Remembering Linus Pauling: The Biographers

A little more than six months after Linus Pauling died, a remarkable gathering took place at Oregon State University. A conference titled “The Life and Work of Linus Pauling: A Discourse on the Art of Biography,” was held in Corvallis over the course of three days and featured presentations by a great many individuals who knew Pauling or had studied his life closely. The keynote address was delivered by Francis Crick on the evening of February 28, 1995; the date that would have been Pauling’s 94th birthday. In the day and a half that followed, reflections were offered by a wide array of former students, family members, and scholars from across the country.

One particular session was devoted to “The Biographer’s Picture of Linus Pauling,” and it is to this set of reflections that we turn our attention today. Included below are observations made by four individuals who, by 1995, had already spent many years researching Pauling’s life and work, and whose insights serve to complicate and sophisticate the scholarly understanding of Pauling as a historical figure and as a human being.

Thomas Hager, author of Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling (1995).

Pauling’s father worked twelve hours a day as a druggist, teaching his son the value of both hard work and the importance of giving a good face to the public, and then died when Pauling was nine. The death of his father was a traumatic and defining event in Pauling’s life, one to which can be traced many of his emotional and intellectual characteristics. He spent a good deal of his life looking for surrogate fathers, father-figures that he at first found among his neighbors — one of whom got him interested in Greek; then his teachers — his high-school chemistry teacher was one; and later among men like Einstein, who served as Pauling’s political father.

It is this nine-year-old boy, bereft of a father, left in the care of a sickly and unloving mother, a mother who did not understand education or science, who constantly nagged her son, and who died in an insane asylum, who became Linus Pauling. It is this boy who developed a steely confidence in himself because no one around him had any. It is this boy, faced with a confusing and heartless world, who would spend his life trying to make sense of things, working to bring order and rationality into the world. It is this suffering boy whose guiding ethical principle was that of lessening suffering.

Ted Goertzel, co-author of Linus Pauling: A Life in Science and Politics (1995).

I believe that the personality patterns which Pauling displayed throughout his life developed in the period after his father’s death when he was nine. He never really allowed himself to express the pain which he felt after his grandfather’s and his father’s deaths, perhaps because his relationship with his mother was not close enough to give him a feeling of security. Her own depression and ill health, coupled with the unfamiliar practical problems of providing support for the family, made it difficult for Belle to be attentive to her son’s emotional needs. She was never as close to him as she was to her daughters. His father had admired him greatly, and encouraged his intellectuality. His mother, because of her illness and vulnerability as a widow, was not able to provide the same degree of support. […]

From nine onwards, Linus channeled his energies into his hobbies and into part-time jobs designed to contribute to the family’s expenses but also to give him a degree of independence from his mother. He was fascinated by the natural sciences, as are many boys of that age, and also discovered that he had a natural aptitude for academic work. He avoided close relationships with adults, whether teachers or relatives, but maintained friendships with other boys who shared his scientific interests and did not pressure him about family obligations.

The preoccupation with science may have had its origins at least in part in a need to sublimate emotional distress, but he was also good at it and realistic enough to recognize that scientific achievement could be an avenue to professional security as well as an absorbing escape from the rigors of everyday life. Whether through death, illness or insensitivity, adults had let him down. He was determined to make his way on his own.

By the age of twelve, Linus Pauling had already developed many of the behavior and personality patterns which he was to maintain throughout his life. He was introverted, intent on pursuing his own interests, and oblivious to conflicting demands from those around him. Emotionally, he was most comfortable when he could rely on a close relationship with one person for intimacy and support. The first special person was his boyhood friend Lloyd Jeffress, the second his wife Ava Helen Miller. His marriage to Ava Helen closely paralleled that of his own parents in its emphasis on closeness between the married couple having priority over parent-child relationships. It was a traditional marriage, with Ava Helen devoting her life to her husband’s career and nurturing their children.

He found that he could use his intellectual brilliance to maintain independence from her and obtain approval from others. He married a woman who gave him the devotion he was unable to get from his mother.

Despite his tremendous success as a young scientist, Linus Pauling was never satisfied. Having won two Nobel Prizes, he felt he deserved a third. When his brilliance as a scientific innovator declined with age, he fell more and more into his second intellectual style [becoming emotionally committed to his ideas and seeking out evidence to support them]. In his later years, his combativeness and defensiveness increasingly triumphed over his brilliance and creativity.

