Pauling and Freeman: The End of the Run

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[Post 8 of 8 in our series examining Linus Pauling’s relationship with his long-time publishing house, W.H. Freeman & Co.]

In the 1970s and 1980s, well after Bill Freeman’s departure from the company that he started, Linus Pauling published a number of other books through Freeman and Co., including two big sellers, Vitamin C and the Common Cold, and How to Feel Better and Live Longer, as well as Orthomolecular Psychiatry, which was more of a niche volumeBut as the staff at Freeman and Co. evolved, Pauling began to experience trouble communicating.

Over time, Pauling also felt his editorial contributions were being restricted. Notably, when Basic Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences was published as part of his series, Pauling had no hand in editing it. Once the book had gone to the printers, Pauling sent a letter to Freeman & Co. president Stanley Schaefer stating his belief that the text should not have been released in this manner. No text, he felt, should be published in his series if he was not really and truly the editor.

Schaefer replied that he had no intention of impinging upon Pauling’s authority over the series, but did express his feeling that Pauling’s fame worked against the company at times. In addition, Pauling’s manuscript comments were often very blunt, and while it is unclear how many authors were given the opportunity to read Pauling’s assessments directly, those who did were often upset by comments that they felt were unfair.

One author in particular, an R. Nelson, wrote several pages to Schaefer defending his stylistic choices after the company had rejected his manuscript. Pauling, for one, had criticized his informal tone, but Nelson felt that the approach made the book more appealing to younger generations of scientists. Nelson then attacked the company’s decision to retain Pauling as an editor for the chemistry series, writing

The problem really arises because the chemistry editor is the author of the first text and is a man of strong convictions (as well as great prominence). I believe that this situation puts a potential author (one with no prominence) in an untenable position.

Schaefer was moved by this comment in particular and asked Pauling to reconsider the manuscript with the understanding that some minor errors would be corrected. In so doing, Schaefer also sided with Nelson’s point of view in suggesting that Pauling’s take was based largely on differences in style. In this instance, Pauling was flexible and reconsidered.

In 1970, to help with the problem that Nelson had raised, Schaefer hired Pauling’s friend, colleague and former student, Harden McConnell, to serve as a co-editor for the chemistry series. McConnell was someone whom Pauling respected and who also tended to be rather more gentle in his critique, and the arrangement worked out well. The collaboration likewise helped to spread the editorial responsibilities such that Pauling could dedicate more time to other projects.


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Pauling’s notes for his memoir.

The situation had changed substantially by 1979 when Richard Warrington, the latest president of the company, suggested that Pauling terminate his editing contract. Though stressing that Pauling’s “association with the company as an author and adviser in the early years was very important to the success that followed,” Warrington also pointed out that Pauling was no longer teaching. As such, Warrington worried that Pauling’s interests and priorities had changed significantly. He also felt that the Freeman company hadn’t been as effective at bringing in successful chemistry texts in recent years. Pauling felt similarly, but also pointed out that the flow of manuscripts from the company had slowed considerably.

As the company continued to experience leadership changes throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Pauling’s relationship with Freeman as an author also began to deteriorate. Notably, at the same time that Warrington had asked him to terminate his editing contract, Pauling discovered that the company had allowed his landmark General Chemistry to go out of print. Another milestone came about a year later when Neil Patterson assumed the role of president and moved the company to New York to be closer to Scientific American, with which Freeman and Co. now shared a CEO. Pauling had long enjoyed having a publisher based on the West Coast and was disappointed with the move.

In 1991, a correspondent named Jonathan Paul Von Neumann wrote a letter to Pauling expressing his disappointment that Freeman and Co. hadn’t shown any interest when he approached them about translating How to Feel Better and Live Longer into other languages. Pauling wrote back, sharing Von Neumann’s concern and confiding his belief that publishing companies often mishandled their authors.

In 1992, Pauling’s relationship with Freeman and Co. all but came to a close when the publisher rejected two of his proposed manuscripts. One was a freshman text that he planned to write with his youngest son, Crellin. Perhaps more disappointing was the firm’s lack of interest in Pauling’s second suggestion, a memoir that he was to title The Nature of Life — Including My Life.

