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.


Pauline Pauling (1902-2003)

Pauline Pauling with her sister Lucile, 1916.

Pauline Pauling with her sister Lucile, 1916.

My name is Pauline Darling Pauling Stockton Ney Dunbar Emmett, and you can see I’ve had an interesting life…

-Pauline Pauling Emmett, 1994.

The sister of one distinguished scientist and later the wife of another, Pauline Darling Pauling, the second oldest of the Herman and Belle Pauling’s children, led a long and eventful life. Once a record-breaking typist, a famous women’s athletic director, and a successful designer and businesswoman, Pauline found success in a plethora of careers and hobbies. Although she remained close to her Nobel Prize-winning brother over his lifetime, Pauline harbored more artistic aspirations than scientific ones. In addition to her professional success, she was a seamstress, quilter, painter, and coin and doll collector.

Pauline Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon on August 2, 1902. She remembers her childhood in Condon as “very stark,” remarking that “it was a wonder [the family] survived.” Following her father’s death in 1910 and the family’s ensuing financial trouble, her mother, Belle Darling Pauling, opened a boardinghouse to support the family. Linus, Pauline, and their younger sister, Lucile, were responsible for the many domestic duties of the boardinghouse as their mother, suffering from a general weakness (later diagnosed as pernicious anemia), had become increasingly dependent on the help of her children.

Pauline Pauling on a hiking excursion in the Oregon forest, 1921.

Pauline Pauling on a hiking excursion in the Oregon forest, 1921.

Pauline, an extrovert by nature, couldn’t wait to escape the small-town life of Condon. An energetic and pretty girl, Pauline became something of a socialite as a teenager.

She dated a string of boys, frequently attended swimming and singing events, and often arranged social get-togethers. As a student at Franklin High School in Portland, Pauline dropped out for a year to attend the Behnke-Walker Business School. There she learned Pitman shorthand and the touch system of typing. She would later become known for her speed typing, breaking the world record on a manual typewriter in an unofficial test.

Pauline Pauling participating in a filmed athletics demonstration, Los Angeles, 1920s.

Pauline Pauling participating in a filmed athletics demonstration, Los Angeles, 1920s.

She met her first husband, Wallace Stockton, while working as a secretary for the Elks Club in Portland. The couple later moved to Los Angeles, where Pauline worked as the Women’s Athletic Director for the Club. Known as the “Elkettes,” the women’s group, attracting some of Hollywood’s most famous stars, gained much publicity for its numerous activities and events. Pauline and Wallace Stockton divorced in the late-1920s.

On October 6, 1932, Pauline married Thomas Ney. After living in Santa Monica, the two moved to Inglewood, California, where their son, Michael Ney, was born on December 23, 1934.

Pauline Pauling, posing for a Paddies, Inc. promotional photograph, 1940s.

Pauline Pauling, posing for a Paddies, Inc. promotional photograph, 1940s.

It was around this time that Pauline took notice of a men’s slipper in an issue of Vogue. Using the pattern, Pauline refined the design to create a women’s slipper. Soon after impressing her friends with the prototype, Pauline began making the slippers and selling them from her home. Subsequently, her initially-modest business (Paddies, Inc.) grew rapidly. She began marketing the “Paddy” slipper to upscale department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and I. Magnin. Unfortunately, Japanese manufacturers were able to copy her design and thus flooded the market with a cheaper model. Pauline lost her big accounts and, as a result, decided to sell the company.

In 1950, Pauline and Thomas Ney divorced. After returning to Santa Monica, California, Pauline became interested in numismatics, eventually opening her own coin shop in 1960. It was during this time that Pauline became acquainted with Charles “Slim” Dunbar, a coin shop owner from Inglewood. The two were married on August 25, 1973. Sadly, Slim, in ill health, died just 23 months after their wedding.

Pauline Pauling, Paul Emmett, Lucile Pauling, Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, 1976.

Pauline Pauling, Paul Emmett, Lucile Pauling, Ava Helen and Linus Pauling, 1976.

