Lawrence Badash, 1934-2010

Lawrence Badash speaking at the 2007 Pauling conference held at Oregon State University.

We were very sorry to learn of the death of Dr. Lawrence Badash, professor emeritus in the history of science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Dr. Badash died on August 23, 2010 after a short bout with cancer.

It was our good fortune to work with Dr. Badash on a handful of occasions.  Most recently he participated in our 2007 conference “The Scientist as Educator and Public Citizen: Linus Pauling and His Era,” held in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Pauling’s publication of the seminal text General Chemistry.  Badash’s contribution to the proceedings was a typically thoughtful and intriguing talk titled “Science in the McCarthy Period: Training Ground for Scientists as Public Citizens.”  In it, he argued that

Demagoguery functions much like a preemptive strike: ‘Flag wavers’ paint those who may be effective opponents as unpatriotic. This occurred during the period 1945-1960, as Joseph McCarthy and others stirred fears of Communist influence in the United States. At first lauded for their creation of the atomic bomb and other World War II activities, scientists increasingly were criticized for their international orientation and left-leaning politics. American scientists were sometimes denied passports, foreign scientists were often deprived of visas, barriers were erected to prevent the exchange of information, jobs were lost. But scientists fought back, occasionally changing policy or at least embarrassing officialdom. Such efforts reinvigorated a flagging sense of the need for political participation among scientists.

Several years before the 2007 conference, Badash conducted extensive research in the Personal Safe series of the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers.  Badash was specifically interested in investigating the near-appointment of Linus Pauling at UC-Santa Barbara in 1964.

As published in Physics in Perspective 11 (2009): 4-14, Badash found that Pauling himself actively solicited an appointment at UCSB.  Having left the California Institute of Technology following the organization’s chilly reaction to Pauling’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, and dissatisfied with the resources available to him at his next stop, the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Pauling began looking toward UCSB, which was located not far away from the CSDI.

Pauling’s offer was to work without salary, (Xerox inventor and Caltech physics alum Chester Carlson had agreed to provide financial support for Pauling’s work) spending three-quarters of his time on scientific matters and one-quarter on “peace work.”  He would occupy an office at Santa Barbara and act as “essentially a full-time Professor of Chemistry…. but not present any regular courses of lectures.”

This offer was met with resistance from UCSB Chancellor Vernon Cheadle, who did not inform the university’s chemistry faculty of Pauling’s proposal and ultimately refused to even file the paperwork necessary for the offer to come under preliminary review by the University of California.   Though the era of McCarthy had passed by 1964, fears of controversial individuals with supposedly radical ties were still heavily prevalent in certain circles.  Badash notes

Throughout 1964, minutes of meetings of the UC Regents contain a number of references to academic freedom, while urging that speakers at the university be acceptable.  Clearly, the board was uncomfortable having Communists speak on campuses.  Ronald Reagan, who would run for governor in 1966, was making a name for himself condemning the recklessness of the free-speech movement and, by implication, the Regents.

Pauling fought for an appointment for nearly a year, even appealing to then-Governor Pat Brown to intercede on his behalf.  His pleas fell upon deaf ears though – in this climate, there would be no position at Santa Barbara.

One year later, however, Pauling did find an advocate in chemist Joseph E. Mayer, who invited the double Nobel laureate to join the staff of a different UC school – the University of California, San Diego.  Backed by signed petitions submitted by the university’s departments of chemistry, physics and biology, Pauling was appointed professor in residence and research chemist beginning July 1, 1967.  He would stay at UCSD for two years, before resigning in protest of Governor Reagan’s educational policies and moving on to Stanford.