Derek Davenport, chemist and author of “Linus Pauling – Chemical Educator” (1980) and “Letters to F.J. Allen: An Informal Portrait of Linus Pauling” (1996) among other articles.

Pauling had agreed to speak at a G.N. Lewis symposium I had organized for the 1982 American Chemical Society meeting in Las Vegas. Ava Helen Pauling had died shortly before, and Pauling’s secretary called asking that I meet him at the airport. He arrived jaunty as ever and chattered amiably during the short journey to the hotel. We entered the Hilton which was full of gambling, even gamboling, chemists. As we moved to the reception desk the crowd parted and fell silent. It was rather like following Moses across the Red Sea. Linus told the young lady at the counter: “You should have a reservation for Pauling.” After finding the card, she asked sweetly “would that be a Linus Pauling?” “Yes, yes, Linus Pauling.” “How do you intend to pay, sir?” “By VISA card.” “I will need identification, sir.” Pauling was nonplussed. He put on one of his dopiest grins, turned to the silent throngs on the casino floor, threw his arms wide, and implored rather than asked: “Don’t I look like Linus Pauling?” The young lady was unimpressed and insisted on, and got, his driver’s license.

I tell this story for several reasons, but principally to remind us that it was only in later years that he became a legend in his own time and on occasion in his own mind. I first heard him speak in 1948 in London when he was approaching the zenith of his astonishing scientific accomplishments, and half of his long life was already spent. He was the most charismatic chemist I had ever heard but there was no sign of the guru and no evidence of groupies. These came later as a consequence of his political persecution and his advocacy of Vitamin C. We must remember he was a man who did legendary science long before he became the Pauling of legend.

Robert Paradowski, author of The Structural Chemistry of Linus Pauling (1972) and Pauling’s authorized biographer.

At an early stage of the writing of my biography of Pauling, I was having difficulty with what to do about what those close to him saw as his imperfections and failings, but whenever I brought these to his attention, he always defended himself adeptly and managed to mitigate their bite. As time went on, I began to wonder: Did he believe that all these criticisms from family, friends, and colleagues were wrong? So I asked him if he considered himself a saint. He said no, that he was very far from being a saint. I went on to ask what he considered to be his principal faults. He did not want to discuss them, fearing that, because of the subtlety and pervasiveness of human selfishness, the faults he did mention might conceal much deeper ones. I was impressed by his answer, which reminded me of the writings of such great saints as John of the Cross, who saw themselves in a never-ending struggle with their own great selfishness. If Pauling was unwilling to analyze his faults, he nevertheless expected critical analysis from his biographer. As he wrote to me in 1978: “There is no reason why statements critical of me should not be published.” He certainly did not like having his faults pointed out, but when these criticisms were reasonably and compassionately treated, he seemed to accept them, even finding them helpful at times.

A concrete example of these criticisms is Pauling’s egocentrism, which some found charming and others such a pervasive and corrupting part of his personality as to vitiate his worth as a good human being. An example of the first attitude was a member of the Linus Pauling Institute who told me that Pauling had the “knack” of turning whatever anyone said to him into himself in some way. If he could not do this, then he would quickly become bored and uninterested in the conversation. This observer assured me that he did not intend his remarks as a criticism of Pauling; they were simply a matter of objective description. To this person Pauling was, in his vanity, like a child, and no more to be condemned for it than a child would be. It was simply part of his nature, even part of his charm. Another person at the Institute once told me that the reason I got along so well with Pauling was that I was interested in a topic that utterly fascinated Pauling, namely, himself.

On the other hand, Pauling’s self-centeredness was not so attractive to other members of his Institute. One person, whom I interviewed after he had left the Institute, had become discouraged with his relationship with Pauling because he could not get Pauling interested in any of his ideas. According to him, Pauling would pay only perfunctory attention to what he was doing. He recalled that the only time Pauling grew animated in a conversation was when he mentioned molybdenite. Then Pauling’s interest was whetted, and this was, of course, because Pauling had written his first scientific paper on the crystal structure of molybdenite.