W.H. Freeman and Company was eventually reabsorbed into its parent company. Now an imprint under Macmillan Learning, the group continues to publish successful science textbooks and provide other educational resources.


Perhaps more than anything else, William Hazen Freeman was a man who created a network of scientists who came together to write, edit, and circulate textbooks geared at improving science education in university classroom. In pursuing this ambition, he harnessed the brilliance of scientists who were top-notch in their fields and commissioned them as editors or writers (or, in the case of Pauling, as both) to disseminate knowledge and advance disciplines. As a result, W.H. Freeman & Co. was, in its prime, a hub for collaboration and communication between scientists and other creative thinkers. It is likely that no other corporation played as profound a role in Pauling’s story than did his long-time publisher.

 

Life After Bill Freeman

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[Tracing Linus Pauling’s association with the W.H. Freeman & Co. publishing house. This is post 7 of 8.]

In the years immediately following Bill Freeman’s departure from the company that he founded, Stanley Schaefer ran W.H. Freeman & Co. quite smoothly. In 1969, Bill Kaufman took over as president with Schaefer staying on as chairman, and Kaufman also did well. Notably, he played a key role in the release of revised editions of Linus Pauling’s General Chemistry and College Chemistry, and by the end of his first year in charge, Schaefer was able to report that the company had grown. As the onset of the 1970s loomed, Freeman & Co. had published fourteen new books and added seventy-two titles to its Scientific American offprint series. The outlook for the next fiscal year seemed bright.


The connection with Scientific American was especially important, as the company had formally merged with the publication in 1964. Of this change Schaefer remarked,

Now united are the forces of two successful, non-competitive publishers who have outstanding reputations for high standards and excellence in scientific publishing. Each is making distinctive contributions to the new alliance. I mention, for example, the significant new source of authors for Freeman books that is now available to us.

Illustrator Roger Hayward, who had spent years working for both Freeman and Scientific American, expressed surprise at this news, but congratulated both parties and noted that the transition seemed to him a “happy circumstance.”

That same year, Pauling and Hayward began collaborating on The Architecture of Molecules, originally titled Molecular Architecture but renamed by Pauling just prior to its release. A stunning and unique collision of science and art, the book was successful right away and continued to do well for years afterward. Both collaborators received 15% royalties for the first 10,000 copies sold in cloth, 18% for every cloth-bound copy sold beyond the initial 10,000, and 10% for the paperback editions.


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C.B. Van Niel

Despite his earlier claim that he would not feel confident in the company without Freeman directing it, Pauling continued to maintain a positive and productive relationship with his long-time publisher. In one particular instance, Pauling played an instrumental role in smoothing tensions caused by an unflattering review of a Freeman text. The review in question was authored by microbiologist C.B. Van Niel, whose highly critical assessment of Wayne W. Umbreit’s Modern Microbiology appeared in the widely read magazine, Science.

Prior to the review appearing in print, Van Niel had sent a letter to Bill Freeman warning him that the review would not be favorable, but Freeman had left the company by this point. His replacement, Stan Schaefer, didn’t see the review until it had been published. Once he saw the Science piece, Schaefer responded personally to Van Niel, writing that the criticisms had hit sales hard. Schaefer further speculated that Van Niel harbored a personal grudge against Umbreit and that this was the real source of the animus permeating the review.

It was at this point that Pauling came to Schaefer’s aid. He informed Van Niel that he personally had not found the book to be nearly as flawed as the review claimed and accused his correspondent of “malicious mischief,” stating that most of the errors that he attacked were simple and relatively common across publications.

Without waiting for Van Niel’s response, Pauling then wrote to Phil Abelson, the editor of Science, asking him to redact the review because it was disrespectful, incorrect, took sentences out of context, and was overly aggressive in tone. Seeing Pauling come to Umbreit’s defense, many other professionals in biology and bacteriology spoke out against the review, criticizing its focus on minor errors. More importantly, many within this group also chose to adopt the text despite its flaws.

To stave off future conflicts of this sort, Schaefer requested that, as a courtesy, drafts of reviews be sent to Freeman & Co. before publication, so that the company could prepare if the analysis was unfavorable. Pauling also asked Van Niel for his own annotated copy of the Umbreit text so that Umbreit could use it in his revision process.