Badash saw UC-Santa Barbara’s failure to hire Pauling as a “bungled opportunity.”  In concluding his 2009 article he suggests

Since UCSD was able to appoint Pauling for at least the first year, without needing regential approval, UCSB must have had the same authority.  Chancellor Vernon Cheadle may not have wished to exercise that authority, or, more likely, the idea of a one-year appointment was not raised in 1964.  Both UCSB and UCSD were relatively new campuses, with chancellors who were sensitive to the political climate in the state and especially among the Regents.  As might be expected, on both campuses the faculty members seemed more concerned with the quality of their departments.  Some faculty, recalling that period, felt that Pauling was a disruptive person who would not necessarily have been a good colleague.  Yet, his presence would instantly have raised the UCSB Department of Chemistry’s stature, then and now the bottom line.

Lawrence Badash’s papers have been deposited with the UC-Santa Barbara Special Collections.  The finding aid is available here.  An excellent obituary published by the Santa Barbara Independent is also online.

Life in the Cold War 1980s

Three new additions to our archive of Pauling Peace Lectureship presentations have been added recently to the Events and Videos page of the OSU Libraries Special Collections website.  Dating to the mid-1980s, each is a reflection of the major, and mounting, concerns that peace activists and critics of U.S. foreign policy harbored during the eight year presidency of Ronald Reagan.

In 1984 Helen Caldicott, speaking in the weeks before a presidential election that she deemed “a referendum on the fate of the Earth,” dazzled an overflow audience with a fiery talk titled “We the People: A Prescription for Ending the Arms Race.” Originally a physician by trade, Caldicott increasingly came to devote more of her time (and eventually all of it) to peace activism as a fulfillment of what she believed to be her obligations under the Hippocratic Oath – speaking out against nuclear escalation seemed to Caldicott to be the ultimate in preventive medicine. Using a number of medical analogies throughout her presentation, Caldicott struck a cord with one journalist who noted her “poetically grotesque images of what happens to those hit by a nuclear weapon.”

Caldicott’s lecture included a series of scathing indictments of the Reagan administration, as well as the following recounting of a face-to-face conversation that she held with the President himself.

Helen Caldicott: A Sobering Meeting with President Reagan

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations George W. Ball spoke on October 9, 1985 to an audience that included Linus Pauling. Ball’s presentation, titled “United States Foreign Policy,” continued in the vein of many of the themes introduced by Dr. Caldicott, including harsh criticisms of President Reagan, by now re-elected.

In Ball’s view, the cruel irony of the times lay in the fact that at the very moment that the Soviet leadership, under Gorbachev, was becoming more flexible in its approach to arms limitations, the United States was simultaneously growing more rigid. Particularly galling, in Ball’s view, was the Reagan administration’s enthusiasm for the Strategic Defense Initiative, more commonly known as “Star Wars.”

George W. Ball: The Folly of “Star Wars”

Author and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith presented on “The Military Power and the Larger Complex” on October 14, 1986. Echoing his friends Caldicott and Ball, Galbraith suggested that U.S.-Soviet summit meetings contemporary to his talk were little more than a farce meant to convince the public that their concerns about nuclear hazards were being addressed. In Galbraith’s view, the massive escalation of military spending and consequent influence under Reagan’s watch had served to subjugate democracy itself. This despite the fact that the rationale for continued military expansion was based largely on what he perceived to be myths of tension and hostility between nations.

Galbraith’s perspective on current events was sobering indeed, but it did not preclude the relaying of a few funny stories.

John Kenneth Galbraith: The Humorous Side of Summit Meetings

Jointly established in 1982 by Linus Pauling and the OSU College of Liberal Arts as a means for honoring Ava Helen Pauling’s commitment to peace work, the Pauling Peace Lectureship has brought a number of major figures to Corvallis to discuss the ramifications of events in a changing world. In the coming months, several more presentations from the Lectureship will be made available on our Events and Videos page.

A Voyage on the Peace Ship

A keepsake from the Motorship Falknes, July 1984.

A keepsake from the Motorship Falknes, July 1984.

“The invasion of Nicaragua by the United States, either by sending in the Marines or by use of forces financed and directed by the United States, would be a disgraceful action that would remain a blot on our record forever. The American people must insist that our government stop dominating and exploiting our Latin American neighbors, and instead adopt a policy of assistance and collaboration.”