The Sci-Fi Author that Might Have Been…


…and featuring a debut story by Linus Pauling?

Along with detective stories, crossword puzzles and the occasional walk, reading science fiction was Linus Pauling’s primary form of leisure.  The hundreds of dog eared sci-fi monthlies spanning multiple decades in his personal library (used to good effect by a past Resident Scholar of ours) are testament to a keen interest in the genre.  It was not until recently, however, that we learned of Pauling’s one-time interest in dabbling as a fiction writer himself.

From an October 1992 interview with Thomas Hager, conducted in support of his 1995 biography, Force of Nature:

Thomas Hager: Do you continue to have an interest in science fiction now?

Linus Pauling: Yes, I subscribe to two of the science fiction journals. Argosy and Science Fiction and Science Fact, the two principle science fiction journals I subscribe to, and I usually read them. The serials sometimes are just too long, I don’t bother to read them. And of course the problem is first the characters have been changing recently. Instead of being adventure science fiction stories, they are sort of sexual relations science fiction stories – the way with novels, too. I don’t read novels anymore either except for old ones that I re-read. And then the science fiction stories, the plots all seem to me to be old ones that I have read before. Sometimes it seems to me that the stories aren’t so interesting as they were in the old days.

TH: Well, that’s probably true. You’ve been reading them long enough, they repeat.

LP: Yes, for years I thought I would write a science fiction story based upon the idea that one can have life essentially identical with life on earth which is based on DNA and proteins and amino acids, but with other handedness. In my General Chemistry or College Chemistry freshman chemistry text, I have a footnote about Alice in Wonderland, or I have a page or two about right-handed and left-handed molecules. And I quote Alice in Wonderland saying, ‘But would looking glass milk be good for me?’ And I said of course it wouldn’t be. It would be made of D-amino acids. And someone who had been converted to the dextral form would not be able to eat anything unless he could get food made of D-amino acids… And couldn’t get married and have children unless he could find a wife who had also been. Well I was going to have a catastrophe in the ship going through space. Some sort of catastrophe that changed everything from left-handed to right-handed.

Extracted from "College Chemistry," 3rd edition, 1964.

Extracted from “College Chemistry,” 3rd edition, 1964.

TH: Now do you remember what sort of catastrophe it would’ve been?

LP: No. Well, it’s pretty hard for a scientist to invent a catastrophe that would do that. It had to be a catastrophe somehow involving multiple worlds, not just a shockwave. Because you would have to have angular momentum, chirality, and it’s very hard even to convert L-alanine to D-alanine, for example.

TH: If you lifted an L-being out of the third dimension into the fourth dimension and turned them over and put them back, would that…?

LP: Oh yes. Surely that’s exactly what people who have written about multi-dimensional space had said or the man who wrote Flatland. You could do that in three dimensions and go back to two dimensions.

TH: I wonder, but I’m trying to think, would that result in that sort of inversion in that…?

LP: Oh yes, well, if you had a scalene triangle, three edges unequal to one another, three edges all different, and turn it over, it goes from being a right-handed to a left-handed.

TH: So in any case, that’s an interesting idea. It is too bad you never finished that.

LP: Yes, well of course, one complaint about some science fiction writers is that their handling of interpersonal relationships is poor. This is a complaint I had of E. T. Bell‘s science fiction books. He wrote two or three science fiction books under the pseudonym John Taine. And they were mildly interesting from the science, sort of. Not more interesting than books or stories by many science fiction writers. Mildly interesting, but the handling of personal, interpersonal relationships was very poor. Of course, good science fiction stories depend to a considerable extent on the personal relationships, just as good novels do.

TH: Do you feel that would have been a weakness if you had tried writing one?

LP: Well, I thought I recognized the need for including a good story of this sort inside of the story, but I’m not sure that I could do it. But the main thing is I never have had time. There are always scientific problems that I am trying to solve and that interest me more.

Pauling's personal collection of science fiction periodicals, as housed in the OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center.

Pauling’s personal collection of science fiction periodicals, as housed in the OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center.

Die Chronologie von Linus Pauling

Pauling speaking in Mainz, Germany, July 1983.

Pauling speaking in Mainz, Germany, July 1983.