Following Slim’s death, Pauline returned to Oregon. It was there that an old friend, Dr. Paul Emmett, re-entered her life. Dr. Emmett, a prominent catalysis scientist, was a longtime friend and colleague of her brother. Emmett was, as Pauline recalls, “underfoot every minute until [she] accepted his proposal.” The two were married on May 22, 1976.

Pauline Pauling with her big brother Linus, 1993.

Pauline Pauling with her big brother Linus, 1993.

Pauline, lively even in her later years, cared for Dr. Emmett (who suffered from Parkinson’s disease) until his death in 1985. Following her husband’s passing, Pauline continued to live in the Portland area until her death on October 19, 2003. She was 101 years old.

Check back next week when we’ll discuss the life of the youngest Pauling sibling, Lucile. For more stories of Linus Pauling’s connection to his home state, please see our growing Oregon150 series.

Oregon 150

Pauling’s Best Friend: Lloyd Jeffress

Lloyd Jeffress, extracted from Physics Today, December 1977.

Photo of Lloyd Jeffress, extracted from Physics Today, December 1977.

As a child, Linus Pauling had relatively few friends. After moving from Condon, Oregon to Portland, the death of his father and subsequent poverty forced him to work when not in school. The remainder of his time was consumed with studying and household chores, leaving little room for companionship. Pauling, even as a boy, was also exceedingly introspective and self-reliant, capable of quietly entertaining himself without supervision. Nevertheless, even the busiest and most independent children need friends.

In 1913, while walking home from school, Pauling began talking with another young boy, Lloyd Jeffress. The two quickly discovered a mutual interest in science and natural phenomena, and Lloyd invited Linus to his home to view a chemistry experiment. Pauling readily agreed and, within the hour, Lloyd was performing a series of basic chemical reactions that bubbled, fizzed and smoked, transfixing the young Pauling. It was on this day, in Lloyd Jeffress’ little Portland bedroom, that Pauling decided to become a chemist.

From that point on, the two boys were inseparable. When not at school or work, they were performing crude, and sometimes dangerous, experiments in the makeshift lab that Linus built in the Pauling basement. Using donated or pilfered chemicals, the boys created noxious gases and exploding powders while dreaming of getting rich as corporate chemists.

Video Link: Watch Pauling recount his and Jeffress’ early chemical experiments

As an adult, Linus Pauling often told a story of Lloyd Jeffress to friends and interviewers. At the age of fifteen, Pauling had imagined himself as a chemical engineer, working for one of the United States’ major companies. When Pauling told his grandmother this, Lloyd chimed in saying, “No, he is going to be a university professor.” Jeffress’ words proved prophetic, as Pauling spent more than thirty years as a professor at the California Institute of Technology.

Following high school, Linus and Lloyd both attended Oregon Agricultural College, where Pauling studied chemistry and Lloyd majored in electrical engineering. Jeffress, however, developed an interest first in physics and later in the medical field, eventually graduating from the University of California with a Ph.D. in psychology, while Pauling, of course, took at job as a chemistry professor at Caltech. Despite the divergence in their interests, the two stayed in intermittent contact for the following sixty years.

Lloyd Jeffress served as best man at Pauling's wedding.  Linus and Ava Helen also gave their second-born son the name Peter Jeffress Pauling.

Lloyd Jeffress served as best man at Pauling's wedding. Linus and Ava Helen also gave their second-born son the name Peter Jeffress Pauling.

With Pauling at Caltech and Jeffress at the University of Texas in Austin, it was difficult for the men to meet. They visited one another as regularly as their schedules would allow, sometimes engaging in the tomfoolery of their youth. In a short manuscript written after Lloyd’s death, (see below) Pauling recounts their deceiving the guests at an academic event with Lloyd’s “mind reading” abilities, a hoax successfully planned and orchestrated by the pair. He also tells readers of Lloyd’s wedding, a hurried affair conducted by an unknown minister in Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s small California apartment with only the Paulings to act as witnesses.

Jeffress, like Pauling, was a highly successful member of the academic community. Though his career began slowly, the breadth and depth of his research expanded considerably as he aged, with the vast majority of his papers being produced after his 50th birthday. As an expert in experimental psychology, focusing on psychoacoustics, he served as the chairman of the University of Texas psychology department, and even worked with various military-based programs.