-Linus Pauling, November 11, 1983.

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Linus Pauling’s participation in the Peace Ship project. Supported by the Norwegian government and organized by Nobel laureates Adolfo Perez Esquival and George Wald, the project enlisted the support of two additional Nobel Prize-winners – Betty Williams and Pauling – in fulfilling its mission to deliver some 13,000 tons of newsprint, fertilizer, food and medicine to the Nicaraguan people.

El Barco de la Paz, which was technically the Norwegian cargo ship M.S. Falknes, arrived in Corinto harbor during an exceedingly difficult time in Nicaraguan history. Five years removed from the overthrow of the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the nation was enveloped in a brutal civil war in which the left-leaning Sandinista ruling group struggled to hold power over the U.S.-backed guerrilla corps collectively known as the Contras. By some estimates, more than 30,000 people died in this conflict, which lasted for all of the 1980s.

For Pauling, the trip was a whirlwind of sights and sounds, most of which served to confirm, and even radicalize, his existing feelings about the dire situation in this small Central American country.

As detailed in his own fascinating account of the trip, Pauling and Wald were driven around the country by Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega himself, “with machine guns on the floor of the car because they expect action from the Contras who often carry out assassinations.”

Linus Pauling in Corinto, Nicaragua, participating in the Peace Ship assistance mission. July 26, 1984.

Linus Pauling in Corinto, Nicaragua, participating in the Peace Ship assistance mission. July 26, 1984.

The Nobel laureates received glimpses of a nascent socialist heath care system, wherein “most doctors do private practice and also work for the national health system,” a situation which Pauling, in a later interview, judged to be an improvement over past arrangements. In Pauling’s view, “before the Sandinista fighters won…the poor people just didn’t get much in the way of health care or physician services. Now they do.”

Pauling also learned something of the Sandinistas’ mixed approach to creating markets for agricultural goods. His notes include mention of a visit “to one of the privately owned big farms,” where he “talked to the owner about his relationships with the government and how, when crops were poor a couple of years ago, the government had helped him. The government sets prices but the owners make a profit.”

Always on his travels, there existed the specter of on-going civil war: “We met another large land owner, Gladys Volt, whose husband had been kidnapped and killed by the Contras just eight days before.”

The trip likewise included a certain amount of lighter fare – Pauling seemed, in particular, to enjoy a trip to a volcano – as well as the usual formal receptions, lectures (mostly on vitamin C) and honorary awards that one would expect to be extended to a figure of Pauling’s stature. And throughout it all, Pauling’s evince a theme of cautious optimism for the future.

Linus Pauling speaking at a vigil outside the U.S. Embassy, Managua, Nicaragua, July 1984.

Linus Pauling speaking at a vigil outside the U.S. Embassy, Managua, Nicaragua, July 1984.

Current conditions, however, were desperate. Following a visit to a medical school, he reflects that “my high school chemistry class in 1913 was better equipped than this college,” and defining his entire tour is an overwhelming sense of “a miserably poor country. I felt about as bad concerning conditions there as I had about India…[in 1973].”

Video Link: Pauling discusses the situation in Nicaragua from the deck of The Peace Ship.

Pauling’s transit home was marked by a stark reminder that there is sometimes a price to be paid for acting in opposition to official government policy. In transit from Nicaragua to California, via Mexico City, Pauling’s passport was confiscated for six hours. After a period of confusion, the passport was returned to Pauling- though not until he arrived at his final destination. Pauling believed, perhaps from hard experience, that he was being sent a message.

I think that an order was issued to take my passport away from me. George [Wald] and I had sent President Reagan a telegram from the ship and said we were on this ship taking material from Norway to Nicaragua. So I started thinking, this is what’s happening. They are taking my passport and I won’t get it back and I wondered what to do. Should I call Meet the Press, or Face the Nation?