Since we’re in an announcing mood, it gives us great pleasure to pass along word of another new Pauling resource recently made available online by the Special Collections & Archives Research Center: a German-language edition of Robert Paradowski’s Pauling Chronology.

Robert Paradowski’s chronology of the life and work of Linus Pauling, which we’ve written about in the past, is surely one of the most useful accounts of Pauling’s story available anywhere and almost certainly the best general overview that one can find online.  Paradowski is Pauling’s official biographer.  He knew Pauling well and compiled a significant corpus of one-on-one interviews that surely contain a great deal of unique information.  Those of us who spend time in the Pauling orbit have long anticipated the release of the Paradowski biography, rumored to be a three-volume work, but it has yet to see the light of day.

So until the publication of his epic, Pauling watchers with an interest in Paradowski’s work have to content themselves with the Chronology, which was first published in print in 1991 and later released online by Oregon State University in 2009.  Since then, we have done what we can to increase the accessibility of the text to larger audiences, beginning with a Spanish translation released in 2010.  The new German edition is likewise meant to act in this spirit of increased access to a valuable resource.  Future translations are anticipated as skill sets within the department avail themselves.

Pauling was comfortable with language.  His written English was impeccable – peppered throughout the Pauling Papers, one finds numerous examples of his correcting the grammar or style of other authors – and he was comfortable delivering lectures in essentially all of the romance languages. German, however, was Pauling’s strongest second language.

Carl Pauling, 1915.

Carl Pauling, 1915.

Pauling came from German stock on his father’s side. His grandfather Charles Henry Pauling, whom everyone called Carl, was born in the U.S. to recent German immigrants, and he eventually married a German woman named Adelheit Blanken.  In 1882 Carl and Adelheit moved to Oswego, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, and stayed there for the remainder of their lives.  Linus, who was born in 1901, spent a significant amount of time in his grandparents’ home, especially after his family had settled for good in Portland in 1909.  As Thomas Hager notes in his Pauling biography, Force of Nature, daily life in the grandparents’ home was imbued with the culture of the old country.

…the woodstove was always warm and the smell of rich German cakes filled the air. A sod cellar was packed with home-canned fruits and crocks of sauerkraut and pickles….Carl and Adelheit were devout Lutherans. Because there was no church in Oswego, every month they would invite a minister from across the river to hold services in their house. Linus sometimes sat among the small group of worshipers in the front parlor, listening to the service and hymns sung in German.

This early exposure to German spoken in the home gave Linus a leg up in his later studies of the language, which included two years of undergraduate class work at Oregon Agricultural College and, later, his passing of a compulsory exam during his doctoral studies at Caltech.

This study was of extreme use in that facility with German was crucial for a scientist in the early twentieth century.  Much of the more important work in the physical sciences was being published in German-language journals and many of the leading minds were based at German universities.

An academic procession at the University of Munich, 1927. Note the arrow pointing to Arnold Sommerfeld.  Photo likely taken by Linus Pauling.

An academic procession at the University of Munich, 1927. Note the arrow pointing to Arnold Sommerfeld. Photo likely taken by Linus Pauling.

Pauling gained first hand knowledge of these facts during his crucially important Guggenheim trip in 1926-1927.  Based mostly in Germany, Pauling made contacts with a number of German scientists including Arnold Sommerfeld, an early mentor of great consequence.  Sommerfeld’s lectures made a deep impression on Pauling and it was not long before Pauling was taking notes, writing papers and giving talks in German.  This capacity only sharpened over the course of his European stay and served Pauling exceedingly well for the remainder of his life.

The German translation of Paradowski’s Pauling Chronology is available at

Pauling v. Wrinch

“Report on the work of Dr. Dorothy Wrinch.” Written by Linus Pauling and submitted to the Rockefeller Institute. March 31, 1938.

[Part 3 of 4]

Dorothy Wrinch’s 1937 American tour brought her, and her highly controversial cyclol hypothesis, into the public consciousness. She attracted a lot of attention, but mistook that attention for firm support. Thus buoyed, she began making outsized claims as to the importance of her theory and, more importantly, false claims that it had already been scientifically proven. Wrinch’s rhetoric caused many of her friends and colleagues to distance themselves from her and her ideas. And when Pauling ultimately agreed to meet with Wrinch in Ithaca, New York, the gloves came off: Pauling slammed her ideas as plainly ridiculous, more fancy than fact.