Additionally, his longstanding interest in physics led him to take over some physics classes while serving in the university’s psychology department. Perhaps more surprising, his experience with wave transference resulted in work on mine-detecting devices for the United States military. Over the course of his career, Jeffress earned a series of awards and commendations for his excellence as an educator and for his contributions to the field of psychoacoustics. Pauling personally took great pride in his friend’s successes, expressing special interest in his scientific papers.

Following Lloyd’s death, Pauling was asked to write a brief narrative of their relationship as part of a tribute. In it, Linus described their meeting as boys and their lifelong friendship. In closing, he stated “I have many friends, but I continue to think of Lloyd Alexander Jeffress as my best friend.”

For more on the life of Lloyd Jeffress, please see Pauling’s typescript below, as well as this lengthy memorial resolution (PDF link) prepared by members of the University of Texas faculty.  For more on Pauling’s links with Oregon, check out our continuing Oregon150 series.

“Life with Lloyd Jeffress,” by Linus Pauling, June 5, 1986.


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Oregon 150

A Prominent High School Dropout

Linus Pauling posing with his ho norary high school diploma, 1962.

Linus Pauling posing with his honorary high school diploma, 1962.

Interviewer: Where did you go to high school at in Portland?

Pauling: I went to Washington High School for 3 ½ years, so that my whole high school career was there. It was on the east side of Portland.

Interviewer: How come they wouldn’t give you a diploma?

Pauling: Well, I didn’t finish the requirements. I started in February and by June of 1917, I had completed, essentially, the high school course. I hadn’t taken a one year course in American History. I planned to have it in my last semester. But there was a rule that said you couldn’t take the second half of a course simultaneously with the first half. So, I just wasn’t allowed to take American History. I didn’t return to high school in the fall, but was admitted to Oregon Agricultural College in 1917. I came down [to Corvallis] then.

-Oral history interview, Oregon State University, May 20, 1980.

Linus Pauling, as might be expected, developed an interest in learning at a very early age. By age six, he had already reached the second grade of the elementary school in Condon, Oregon. At eight, he developed an interest in ancient civilizations, and by age nine he had read almost every book in the Pauling household, including works such as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In February of 1914, right before his 13th birthday, Linus entered Washington High School in Portland, Oregon, having finishing an accelerated grade school program.

East Portland High School, the second oldest in Portland, was renamed Washington High School in the early 1900s. It was later rechristened Washington-Monroe High School, and eventually closed in the early 1980s because of declining enrollment. In its prime, however, WHS was a great school and, for a young boy keen on learning all he could, there was no better place to be.

In his first semester, Linus took a standard course load consisting of elementary algebra, English, Latin, and gym. After the summer, he returned to WHS for the full year and took his first actual science course, physiography. In this course, Linus was taught about minerals, which he found very interesting. Subsequently, he began a rock collection, and although it never grew to be very large, he enjoyed analyzing and classifying his specimens.

Before long, Linus was taking a course load of above-average difficulty. On top of his normal classes, he continued with Latin and began taking every science and math course he could. Mathematics and the sciences quickly became his favorite subjects, because, as Linus later remembered it:

It’s like the story of the little boy who, when his teacher asked him, ‘Willie, what is two and two?’ answered, ‘Four.’ And she said, ‘That’s very good, Willie.’ And he said, ‘Very good? It’s perfect!’ I liked mathematics because you could be perfect, whereas with Latin, or in studying any language, it’s essentially impossible to be perfect.

As his high school career progressed, Linus easily maintained his challenging schedule and still managed to find time outside of school for other activities. In fact, high school never presented any sort of challenge to him. This was fortunate, because he needed every minute of his free time to work his various jobs, and also to feed his ever-growing appetite for chemistry, which he had developed around the same time he entered high school.

Although chemistry quickly became Linus’ main interest, he wasn’t able to take many classes on the subject. He took first-year chemistry as a junior, which was the only chemistry course that was offered at WHS. Fortunately, the teacher of the course took a liking to Linus, and he was allowed to stay after class to work on additional problems during both his junior and senior years.

