Linus Pauling Day-by-Day: The Internet Just Became A Bit More Crowded

23,000 pages of Pauling

23,000 pages of Pauling

In 1999 we hatched the crazy idea of trying to document every day of Linus Pauling’s professional life. Researchers were, at the time, honing in on a draft of the human genome, and our thinking was, if scientists can map the exact genetic details of human existence, why can’t we map the daily activities of Linus Pauling? So began the project now known as Linus Pauling-Day-by-Day.

Fast forward to this past Friday, and thirty years of the project have been completed. The Pauling Day-by-Day calendar now closely details Pauling’s every letter, manuscript, speech and travel itinerary for the years 19301959. It is plainly relentless in scope – in its current form, the site comprises over 23,000 static html pages and incorporates over 68,000 document summaries.

Bits and pieces of Linus Pauling Day-by-Day have been released over the past several years, usually in conjunction with the launching of a new Pauling-related Documentary History website. This latest iteration of the calendar, however, marks the first time that the project has been presented as a cohesive whole. The launch also includes a number of important new features.

Five More Years

The Day-by-Day site data now includes new event listings for the period 19551959. These were important years for Pauling in that he completed a tremendous amount of good work and also endured a tremendous amount of hardship for the outspoken political views that he had assumed since the close of World War II. In the late 1950s, Pauling published major work on the structure of silk fibroin, the nature of mental deficiency and the theory of anesthesia. During this time, he and Ava Helen also collected signatures for their famous United Nations Bomb Test Petition, visited Albert Schweitzer at his compound in French Equatorial Africa, and were excoriated for their activism on any number of occasions, including an infamous appearance on “Meet the Press.”

Index Pages

Pauling Day-by-Day now has a proper homepage and is key-word searchable (though, at the time of this writing, our search engine hasn’t quite completed indexing the site). Likewise, each year of the calendar has its own mini-homepage, featuring a full accounting of the Paulings’ travel for that year as well as an overview of the year’s activities as written by Pauling biographer Robert Paradowski. The navigation tools provided to move within and between years are also greatly improved.

The Day-by-Day Index Page for 1950.

The Day-by-Day Index Page for 1950.

Nearly 1,700 Illustrations

Possibly the most significant new addition is the incorporation of almost 1,700 digital objects used to illustrate each week of Pauling’s activities; or, in the case of 1954, his first Nobel year, each day. In prior calendar releases, only the first page of each illustration was made available. Now, the entirety of virtually every document scanned into the calendar is accessible to the user – the illustrations have been transformed from pictures (by definition) to true digital objects.

This key bit of functionality has afforded us great leeway in featuring items from the collection that would not normally have a logical home within our web presence. Naturally many of the more-expected components of Pauling’s biography are illustrated: his passport problems, his first Nobel trip to Stockholm, his administration of ambitious programs of scientific research. That said, we are now able to incorporate items that are, perhaps, a little bit on the unexpected side.  To name a few:

Peter Pauling, 1931.

Peter Pauling, 1931.

Almost 2,000 Full-Text Transcripts

Another exciting component of this version of Pauling Day-by-Day is our incorporation of a massive cache of full-text correspondence and manuscripts transcripts. Every 1930-1959 letter ever digitized by the OSU Libraries Special Collections is included, as are many of the letters written between Linus Pauling, Ava Helen Pauling and their children.

In turn, we are able to follow the development of, for instance, the family’s shared obsession with cars.

We are also able to stumble across important historical fragments as they played out in real time. Consider this item, the manuscript that Pauling used to accept the William H. Nichols Medal from the New York Section of the American Chemical Society. (the transcript is here) In the opening paragraphs of his talk, Pauling notes

I am happy also that this occasion has brought me in touch with many old friends – with Paul Emmett and Joe Mayer and many others. Several of them said to me tonight that I appeared to be getting fat. This is not so. You know, when I was a boy in Oregon I used to go around a great deal in the green, damp Oregon woods, and I always came into contact with poison oak, which caused my face to swell and my eyes to swell shut, and me to apply so much lead acetate solution that it is a wonder that I didn’t die of lead poisoning. Yesterday I must have bumped into something similar, for my face began to swell, and I began to be afraid that I would have to speak here tonight with my eyes swollen shut – which I could have done, with the practice I have had speaking in the dark.