When Stanley Schaefer promoted Bill Kaufman to president in 1969, he assumed the position of chairman, a post that had previously been occupied by Freeman himself. Kaufman opted for early retirement in 1971, reporting to Pauling that the timing felt opportune because the “fame” of the company was at an all-time high. He was also confident in the competence of the staff and its collective motivation to ensure the continued success of the company.

Pauling was also feeling bullish about the company’s prospects — so much so that he finally brought up an issue that had been troubling him for some time. Contractual modifications that Bill Freeman had instituted for the second edition of College Chemistry — modifications that lowered Pauling’s royalty rate — were presented as temporary changes needed to help grow the young company financially. When it was suggested, Pauling saw no problem with the change, so long as it was temporary. But, as far as he could see, the lower royalty rate had been applied to the third edition of College Chemistry as well, and Pauling came to feel that he was being taken advantage of. In a letter to Stan Schaefer he expressed his feeling that the agreement, as it was being continued, “might be said to have been obtained by fraudulent methods, involving statements to me that I think were untrue or at least misleading about the financial situation of the Company.”

Schaefer checked the royalty statements and concluded that Pauling was correct in his assessment. After apologizing and thanking Pauling for bringing the matter to his attention, he then set about calculating the difference between the royalties Pauling had received and the royalties that should have dispensed. Once done, Schaefer assured Pauling that the company would pay him $5,000 owed for the second edition of College Chemistry and $7,400 for the third. Pauling thanked Shaefer for his straight dealing and then requested that the company pay him interest at the rate of 7% on these remittances because they were late.

Trouble at Freeman and Co.

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A W.H. Freeman catalog from 1986 noting the firm’s long association with Scientific American magazine.

[Exploring Linus Pauling’s relationship with the W.H. Freeman & Co. publishing firm. Part 5 of 8.]

After more than a decade of success in the publishing world, W. H. Freeman and Co. hit a roadblock. The difficulties began with a personal matter that arose in the summer of 1959, when Bill Freeman separated from his wife, the former Verne Kopplin. When divorce papers were ultimately filed the following year, Freeman offered his wife an even division of all their assets, with the notable exception of his stake in the company. Collectively, the couple owned 43% of the firm and Verne insisted that she retain her share. In her communications with Freeman, Verne pointed out they had married in 1946, the same year that the company was founded, and that they had worked together to grow the company to its current stature. As such, she was entitled to a degree of control over its future direction.

From the outside looking in, Linus Pauling maintained a different point of view. In a letter to Freeman, Pauling expressed his feeling that, although Verne – a prominent Bay Area attorney – had previously provided legal services to Freeman & Co., she had, in his opinion, done little to support the company beyond her contributions as a consultant.

The possibility that Verne might retain a claim to the company was one that weighed heavily on Freeman. In a letter to Pauling he revealed that “I find it quite impossible to carry on my work while sharing with her anything of my future.” He also expressed concern that he might lose control of the company were Verne to retain her shares.

Freeman knew that he would not be able to influence Verne’s decisions concerning the direction of the company. He also feared that she was planning to consolidate the stocks held by colleagues and friends to essentially buy the company out from under him.

Pauling did his best to provide a lift in his reply:

I believe that W.H. Freeman and Company, as built up by you, has become the outstanding publisher of college textbooks of the highest quality in the United States…I was so greatly impressed by your ability that I felt that the advantage of having my book [General Chemistry] put out by your firm, because of your extraordinary ability and originality and convictions about the importance of publication of books of high quality, would outweigh the disadvantage of lack of an organization and reputation of long standing.

He concluded that he wouldn’t feel comfortable continuing his association with the company in the event that Verne succeeded in reducing Freeman’s control over it.

So strong was Pauling’s conviction that he expressed a willingness to dramatically increase his skin in the game. Cognizant of the financial burden that the divorce and its aftermath had placed on Freeman, and hoping to ease this burden, Pauling offered to buy Freeman’s stock, which would provide Freeman with the capital to purchase Verne’s shares should he wish. Freeman agreed to the proposition but only on condition that he be given the option to buy his stock back within three years. Pauling was not comfortable with this arrangement and the two failed to arrive at a solution that would satisfy them both.