W.V. Green was an important early mentor of Linus Pauling.

W.V. Green was an important early mentor of Linus Pauling. This annotated extract is from Pauling's W.H.S. yearbook, ca. 1917.

In his last semester of high school, Linus took his first physics course. The instructor of this course impressed Linus, and specifically emphasized the importance of the use of precise language in the sciences. One of the main points that Linus took from high school was the importance of the careful use of language, not only in the sciences but in all aspects of education. Linus even tried his hand at fiction writing, which resulted in his English teacher encouraging him to write a novel. Linus’ appreciation for languages and reading would be a great help to him throughout his career.

At the end of his seventh semester at WHS, Linus had run out of math and science classes to take. He had also completed all of the requirements for graduation, except for the year of senior-level American history required by the state of Oregon. Upon learning of this requirement, Linus decided to return to WHS for his last semester after summer break, with the intent of taking the two required history courses simultaneously. This decision was quickly vetoed by the principle, and although Linus had been impressed with the thoroughness of his high school education, he decided to attend Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) in the fall without a high school diploma – none was required by OAC at the time.

Although this was a natural decision for Linus, it soon provided him with a fair amount of anxiety. The following, written on September 5, 1917, is an excerpt from his diary.

Yesterday and today the feeling has often come to me that never more will I go to school. I think of all the other students beginning their studies, I imagine how I am [sic] member of the graduation class, would appear at Washington, I remember the enjoyment I got out of my studies and school life in general, and I sometimes poignantly regret that I have decided to go to college without graduating from high school. I covet every term of education that I have, and would gladly have more. College still seems so dim and far away that I often forget all about it. In a month and a day from now I will be in Corvallis. I try not to think of College, because of the way it affects me. Why should I rush through my education the way I am?

Despite his nervousness, Linus stuck with his decision and did not return to WHS. He left for college in early October and ended up thriving at OAC. He would eventually go on to have an extremely long and distinguished career as one of the most influential scientists in history. And finally, in 1962, he was awarded an honorary diploma from Washington High School.

For more information about Linus Pauling and his relationship with Oregon, please visit the Linus Pauling Online portal or check out the previous posts in our Oregon150 series.  For those interested in the history of Washington High School, have a look at this great alumni website.

Oregon 150

Tales from Pauling’s Boyhood: The 1917 Shipbuilders’ Strike

Linus Pauling, 1917.

Linus Pauling, 1917.

In 1917, Pauling began a diary, (known simply as the “OAC Diary” among Special Collections staff) in which he described his activities, thoughts and feelings, many of which are both enlightening and entertaining. Just as interesting though, are some of the entries about life in the early 20th century. The diary contains a number of historical gems dating from Pauling’s time in Portland and Corvallis, including the following excerpt; an entry dating from either late September or early October 1917 and describing a strike among shipbuilders along the Oregon coast.

About 10,000 iron and wooden shipbuilders are striking in Portland, with corresponding amounts in other Pacific coast cities. Accordingly I will not get to see the Mt. Hood, the largest motorship in the world, launched. This is the second week that Supple and Ballin, across the river, has been idle. About 60 wooden ship and 12 steel ship ways are near Portland. The Mt. Hood and three sister ships of wood with Ballin’s patent steel reinforcements. The War Monarch, War Baron, War Viceroy, Landoas, and other ships now building on the Northwest Steel Co’s four ways, are of 8,800 tons. The three ships being built at the Coast Ship Building Co.’s place are about 10,000 tons.

After a little digging, the OSU Special Collections staff was able to turn up the fascinating history behind this little-known strike. In honor of Oregon’s 150th year in the Union, we would like to share that history today.

By early 1917, World War I was raging through Europe. Woodrow Wilson, U.S. president from 1913-1921, had maintained a policy of isolationism and neutrality throughout the war, leaving the U.S. relatively unaffected by the massive conflict. In January 1917, however, the situation changed drastically. British intelligence intercepted and decoded the Zimmerman Telegram, an order for the German delegate in Mexico to broker a treaty with the Mexican government. This treaty, if enacted, would require Mexico to go to war against the United States.