When we got to San Francisco and after I stepped off the plane, the stewardess came with an envelope and gave it to me. It contained my passport and I went through customs without any trouble. I think that some higher official in the U.S. government had decided that it was better not to take my passport (which had, of course, been denied me from 1952 until 1954, when I was given the Nobel prize in chemistry.)

For more on Linus Pauling’s legacy of peace activism, see Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement: A Documentary History.

Pauling and the Presidents

rhetoric of Ronald Reagan. January 26, 1984

Notes re: rhetoric of Ronald Reagan. January 26, 1984

I respectfully request that you grant me an appointment in order that I may talk with you for a short while about the present opinion that scientists hold about the testing of nuclear weapons, and related questions, and about the petition urging that an international agreement to stop the testing of nuclear weapons be made, as a first step toward a more general disarmament.”
– Linus Pauling. Letter to Dwight D. Eisenhower. February 19, 1958.

Linus Pauling felt the international peace movement to be the single most important cause of its time. As a result, he believed peace work to be deserving of the attentions of political and social leaders around the globe, none more so than that of the U.S. Presidents who controlled the most powerful military in the world.

Over the course of his life as an activist, Pauling had occasion to correspond with every U.S. President from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton. Pauling’s requests were often ignored and his letters unanswered, but his convictions demanded that the leaders of his country understand the need for peace.

Pauling believed that, as members of a democratic nation, American citizens had the right to maintain discourse with their nation’s leaders. As a result, Pauling often addressed open letters to public officials as a means of bringing the public into the discussion.

The earliest example of this approach is the “Open Letter to President Truman,” issued on February 9, 1950, in which Pauling and his co-authors state that the President’s “decision to manufacture the hydrogen bomb has thrown a shadow of horror across the homes and minds of all Americans.”

More than forty years later, “An Open Letter to President Bush,” (January 18, 1991), written solely by Pauling, reached a similar conclusion about the ongoing hostilities of Operation Desert Storm

“The war in the Middle East is getting out of hand. It may become a great war, fought not only with high explosives but also with poison gas, bacteria and nuclear weapons. It may liberate worldwide radioactive fallout, damaging the whole human race.”

Pauling also wrote a great deal of private correspondence to his nation’s chief executive, including a series of unsuccessful appeals to President Eisenhower for an Oval Office appointment to discuss the United Nations Bomb Test Petition, (Pauling later concluded that Eisenhower had been a dupe of Edward Teller) and a similar request to President Johnson regarding the Vietnam War.

(Pauling likewise wrote a number of emotionally-charged letters to President John F. Kennedy, the nature of which will be discussed in a future post on this blog.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pauling did not harbor a great deal of goodwill for President Nixon, attacking him (in biographer Tom Hager’s words) “for everything from the bombing of Cambodia to his policy in Pakistan – then [telling] reporters that Nixon should take more vitamin C.” Pauling also assumed, with much justification, that Nixon himself had twice denied Pauling the National Medal of Science, despite the recommendations of the President’s own advisory group. Not until the second year of the Ford administration would Pauling be granted this highly prestigious decoration.

Of all the American Presidents, Pauling seemed to most enjoy pillorying Ronald Reagan, a fellow Californian whose career Pauling had closely followed over three decades. These excerpts from a series of untitled notes written in the 1980s are characteristic of Pauling’s attitude toward the fortieth U.S. President.

“President Reagan. I’ve wondered what his problem is. When I was his age, my hair was white. I saw him on TV saying that we had to increase our nuclear destructive power. He didn’t have a single gray hair. He seems to have a simple problem. I think that he is a case of arrested development…”

It is important to note that Pauling did not limit his communications to leaders within the United States. At various points in his life, he corresponded with the likes of North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh and Nikita Khrushchev, former premier of the Soviet Union. In his mind, global solutions required a global dialogue and, with varying degrees of effectiveness, Pauling pursued this end for most of his life.

Read more about Pauling’s relationships with world leaders on the website “Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement.”