The critical reaction to Wrinch’s ideas soon built into an onslaught. When she returned to the U.K., a group of British x-ray crystallographers argued that her suggestions were false. While Wrinch claimed that x-ray crystallography proved her theory, these scientists pointed out that, to the contrary, crystallographic results actively disproved her cyclols.

Stateside, Linus Pauling and Carl Niemann officially got in on the act with their publication of “The Structure of Proteins” in the July 1939 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. In it, the authors declared that Wrinch’s cyclol cage was so thermodynamically unstable that it couldn’t even be produced in a lab intentionally, let alone be found in nature. From the article:

[We] draw the rigorous conclusion that the cyclol structure cannot be of primary importance for proteins; if it occurs at all…not more than about three percent of the amino acid residues could possess this configuration. [emphasis theirs]

Wrinch, who was looking for work in the U.S., was forced to respond to Pauling’s article with one of her own. In it she publicly questioned his competency and stated that “opponents of the cyclol hypothesis have felt compelled to fall back upon arguments which are specious (due to errors in logic), and upon experiments which are irrelevant…or incompetent to decide the issue.” (Although it wouldn’t be known until 1952, the last part of her accusation was correct – Pauling’s hypothesis was also partially inaccurate.) In an effort to keep the peace, JACS refused to publish her rebuttal until Pauling had been given a chance to review it. Once done, Pauling and Niemann wrote another response to Wrinch’s piece – one equally acidic as Wrinch’s – rebutting her response point-by-point, just as “The Structure of Proteins” had done to cyclol theory.

Their battle, played out in the pages of newspapers and among the referees of major scientific journals, was defined by vitriol for it duration. Wrinch would attack Pauling, even going after his earlier theories on chemical bond resonance; Pauling would respond, calling Wrinch’s theories unworthy of serious scientific debate. At one point, 13-year old Pam, Dorothy’s daughter, wrote a letter to Pauling, which suggested

Your attacks on my mother have been made rather too frequently. If you both think each other is wrong, it is best to prove it instead of writing disagreeable things about each other in papers. I think it would be best to have it out and see which one of you is really right.

As time passed, evidence continued to grow that Wrinch’s cylol theory was wrong. Nonetheless, she continued to defend the work with vigor. In her 1987 book on women in science, historian Pnina Abir-am wrote that Wrinch developed a “lifelong obsessive defense of her theory and refusal to follow the shifting scientific frontier.” Additionally, her counterattacks on Pauling were full of shaky logic and bad science, which reduced her credibility far more than it reduced his.

Wrinch gathered little support in the scientific community by going after Pauling, by then known to many as a major scientific figure. Frustrated, her ego again got the best of her, and she accused her colleagues of being “cowards” who were too scared of Pauling to see the truth of her theories. This strategy bore little fruit and the remainder of her support had largely vanished by the end of 1939.  By 1941 Pauling had emerged victorious and Wrinch was largely ostracized from the scientific community.

An uncommonly vitriolic letter from Pauling to David Harker concerning his role in the Wrinch affair. July 6, 1940.

Victory aside, Pauling did not cloak himself in glory with his actions. In the estimation of Pauling biographer Thomas Hager, the saga managed to “illuminate less appealing sides of Pauling’s character,” his strong-arm tactics “a demonstration of his new power.” Clearly a rising star within the scientific world, Pauling’s

prestige and acclaim brought out negative factors in his personality that became more evident as his power grew: a tendency toward self-righteousness, a desire to control situations and frame debates, and a willingness to silence those with aberrant ideas.

The aftermath of the drama found Wrinch in a severely compromised position. For starters, the Rockefeller Foundation terminated Wrinch’s fellowship, rendering her without funding as a result of her having failed to find more solid support for the cyclol theory in the five years allocated to her.

Wrinch spent the years 1939–1941 searching for jobs in the US and Canada. She lamented to her close friend, Otto Charles Glaser: “I am notoriously poor at institutions about people.” Glaser was a frequent correspondent and a big supporter of her work. Finally, in 1941, Glaser engineered a deal for Wrinch and she was offered a position as a joint visiting research professor at Amherst, Smith, and Mount Holyoke Colleges.

