up for so many years of relentless work as a scientist and activist. The trauma was relatively short-lived though, and two weeks later he was not only talking and responding to letters but also honoring speaking engagements again.

The media response to Pauling’s plight on the cliff was swift and rampant. By 9:30AM on Sunday, news of Pauling’s disappearance had spread across the radio, and a half hour later, at 10:00AM, an overzealous reporter told San Francisco Bay area residents that Linus Pauling was dead. Two of Linus’s children, Linda and Crellin, were informed of the radio broadcast and for an hour were unable to discern otherwise – they thought their father was dead. After Pauling was found, news reports of the past weekend’s events were spread around the world, from Oregon to Massachusetts, India to Australia. Over the coming month Pauling received well wishes from colleagues, friends, family, and even strangers who had heard of his ordeal. One such telegram read as follows:

Dear Dr. Pauling, Will you be so kind as to stay off precipitous cliffs until the question of disarmament and atomic testing is finished? A needy citizen. [Signed] Marlon Brando.

For more on the life and times of Dr. Pauling, see the Linus Pauling Online portal.

The Paternal Ancestry of Linus Pauling

The Pauling family tree.  Certain annotations courtesy of Linda Pauling Kamb.

The Pauling family tree. Certain annotations courtesy of Linda Pauling Kamb.

Linus Pauling’s earliest known ancestor was Andreas Pauling, born ca. 1630.  Records indicate that Andreas’ grandson, Johann Christoph Pauling, married and started a family in Preusslitz, Prussia.  There the Paulings remained for at least two generations, until Johann Andreas Pauling (perhaps the grandson of Johann Christoph) move to Golbitz, in what is now western Germany.

In 1842 a son of Johann Andreas’, Christoph Friedrich (born 1808), immigrated to the United States with his wife and two daughters.  A son, Frederick, was born during the family’s passage across the Atlantic, and two additional sons, William Frederick and Charles Henry (whom everyone called “Carl”), were born in the U. S.  The Paulings settled as farmers in Concordia, Missouri, though Christoph Friedrich and all three of his sons would eventually fight on behalf of the Union during the American Civil War.

In 1868 Carl Pauling married Adelheit Blanken and the couple started a family of their own.  Carl and Adelheit’s fourth child, Herman Henry William (born 1876), is Linus Pauling’s father.

In 1877 Carl moved his family from Missouri to California and then, five years later, to Oswego, Oregon, where he worked in the iron wholesale business.  Herman Pauling was raised in Oswego and apprenticed with a local druggist.  As part of his work, Herman would often travel to communities well-outside of the Portland area, for purposes of selling pharmaceuticals in rural areas.  On a trip to Condon, Oregon, some 150 miles east of Portland, Herman met Lucile Isabelle Darling, one of Linus Wilson Darling’s (a local shopkeeper) five daughters.  Lucy Isabelle, known to everyone as “Belle,” is Linus Pauling’s mother. [The Darling family lineage is discussed in this blog post]

After a brief long-distance courtship, Herman and Belle married on May 27, 1900.  Though Herman would die just ten years later — suddenly, at age 34, of a perforated ulcer and peritonitis — he and Belle would have three children:  Linus Carl, born February 28, 1901; Pauline Darling, born August 7, 1902; and Frances Lucile, born January 1, 1904.

Lucile, Linus, Belle and Pauline Pauling, Portland, Oregon, 1916.

Lucile, Linus, Belle and Pauline Pauling, Portland, Oregon, 1916.

Page 1 of a letter sent by Linus Pauling to Ava Helen Pauling, August 16, 1942.

Page 1 of a letter sent by Linus Pauling to Ava Helen Pauling, August 16, 1942.

Health and longevity were not necessarily in Linus, Pauline and Lucile’s DNA; their father’s life was quite short and Belle’s not much longer — she died at age 45 of pernicious anemia.  Nonetheless, all three lived well into old age:  Lucile died at age 88 on January 18, 1992; Linus died at age 93 on August 19, 1994; and Pauline, a colorful woman who married four times (the last to Linus’s boyhood friend and Caltech first-year roommate, catalysis chemist Paul Emmett), lived to the age of 101, passing on October 19, 2003.

Linus Pauling’s papers contain ample documentation of his family geneology.  While much of this was compiled by other family members or the various biographers who have written on his life, Pauling himself pretty clearly maintained a long-standing interest in his roots.  Page one of a letter sent by Linus to Ava Helen in August 1942 (reproduced below) is an early example of the geneological work that might fairly have been termed a minor hobby — or, at least, intellectual interest — of Pauling’s throughout his long and illustrious life.

Oregon 150