The true nature of Pauling’s condition was, however, far more serious than poison oak. As Paradowski notes in his chronology

After the ceremonies, Linus and Ava Helen are at the apartment of Alfred Mirsky, and Dr. Alfred Cohn, a professor at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, learns of Pauling’s condition and asks to examine him. The next morning, Cohn and some other doctors, after performing various tests, diagnose glomerulonephritis, a renal disease characterized by the abrupt onset of facial edema and hypertension. They ask Pauling what he plans to do. Pauling replies that he intends to go to the Mayo Clinic where he is scheduled to give a memorial address. One of the doctors advises Pauling to cancel the speech and return to California, where he should get in touch with Dr. Thomas Addis in San Francisco, a specialist in the treatment of nephritis.

On March 10, Linus and Ava Helen return to Pasadena. He arranges to see Addis, and, within a short time, Addis begins treating him. (He later tells Pauling that it was extremely fortunate that he did not go to the Mayo Clinic, because the doctors there would have pumped him full of a natural polysaccharide, and his edema would have disappeared, but he would have been dead in a little while.) Pauling is put on a low-protein diet and takes various vitamins and liver extracts.

Interested readers are, naturally, able to follow the progression of Pauling’s return to health, a process documented by letters from Ava Helen to Dr. Addis as well as a full accounting of Linus’s meals during the early months of his combating the disease.

Calendars retracing the daily activities of important figures were once a relatively popular component of the archival discipline. With time the sheer labor involved in compiling these types of resources rendered them impractical for most Archives and Special Collections.

We, however, feel that Linus Pauling Day-by-Day is a worthwhile enterprise for at least a couple of reasons. For one, it gets used – the site has garnered well over 17 million pageviews since its first two years were released in 2003, and many of our reference requests are generated by content included in the project.

Perhaps more importantly, we view the Pauling Papers, at 4,400 linear feet, to be more than a collection of Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s prodigious work ethic. Indeed, the archive is so vast and multifaceted that, in a very real sense, it serves as a unique documentation of large swaths of twentieth-century scientific, political and cultural history. By describing so much of the collection on the item-level, researchers are now able to trace lines of inquiry that often have little to do, specifically, with the Paulings’ work.

The successful release of a project of this size is clearly a testament to efficient technical processes. Check back with us next week when we’ll talk a bit more about how Linus Pauling Day-by-Day was created.


Pauling in the ROTC


ROTC Cadet Linus C. Pauling, 1918.

As most of our readers are no doubt aware, this past Tuesday was Veterans’ Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in many other parts of the world.  In honor of this global occasion, we thought it appropriate to discuss a component of Linus Pauling’s story that may come as a surprise to many — his involvement in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

At the time of Pauling’s arrival in Corvallis for the beginning of his studies at Oregon Agricultural College, two years of ROTC service were required of all male students physically-able to participate.

[Indeed, compulsory ROTC remained a feature of university life at Oregon State until 1962.  OSU’s proud tradition of military training is documented nicely by our colleagues in the University Archives in the Historical Note to this finding aid.]

Pauling, decades away from the peace activism that, for many, continues to define his legacy, participated with typical vigor.  His marks for military drill were consistently stellar, and near the end of his freshman year Pauling received first runner-up in the Best Soldier competition at OAC’s Military Inspection Day.

Pauling's OAC report card, October 1918.  The usual good grades in military drill, the sciences and math; a highly-unusual A+ in P.E.; and more-typical struggles in Mechanical Drawing.

Pauling's OAC report card, October 1918. The usual good grades in military drill, the sciences and math; a highly-unusual A+ in P.E.; and more-typical struggles in Mechanical Drawing.

Pauling’s commitment to service did, at least on one occasion, come at a cost:  in his Pauling Chronology, biographer Robert Paradowski notes an unhappy incident befalling the young undergraduate at the beginning of his second term.

After going home for his Christmas vacation, Pauling returns on January 7 to the OAC campus for the Winter Short Course. His financial problems become severe during this time. He is also asked to leave the boardinghouse because he makes too much noise tramping up the stairs in his heavy military boots. During the winter and spring, he goes through several changes of address, sometimes rooming with friends, other times taking whatever he can find.

Nonetheless, Pauling’s heart seemed fully in tune with the ROTC mission.  Biographer Thomas Hager, in the early pages of his Force of Nature, writes

Following his freshman year, in the early summer of 1918, Pauling and Mervyn Stephenson, along with a number of other OAC cadets, were sent to the Presidio in San Francisco for six weeks of intensive officers’ training.  Pauling and Stephenson spent the rest of the summer helping build wooden-hulled freighters in a shipyard on the coast of Oregon.  Whatever Pauling’s opinions about war later, during World War I he was in full support of the government’s actions.  Stephenson would later remember that Pauling was a strong supporter of the war effort, “100 percent for it.”