Furthermore, in February 1917, the German navy resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, a practice that had previously resulted in the sinking of the Lusitania and the deaths of nearly 2,000 civilian passengers, including hundreds of Americans. The U.S. could no longer remain neutral and, on April 6, 1917, the United States formally declared war on Germany and its allies.

The fall of 1917 saw the U.S. war movement in full swing with troop deployment and military buildup well underway. bio10011-45-shipbuilders-strike-entryWith this boom in military-minded production, underpaid laborers saw opportunity. In early September, wooden shipbuilders up and down the coast of Oregon began plotting a walkout. They knew that, with the need for ships and at an all-time high, plant management would be forced to meet their demands in order to get production back on schedule. Unfortunately for the would-be strikers, word of the plan got out. On September 14, the day before the walkout, E. W. Wright, manager of McEachern Shipbuilding in Astoria, closed his plant for the weekend, effectively superseding the workers’ strike.

Outraged by Wright’s actions, the McEachern workers accused Wright of locking out pro-union workers. The workers struck, citing their rights as union laborers rather than their initial demands for increased wages. On September 16, the Carpenter’s Union and other unions associated with the Metal Trades Council declared a strike as well. The following day, one hundred National Guard troops were sent to Hammond Lumber Co. in Astoria to protect non-union workers from the picketers. Many decried the Governor’s use of the National Guard, noting that no violence had occurred during the strike. This was the first time that National Guard troops had been mobilized during a strike in Oregon since 1898.

Following several unsuccessful meetings between union representatives and shipyard management, metal workers in Portland and Seattle struck in late September, expressing their solidarity with their fellow laborers. The following day, it was announced that Northwest timber companies had lost a series of large Federal lumber orders as a consequence of “uncertainty in the labor market.” Because wooden shipbuilding was on hold in the Northwest, the U.S. government had no reason to purchase timber there. Instead, the government was forced to move many of its contracts to California, where shipyards were still operating.

In early October, three weeks after the strike had begun, the halt in shipbuilding was becoming a danger to the U.S. war effort. The federal government approached shipyard owners, demanding that a solution be found immediately so that production might continue. After another week of fruitless negotiations, the U.S. government stepped in and the Federal Labor Adjustment Board began a series of hearings meant to force negotiations between the owners and laborers. As the hearings continued, the strikers increased their picketing, hoping to gain public support and cow the shipyard management. On October 17, 140 picketers were arrested in front of the Northwest Steel Company compound. As a result, union leaders agreed to stop all picketing until an agreement was reached.

On October 21, a deal was finally brokered between the two parties, with the shipyard owners conceding a small pay raise to the workers. The following day, the U.S. government announced the end of its wooden shipbuilding programs for the duration of World War I, unofficially discontinuing the use of wooden ships in the U.S. military. The shipbuilders returned to work on October 23 with orders to complete all commissioned ships, aware that the strike in which they had engaged had contributed to the demise of an entire industry.

Almost undoubtedly, the shipbuilders’ strike had far-reaching consequences that have greatly impacted the history of the Pacific Northwest. With the loss of government funds originally earmarked for Oregon timber and coastal shipbuilders, and unemployment rising in the wake of the demise of the wooden ship era, Oregon’s economy was altered drastically. It is difficult to imagine what the state’s industry, economy and population might look like today had this important event played out differently.

(And it is unknown whether Pauling ever saw the launching of the Mt. Hood.)

To learn more about Linus Pauling, visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Oregon 150

Portland, OR: Pauling’s Teenage Years

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

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

“This activist loves Oregon more than he loves life.”
– Tom McCall

Portland, the largest city in Oregon, sits at the convergence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers on Oregon’s northern border. Known for its microbreweries, environmentalists, and growing nightlife, Portland is nationally recognized as an epicenter of West Coast progressive culture. However, a century ago, the city held a very different position in the national consciousness.