Not long after she had moved to her new position in western Massachusetts, a mutual friend approached Wrinch and told her that Glaser was wildly in love with her. Wrinch was caught completely off guard by this news and was even more surprised when, shortly afterward, Glaser proposed to her. Wrinch asked for time to think about it before answering; she was still a bit nervous, seeing as how her first marriage had been so unhappy and ended poorly.

As she deliberated, Wrinch drew up a table of pros and cons on the topic of marrying Glaser, using terms including “net losses” and “net gains” in her contemplation. She asked Pam what she thought and her daughter told her to be careful, since her first marriage had been so awful. But on the same token, Pam thought, Glaser was a good man and Dorothy was clearly close to him. Ultimately Wrinch and Glaser were married on August 20, 1941, in the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The wedding was a private affair, but still highly photographed and publicized. The couple permanently settled down in Massachusetts. As always, Dorothy was dedicated to maintaining her career, marriage, and her motherhood.

As published in the New York Times, August 21, 1941.

As published in the New York Times, August 21, 1941.

Linus Pauling and the Structure of Proteins: A Documentary History


Today is Linus Pauling’s birthday – he would have been 112 years old.  Every year on February 28th we try to do something special and this time around we’re pleased to announce a project about which we’re all very excited: the sixth in our series of Pauling documentary history websites.

Launched today, Linus Pauling and the Structure of Proteins is the both latest in the documentary history series and our first since 2010’s The Scientific War Work of Linus C. Pauling. (we’ve been a little busy these past few years)  Like Pauling’s program of proteins research, the new website is sprawling and multi-faceted.  It features well over 200 letters and manuscripts, as well as the usual array of photographs, papers, audio and video that users of our sites have come to expect.  A total of more than 400 primary source materials illustrate and provide depth to the site’s 45-page Narrative, which was written by Pauling biographer Thomas Hager.


Warren Weaver, 1967.

That narrative tells a remarkable story that was central to many of the twentieth century’s great breakthroughs in molecular biology.  Readers will, for example, learn much of Pauling’s many interactions with Warren Weaver and the Rockefeller Foundation, the organization whose interest in the “science of life” helped prompt Pauling away from his early successes on the structure of crystals in favor of investigations into biological topics.

So too will users learn about Pauling’s sometimes caustic confrontations with Dorothy Wrinch, whose cyclol theory of protein structure was a source of intense objection for Pauling and his colleague, Carl Niemann.  Speaking of colleagues, the website also delves into the fruitful collaboration enjoyed between Pauling and his Caltech co-worker, Robert Corey.  The controversy surrounding Pauling’s interactions with another associate, Herman Branson, are also explored on the proteins website.

Linus Pauling shaking hands with Peter Lehman in front of two models of the alpha-helix. 1950s.

Linus Pauling shaking hands with Peter Lehman in front of two models of the alpha-helix. 1950s.

Much is known about Pauling’s famously lost “race for DNA,” contested with Jim Watson, Francis Crick and a handful of others in the UK.  Less storied is the long running competition between Pauling’s laboratory and an array of British proteins researchers, waged several years before Watson and Crick’s breakthrough.  That triumph, the double helix, was inspired by Pauling’s alpha helix, discovered one day when Linus lay sick in bed, bored and restless as he fought off a cold. (This was before the vitamin C days, of course.)

Illustration of the antibody-antigen framework, 1948.

Illustration of the antibody-antigen framework, 1948.

Many more discoveries lie in waiting for those interested in the history of molecular biology: the invention of the ultracentrifuge by The Svedberg; Pauling’s long dalliance with a theory of antibodies; his hugely important concept of biological specificity; and the contested notion of coiled-coils, an episode that once again pit Pauling versus Francis Crick.

Linus Pauling and the Structure of Proteins constitutes a major addition to the Pauling canon. It is an enormously rich resource that will suit the needs of many types of researchers, students and educators. It is, in short, a fitting birthday present for history’s only recipient of two unshared Nobel Prizes.

Happy birthday, Dr. Pauling!


The Fate of Oxypolygelatin

An original container of 5% Oxypolygelatin in normal saline. 1940s.