Military training at the Presidio, San Francisco, California, Summer 1918.

Military training at the Presidio, San Francisco, California, Summer 1918.

Having completed the required two years, Pauling chose to remain active in ROTC for the duration of his time as an undergraduate, adding classes in camp cookery to his compulsory drilling.  By the time of his movement on to graduate work at the California Institute of Technology, Pauling had risen to the rank of Major within the Training Corps.

In later years, Pauling would answer the call to service again by engaging in an ambitious program of scientific war research on behalf of the Allied effort during World War II — the human blood plasma substitute oxypolygelatin, new types of rocket propellants, invisible inks and an oxygen meter for use in aircraft and submarines all arose out of this fruitful period.

For his efforts, Pauling received a number of awards from the U.S. government including a Naval Ordnance Development Award, a certificate of recognition from the Office of Scientific Research and Development, a certificate of appreciation from the Rocket Development Program and, most importantly, the Presidential Medal for Merit.

Though the later Pauling was, without question, a vocal and, at times, incendiary critic of U.S. military policy, one would be hard-pressed to make the argument that he was anti-soldier.  To Pauling, war was the greatest of all immoralities, but his criticism was always pointed at the world’s larger actors — the governments and war profiteers — rather than the men and women working in service to their countries.

On the contrary, service to a larger cause was clearly important to Pauling, to the point where he and his wife, Ava Helen, once pledged themselves as willing “Hostages for Peace,” offering to travel to North Vietnam to serve as human shields for Vietnamese citizens and U.S. prisoners of war endangered by the U.S. aerial raids being conducted in the early 1970s.

Clearly, amidst all the accusations and noise surrounding his alleged “anti-Americanism” or “communist ties,” Linus Pauling’s remarkable willingness to sacrifice, much like his earlier ROTC service, was an important but frequently-overlooked component of a terrifically-complex story.

Oregon 150

Creating The Pauling Catalogue: Special Features

An image of young Pauling, used as an illustration in Biographical subseries 1.

An image of young Pauling, used as an illustration in Biographical subseries 1.

[Part 8 of 9]

Thanks in part to a number of special features that have been incorporated into the published Pauling Catalogue, the finished product is far from a simple listing of archival holdings.

For starters, each volume contains an introduction by either a major historian of science, a member of the Pauling family or a staffmember of the OSU Libraries Special Collections. Authors include two of Pauling’s biographers, Robert Paradowski and Tom Hager, as well as Robert Olby, the pre-eminent historian of DNA and the author of a forthcoming biography of Francis CrickMary Jo Nye, OSU history professor emeritus and a recent recipient of the Sarton Medal, also contributed a text, as did Linus Pauling, Jr., Linda Pauling Kamb and Barclay Kamb.

Volume One contains a forty-five page Timeline, enhanced with dozens of full-color illustrations, that chronicles the remarkable lives of Linus and Ava Helen Pauling. The Timeline was written by Robert Paradowski and, previous to its appearance in The Pauling Catalogue, had only been available in a very rare Japanese publication titled Linus Pauling: A Man of Intellect and Action. (so rare, in fact, that the only copy listed in WorldCat is the copy residing in the OSU Libraries Special Collections)  Short of the various Pauling biographies that have been written over the years, the Paradowski Timeline is, perhaps, the authoritative encapsulation of the Paulings’ life and work —  It’s inclusion is a terrific boon to The Pauling Catalogue.

An excerpt from the Paradowski Timeline, which appears in Volume 1 of The Pauling Catalogue.

An excerpt from the Paradowski Timeline, which appears in Volume 1 of The Pauling Catalogue.

Volume Two includes sixteen illustrated pages of extracts from Linus Pauling’s Oregon Agricultural College diary, written by the young freshman during the first months of his undergraduate pursuits in 1917 and 1918.  As noted in the introduction to this appendix:

Perhaps the most interesting of all the personal narratives in the Pauling collection is the sixty-three page “Diary (So-Called)” that a young Linus kept from August 1917 through the first several months of his freshman year at Oregon Agricultural College. The OAC diary provides an unusually candid glimpse into the life and personality of a typically uncertain teenager as he leaves the familiarity of home in pursuit of an advanced education. Along the way the reader learns of a photography-processing business that Linus and two friends attempt to establish, and likewise of a minor burn “caus[ing] the formation of blisters fully 1/3 cm. diameter on each of the four fingers of my dextrum.”