As a part of the great West, early 20th century Portland was largely seen as an untamed and uncivilized part of the continent, full of opportunities and dangers. Aside from an impoverished and rather seedy Japan Town (located in the same area as Portland’s modern Chinatown) and a thriving red light district, the city was an industrial center and little else. Due to its convenient access to Oregon’s primary rivers, which in turn provided a direct line to the Pacific Ocean, Portland became a hub for the state’s shipbuilding and logging sectors. Oregon’s booming timber industry single-handedly supported much of the state’s economy, providing work in mills, producing lumber for shipbuilders and helping stoke the fires of Portland’s fledgling steel industry.

It was in this young industrial center that Linus Pauling spent his teenage years, immersed in a culture of blue-collar labor and near-poverty. He spent his youth in pursuits appropriate to his surroundings; dreaming up get-rich-quick schemes and fantasizing about life as a successful corporate chemist. Pauling was the product of his environment – bright, industrious, and a capitalist to the core.

Though born in Portland, Pauling was not always an enterprising city boy in a smog-choked factory town. In 1905, his family moved to Condon, Oregon, a small watering hole in north central Oregon frequented by cowboys and nomadic Native American tribes, a veritable Wild West to the young Linus. Here, he spent his early years playing on the expansive prairie, climbing trees and wading through creeks. When his father’s drugstore was sold out from underneath the family, however, the Paulings were forced to leave Condon and return to Portland.

Shortly after moving back to the city, Pauling’s father, Herman, died suddenly and unexpectedly. Linus, his two sisters, and his mother, Belle, were left to fend for themselves. Belle sold the drugstore Herman had just opened in Portland and purchased a house with the proceeds. Unfortunately, she had no practical business skill and grossly overpaid for the six bedroom home. In an attempt to keep her family afloat, she took on boarders, though even with the revenue from her tenets, Belle’s income was not enough to support herself and the children. Moreover, the shock of Herman’s death and the added stress of her difficult financial situation pushed Belle into a state of deep depression which was worsened by pernicious anemia, a blood disease which sapped her strength and left her bedridden.

By the time he had turned thirteen, Linus and his sisters had taken over many of the duties of the boarding house. At his mother’s encouragement, he began working outside jobs for extra income. He sold meat in a butcher shop, tended reels in a movie theater, delivered milk in a horse drawn wagon, and transported special delivery packages for the Portland postal service. The money he earned went straight to his mother, who in turn used it to purchase necessities for the family. Unsurprisingly, Pauling disliked having to give up his hard-earned wages and, in the years to come, disagreements over finances would prove to be a continuing source of friction between Linus and his mother.

Linus’ chief respite from the grim realities of his family life was his intellect. At the age of thirteen, Pauling was first introduced to chemistry by his best friend, Lloyd Jeffress. After watching Lloyd demonstrate a few small chemical reactions with a homemade chemistry set, his own course was set. Linus  had previously built a small room in the basement of his mother’s boardinghouse to house his mineral collection – this space quickly became his laboratory. Soon he was collecting chemicals and supplies with which to conduct his own “experiments.”

Indeed, academic pursuits often served as Pauling’s escape from his difficult adolescence. At the age of sixteen, he chose to formally pursue an academic career and leave Portland altogether. He moved to Corvallis, Oregon in the fall of 1917 where he enrolled at Oregon Agricultural College. There, he embarked on a course that would eventually earn him two Nobel prizes and worldwide acclaim. It should be remembered, however, that Pauling’s life in Portland shaped much of who he was as a scientist and an activist. His difficult youth instilled in him a work ethic and sense of determination that characterized his career and led to some of the most important scientific developments of the 20th century.

For more information about Linus Pauling and his life in Oregon, visit the Linus Pauling Online portal or check out the other posts in our Oregon 150 series.

Oregon 150

William P. Murphy: Condon’s Other Nobel Prize Winner

William P. Murphy, 1930s.  Image courtesy of the Nobel museum.

William P. Murphy, 1930s. Image courtesy of the Nobel museum.

Condon – as you are undoubtedly already aware if you are a regular reader of this blog – is a very small town in Gilliam County in North-Central Oregon. According to the 2000 census, the town’s population consisted of only 759 people, and in the early 1900s, when the Pauling family lived in Condon, the population was even smaller.