During World War II, Linus Pauling, along with Dan H. Campbell and Joseph B. Koepfli, created a blood plasma substitute which they dubbed “oxypolygelatin.” This new compound seemed to be an acceptable substitute for human blood, but needed more testing to be approved by the Plasma Substitute Committee. Unfortunately when Pauling asked for additional funds to carry out more testing in 1945, he was denied by the Committee on Medical Research, which had been funding research up until that point.

By the time Pauling received more funding the war had almost come to a close, and it ended before oxypolygelatin got off the ground as an acceptable blood substitute. Likewise, the need for artificial blood was less pressing after the conclusion of the war. More information on the creation and manufacture of oxypolygelatin can be found in our blog posts “Blood and War: The Development of Oxypolygelatin, Part 1,” and “Pauling on the Homefront: The Development of Oxypolygelatin, Part 2.” Today’s post will focus on the patenting, ownership and uses of oxypolygelatin after World War II.

Pauling seemingly gave up on the project after 1946, mostly because widespread blood drives organized by the Red Cross and other organizations lessened the demand for artificial blood. In 1946 Pauling, Campbell and Koepfli decided to file for a patent on oxypolygelatin and its manufacturing process, which they then transferred to the California Institute Research Foundation with the stipulation that one of the inventors would be consulted before entering into any license agreement. They also noted that the Institute should collect reasonable royalties for the use of the invention, but only so much as was needed to protect the integrity of the invention.

The “Blood Substitute and Method of Manufacture” patent was filed December 4, 1946, and the Trustees of the Institute agreed to take on ownership of oxypolygelatin and the patent application in early 1947.

Notes by Linus Pauling on a method for producing oxypolygelatin. July 23, 1943.

Although it would appear that Pauling gave up on the oxypolygelatin project with the transfer of ownership, he still pushed for its manufacture years later. In October 1951, he wrote to Dr. I. S. Ravdin of the Department of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School to inform him that oxypolygelatin was not being considered seriously enough by the medical world as a blood substitute.

Pauling insisted, “…that it is my own opinion that Oxypolygelatin is superior to any other plasma extender now known.” He likewise noted that it was the only plasma extender to which the government possessed an irrevocable, royalty-free license, so he could not understand why it was not being stockpiled and utilized.

As far as Pauling knew, only Don Baxter, Inc., of Glendale, California, was manufacturing oxypolygelatin. At this point the rights to oxypolygelatin were owned by the California Institute Research Foundation, not Pauling, and the Institute was not authorized to make a profit from it. Consequently, Pauling’s insistence on the production and usage of his invention can only be explained by a concern for humanity, coupled perhaps with an urge to see the compound succeed on a grander scale.

Later in 1951, Pauling continued to push for the usage of his invention, arguing in a February letter to Dr. E.C. Kleiderer that oxypolygelatin was superior to the plasma substitutes periston and dextran. In Pauling’s opinion “the fate of periston and dextran in the human body is uncertain…these substances may produce serious injuries to the organs, sometime after their injection.”

Oxypolygelatin, on the other hand, was rapidly hydrolyzed into the bloodstream and would not cause long-term damage. It was also a liquid at room temperature, unlike other gelatins, and was sterilized with hydrogen peroxide to kill any pyrogens (fever-inducing substances) while many other gelatin preparations failed because of pyrogenicity. One of the only problems with oxypolygelatin was that the chemical action of glyoxal and hydrogen peroxide could potentially produce undesirable materials, but the matter could be cleared up with further investigation.

It appears that Pauling’s interactions with Ravdin and Kleiderer did not result in the mass manufacture or marketing success of oxypolygelatin, but this did not deter Pauling from pursuing the matter many years later. In 1974, after visiting Dr. Ma Hai-teh in Peking, China, he sent Ma his published paper on oxypolygelatin, and discussed the possible production of the substance in China. He wrote to Ma, “I hope that you can interest the biochemists and pharmacologists in investigating Oxypolygelatin. I may point out that no special apparatus or equipment is needed.”

In reply, Ma expressed interest in oxypolygelatin and said that he had passed Pauling’s paper on to a group of biochemists, but that he was personally more interested in Pauling’s work on vitamin C. The rest of their correspondence focused primarily on the benefits of vitamin C, especially in the treatment of psoriasis.