Indeed, the OAC diary contains a wide array of the young Pauling’s thoughts and adventures: the happy accident of quite randomly finding a slide rule while walking through a field; the palpable fear summoned in anticipation of impending undergraduate studies; the first pangs of a developing crush on an OAC co-ed named Irene Sparks, whom Linus quickly annoints as “the girl for me.”

A sample of Pauling's OAC diary.  Though his track and field pursuits did not yield much fruit, Pauling would indeed make the acquaintance of Troy Bogart -- a fellow member of Delta Upsilon fraternity.

A sample of Pauling's OAC diary. Though his track and field pursuits did not yield much fruit, Pauling would indeed make the acquaintance of Troy Bogart -- a fellow member of the Gamma Tau Beta fraternity. (later to become Delta Upsilon)

Each of the six volumes contains at least eight pages of color illustrations, as well as a full index listing of all illustrations that appear in a given volume. Volume Six concludes with a Technical Note and a Colophon, which explain the processes used in creating the The Pauling Catalogue and which have served as the foundation for many of the technical blog posts developed in this series.

The Pauling Catalogue

The Pauling Catalogue

Ultimately, it is our hope that the inclusion of these special features combine to add value to the finished project; to form a reference work that is as complete as it is authoritative.

The Pauling Catalogue is available for purchase at

Now Playing On the Special Collections Website…

Francis Crick, 1995

In recent days, a large amount of great new content has been added to the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections website. Here are some of the highlights:

New Videos

First and foremost, almost nine hours of transcribed video from a major conference on the life and work of Linus Pauling has been added to our Special Events webpage. Unquestionably, one of the highlights of this new addition is a 50 minute-long talk by DNA co-discoverer and Nobel laureate Francis Crick, titled “The Impact of Linus Pauling on Molecular Biology.” Crick, who had occasion to interact with Pauling for over forty years, speaks eloquently of the huge advancements in biological studies that were such a vital part of Pauling’s multifaceted scientific career, and concludes that Pauling was, indeed, “one of the founders of molecular biology.”

Crick’s lecture was the first in a series of presentations given at the Pauling Symposium, titled “A Discourse on the Art of Biography,” and running for three days from February 28 – March 2, 1995. The gathering also featured what is surely the largest summit of Pauling biographers ever assembled. Intriguing talks by Thomas Hager, author of Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling and biographer Ted Goertzel, who revealed and analyzed the details of a Rorschach test taken by Pauling, are definitely worth viewing. Likewise, anyone interested in a nuanced examination of Pauling’s life story should view the presentation made by Robert Paradowski, who has spent the better part of thirty years composing a mammoth three-volume biography of Pauling that, to this day, remains unpublished.

A collection of Pauling’s former graduate students comprised the presenters for the conference’s third session. Speaking less than one year after Pauling’s death, the group shared many endearing stories mined from their long associations with the famous scientist. Famed biologist Matthew Meselson fondly recounted his deciding to pursue graduate studies at Caltech while immersed in the Pauling family swimming pool. Likewise, Nobel laureate chemist William Lipscomb passed along the details of Caltech Chemists baseball games in the Pasadena city league, noting for the record that he once “made the local newspaper for an unassisted triple play while playing center field.” The session was chaired by Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s youngest son Crellin, who took a few moments himself to reflect upon his experience of growing up with two world-famous parents.

The conference’s final session was devoted to a deeply-interesting discussion of the highs and lows encountered by writers of biography in attempting to capture an honest portrait of their subjects. Some of the history profession’s most important scholars, including Sarton Medal winners Frederic Lawrence Holmes and John L. Heilbron, revealed a number of lessons learned. In this vein, Judith Goodstein of the Caltech archives shared her thoughts on the particular issues surrounding the writing of an institutional history and S.S. Schweber provided a glimpse of the what it was like to wrestle with the remarkable life of Nobel physicist Hans Bethe.

Pauling Finding Aid

Another major addition to the resources available on the Special Collections website is the complete text of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers finding aid. Long-delayed due to technical issues, a web version of the massive document — nearly 1,700 pages long when printed out — is now finally available, in full, on the web. Users now have access to listings for all of Pauling’s speeches, his article manuscripts, materials related to his unpublished books, and much, much more.

Coming Soon…

Keep watching the Special Events page for new video updates. Transcribed video of the 2008 Pauling Legacy Award lecture by Dr. Roderick MacKinnon is nearly ready to post, as are several additional presentations by a wide variety of highly-esteemed speakers. We are also preparing a major update to the Linus Pauling Day-by-Day calendar that will incorporate not only a large amount of new content, but also several exciting new features. Stay tuned…