Despite its size, Condon can boast of an interesting statistic: Two of its early 1900s residents would later go on to win Nobel Prizes. One of these men is the blog’s namesake, Linus Pauling. The other man is a lesser-known physician named William Parry Murphy.

William P. Murphy was born on February 6, 1892 in Stoughton, Wisconsin. He was educated at public schools throughout Wisconsin and Oregon, and in 1910, he graduated from Gilliam County High School. Unfortunately, other information about his youth is scarce, and it is not clear precisely how long he lived in Condon. According to legend, his and Pauling’s time there overlapped, but if their residences in Condon did in fact coincide, it is unlikely that they would have had much in the way of contact with each other. Pauling was born on February 28, 1901, and was therefore a full nine years younger than Murphy.

However, we do have record in our collection that these two men corresponded with each other later in their lives and that Murphy was one of the 9,000+ signatories of Pauling’s famous United Nations Bomb Test Petition.

William P. Murphy's signature added to "An Appeal by American Scientists to the Governments and People of the World"

William P. Murphy's signature added to "An Appeal by American Scientists to the Governments and People of the World"

Following his public school education, Murphy attended the University of Oregon in Eugene. In 1914, he received an A.B. degree, and spent the next two years teaching physics and mathematics in high schools around Oregon. After his short stint as a teacher, Murphy decided to attend medical school. He spent one year at the University of Oregon Medical School in Portland, and appears to have left Oregon for good that summer when he enrolled in courses at the Rush Medical School in Chicago.

On September 10, 1919, Murphy married Pearl Harriet Adams, and that same year was awarded the William Stanislaus Murphy Fellowship at Harvard Medical School in Boston. He retained this fellowship for three years, and graduated from Harvard in 1922 as a Doctor of Medicine.

After his graduation in 1922, Murphy interned at the Rhode Island hospital in Providence. Not long after, he was appointed resident physician at Peter Bent Brigham hospital in Boston. During his short time at the University of Oregon Medical School, Murphy had become interested in developing a cure for anemia. However, he wasn’t able to actively work towards this ambition until he was at the Boston hospital. He specifically began to work on pernicious anemia, using intramuscular injections of liver extract as a treatment for both pernicious anemia and hypochromic anemia.

After his time at Peter Bent Brigham hospital, Murphy was appointed instructor of Medicine at Harvard. At Harvard, Murphy was able to work with George Richards Minot and George Hoyt Whipple to develop a treatment of pernicious anemia through a diet of uncooked liver. Murphy, Minot, and Whipple shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for 1934 “for their discoveries concerning liver therapy in cases of anaemia.” In 1939, Murphy collected his work in the text Anemia in Practice: Pernicious Anemia.

Although Murphy never lived in Oregon again, he did occasionally return to visit his parents, sister, and two brothers, all of whom lived in Portland. On one occasion, not long after winning the Nobel Prize, Murphy was interviewed for an article in The Oregonian. When asked about pernicious anemia, he noted:

A few years ago pernicious anemia was one of the diseases that was always fatal, it was sure to be fatal within a year. But now it need not be so anymore than measles or other minor complaint. A person who has pernicious anemia has a life expectancy as long as if he didn’t have it, providing the proper treatment is given.

(Sadly, Murphy’s breakthroughs were not made soon enough for Linus Pauling’s mother Belle, who died of pernicious anemia in 1926.)

Throughout the remainder of his career, William Murphy worked as a consulting hematologist to several hospitals. He also made his way through the ranks at Harvard Medical School, moving from Assistant in Medicine in 1924 to Senior Associate in Medicine in 1958. After his retirement, he was appointed Emeritus Lecturer in Medicine at Harvard.

Although he shared the Nobel Prize, leaders in the nation of Finland called him the “real discoverer” of the cure for pernicious anemia and gave him the Order of the White, the country’s highest decoration. He also received the Cameron prize from the faculty of the University of Edinburgh and the Gold Medal from the Massachusetts Humane Society, and was elected a member of the Halle academy of science in Germany.

William P. Murphy died on October 9, 1987.

For more information on Condon’s other Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, please visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.  For more stories of Pauling’s relationship with Oregon, click here.

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