In the end Verne retained her shares, and once the divorce was settled in the fall of 1960, Freeman continued to spiral. In order to keep Verne from gaining control of the company, he was obliged to purchase at least 200 of her shares at $55 each while also paying the mortgage on the house that they had shared. In a letter to illustrator Roger Hayward, Freeman bemoaned his state of affairs:

Old man Freeman feels like the tempest in a terribly small teapot; no one ever gives any thought to the tempest’s feelings or understands how constrained he feels.

In need of an escape, Freeman took the summer off to travel around Europe. He made it as far as Greece and self-published a book describing his experiences, titled Ola Kala: The Greek Word for It.


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An excerpt from Stanley Schaefer’s letter to shareholders written during trying times for the company that he now led. October 1, 1962.

Meanwhile, tensions mounted at W.H. Freeman & Co. as their eponymous leader became increasingly unstable. A growing sentiment among many stockholders was that Freeman would do anything to keep control. As this idea continued to grain traction, executive vice president Stanley Schaefer became nervous about the future of the company and sent out a request to many of the stockholders that they become proxies, thereby granting them the authority to make decisions about the firm.

Finally, in January 1962, Bill Freeman agreed to sell his stock, though he was resistant to sell within the company because of his objections to the firm’s recent association with Scientific American. It is likely that the arrangement with Scientific American was entered into to provide a measure of protection for the company amidst the financial damage caused by Freeman’s divorce. In his correspondence with Pauling – one of the few people at W.H. Freeman & Co. that he still trusted – Freeman railed against the decision and expressed sharp criticisms of Stanley Schaefer and Bill Kaufman as well as other long-timers like Harvey McCaleb and Adam Kudlacik. Pauling balked at these denunciations, pointing out that Freeman had hand-picked these men and needed to trust in their judgment, as Pauling did.

After a different and particularly troubling discussion with Freeman, who sometimes met the Paulings for dinner, Linus reflected on the current state of the company, noting that “Bill and Verne damaged it, neglected it, and [devoted] their energy to fighting each other.” Though he was sympathetic to Freeman’s situation and deeply concerned about his friend, Pauling believed that there was no justification for the damage that Freeman was causing to the company.


Stanley Schaefer also wanted to help and offered to buy Freeman’s stock. When Freeman declined, Schaefer suggested that Scientific American could purchase the shares. Freeman felt that this was not a realistic solution either. He did, however, agree to not sell his stock to a competing company. When Freeman subsequently took a job at Addison-Wesley’s western office, signing a contract that would allow the company to purchase his Freeman & Co. shares, he effectively broke this promise.

When Pauling asked Freeman why he had done this, Freeman confessed that he was too dissatisfied with the present management at Freeman & Co. to consider associating with it anymore. Scientific American stepped in at this point and made an offer for Freeman’s stock that Addison-Wesley could not match. Ava Helen Pauling, who remained a confidant for Freeman, advised him to sell his stock to the magazine publisher. Doing so, she reasoned, could secure a stable future for his children while also providing an avenue for Freeman to leave his old company gracefully.

Freeman reluctantly agreed and Gerald Piel, the president of Scientific American, put the money from this transaction into a trust fund. Trustees “in whose rationality and integrity” the company had confidence would vote at a later date on the matter of what to do with the proceeds. Meanwhile, once Freeman had become associated with Freeman & Co. in name only, Verne also lost interest and refocused her energies on her legal career. She eventually remarried and went on to challenge discriminatory policies at law firms in Connecticut, where she practiced law for several years.

Some time later, having relocated and newly married to his former secretary, Margaret Cooper, Freeman reached out to Ava Helen to explain his behavior. In his letter, he confided

For old times’ sake, I will say to you that I had no alternatives – financial ones possibly, but professional or personal ones, absolutely none…As I’ve said to Linus, until the future speaks, I trust that we can each of us respect the other’s right to act in accordance with his convictions.

The Golden Years: Freeman and Co. in the 1950s

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Stanley Schaefer as photographed by the San Francisco Chronicle, 1962.

[Part 4 in our series examining Linus Pauling’s relationship with publisher W.H. Freeman & Co.]

As the 1950s moved forward, W.H. Freeman & Company sought to actively build on past successes. Objective number one in doing so was expanding the number of textbooks that the company published. Objective number two for Bill Freeman was to increase the firm’s staff in order to match editorial and publishing demands.

One of the first employees that Freeman hired when he started his company was Janet MacRorie, the head of marketing. MacRorie and Freeman first collaborated on the advertising and marketing campaign supporting General Chemistry in 1947In the early 1950s, Adam Kudlacik joined the firm as treasurer and secretary, thus beginning a lengthy tenure with the company. Harvey McCaleb also joined the team in 1953 to handle Midwest authors.

Perhaps the most significant addition to Freeman’s staff come on board in 1949, when Stanley Schaefer joined Freeman and John Behnke as one of the firm’s principal editors. The original intention for Schaefer was that he base himself in New York for purposes of recruiting and negotiating with East Coast authors, but Freeman was so impressed with Schaefer’s work that he invited him to move to the company’s headquarters in San Francisco not long after he was hired. Schaefer was pleased with the transfer and, in 1957, was promoted to executive vice-president. (He remained with the company for several decades, eventually becoming president and chairman.) With Schaefer’s promotion, another consequential hire was made when William Kaufman took Schaefer’s old spot on the editorial staff.


Though business had been been strong throughout the post-war period, by the late 1950s Freeman began to worry that the company’s competitors were gaining traction. Looking to bolster his catalog, Freeman decided to re-concentrate efforts to entice respectable authors to sign contracts with Freeman & Co. And while he continued to send outside manuscript proposals to Linus Pauling for the chemistry series that he edited, Freeman also began to query Pauling for ideas on scientific areas that did not currently have a well-written or modern textbook in circulation. He then used this feedback to pinpoint his recruitment of authors to publish within those areas.

Freeman also updated the editorial plan for the book series that Pauling was heading. In particular, Freeman began to push the idea that non-science students could be harnessed to promote what he called “the revolution in scientific education.” Likewise, because Pauling’s groundbreaking General Chemistry text had been so successful, Freeman wanted to publish more non-traditional and experimental books in Pauling’s line.

Pauling didn’t disagree with Freeman’s point of view, but he advised caution. Privately, Pauling was concerned that, in seeking to grow the company, Freeman might begin to adopt selection and recruitment policies that were employed by larger firms. Were he to do so, Pauling worried that Freeman might be tempted to sell the company if it grew beyond him. In Pauling’s opinion, Freeman was fundamental to the company’s success and this success could not continue – at least not in the same way – if Freeman allowed the company to pursue the same models as larger publishing firms.


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Despite the hand-wringing, W.H. Freeman & Co. flourished throughout the remainder of the 1950s. A new milestone was reached at the end of the decade, when Freeman announced plans to open a satellite editorial operation in London. The establishment of this branch in 1960 opened new markets for the company in England and elsewhere across Europe, and did much to increase the firm’s appeal among British authors.

Bill Freeman was beginning to receive recognition for his achievements as well. In 1960 he was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from his alma mater Hamilton College, and was also nominated by Pauling as California Industrialist of the Year. Though he didn’t win this award, it meant a great deal to Freeman to know that Pauling respected and admired him enough to nominate him for a prize that celebrated success through creativity and innovation.

Unsurprisingly, the company’s reputation in its hometown was quite strong. On one occasion, the San Francisco Chronicle called Freeman & Co. “a great big sensational success story,” and indeed this was so. At the time, textbook publishing was largely the domain of a handful of companies located on the East Coast. In fact, as the Chronicle article pointed out, there was only one reputable textbook publisher anywhere on the West Coast: W.H. Freeman & Co.

But amidst growth, change and strategic planning, for Freeman the mission statement remained the same. The company, he said, published “only those [books] it thinks are based on a new and advanced viewpoint.” And though the company’s mission was unchanged, its approach to publishing was becoming more experimental. Notably, as the 1960s moved forward, the firm entered into a joint venture with Scientific American to publish off-prints of older articles.


As we will see in our next post, Freeman was not on board with the Scientific American arrangement, a collaboration that emerged out of larger difficulties for the company. In fact, while at the conclusion of the 1950s Freeman could happily describe himself as director of the company but also “semi-retired,” change was very near on the horizon. Comforted for the moment by the glow of hard-earned achievement, the publisher may also have had an inkling of the troubles that would soon arise.