In a 1991 interview with Thomas Hager, author of the Pauling biography Force of Nature, Pauling claimed, “I patented, with a couple of other people in the laboratory, the oxypolygelatin. I don’t remember when I had the idea of making oxypolygelatin. Perhaps in 1940 or thereabouts.” He added that it was not approved by the Plasma Substitute Committee, so it was not usable for humans, but was manufactured instead for veterinary use.

At the time of the interview, Pauling believed that oxypolygelatin was still being manufactured in some places, but was unsure of the details since there were many rumors floating around. According to him, the Committee on Plasma Substitutes did not approve his oxypolygelatin because it wasn’t homogenous; meaning that, on the molecular level, it included a range of weights. Pauling, however, believed that the range in molecular weights should not matter, since naturally occurring blood plasma includes serum albumin and serum globulin, whose molecular weights fall in a wide range anyway.

Joseph Koepfli

In 1992 Hager also interviewed Joseph Koepfli, one of the co-inventors of oxypolygelatin. Koepfli claimed that oxypolygelatin was at one time used by motorcycle officers around L.A. because they were the first to the scene of accidents. He also remembered that, in the early 1980s, Pauling had told him that oxypolygelatin was used for years in North Korea, but that no one was ever paid any royalties.

These and a few other rumors about oxypolygelatin circulated, but evaluating their worth is virtually impossible due to the secrecy surrounding wartime scientific work, as well as the scarcity and ambiguity of the surviving documentation. Judging from Pauling’s opinions though, what can be said is that perhaps if it had been pursued more vigorously, oxypolygelatin could have benefited the war effort and proven successful on a commercial level.

The Paulings in Latin America, 1940s – 1950s

La Prensa, (Mexico City) September 6, 1949.

[Part 1 of 5]

Throughout his long career as a scientist and peace advocate, Linus Pauling’s work took him all over the world, not excluding Latin America, to which he traveled multiple times. In fact, of the nineteen countries which today constitute Latin America, the only ones which Pauling did not visit were Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay and Uruguay.

During his trips to the southern hemisphere he typically gave speeches on familiar topics including hemoglobin, the architecture of molecules, orthomolecular medicine, nuclear weapons and, of course, vitamin C. He also frequently advocated for human rights, speaking out against the incarceration of intellectuals in Argentina in the 1960s, urging the leaders of Latin America to resist the acquisition of nuclear weapons, and stressing the necessity for world peace and cooperation. Along the way, Pauling also received many awards, including membership in the Chilean Chemistry Society, the National Medal of the Chilean Senate and honorary citizenship of Puerto Rico.

In September 1949, on one of his earliest trips to Latin America, Pauling traveled to Mexico City to attend the Western Continental Congress for Peace. At the conference, Pauling delivered an address as the United States delegate, as well as a second speech titled, “Man – An Irrational Animal.”

In his delegate’s address, Pauling pointed out that the purpose of the conference was to work towards “permanent, world-wide peace” as well as to foster more effective cooperation between the people of the Americas. From his perspective as a scientist, Pauling felt that he could see order everywhere in the natural world, except for the seeming self-destructiveness of the human race. Pauling felt that the fight for peace included the fight for human rights, and that it was every individual’s responsibility to contribute. However, he believed that scientists should play a special role, suggesting that “the world looks to science for the ultimate solution of the threatening natural problems that menace it.”

At the Mexico City conference, Pauling also argued that scientists needed more freedom in order to focus their energy on solving problems such as world hunger, rather than on the preparation for and conducting of war. He likewise stressed that the United Nations needed to be more powerful, so that it could not be dominated by one or two great powers. To do this, Pauling rationalized, participating nations should transfer part of their sovereignty to the UN in order to form a democratic world government. At the end of the address, Pauling again stressed that world peace must be a democratic and collective undertaking, proclaiming that

It is we, the people, who now have the duty of working for peace, for the welfare and happiness of human beings everywhere. If another devastating world war comes, it will be because we, the people of the world, have failed. We must not fail.

On the same day that he delivered his address as a delegate, Pauling also gave a second speech “Man – An Irrational Animal.” In this talk, he reiterated his “deep interest in the structure of the material world,” and appreciation of the harmony and the workings of nature, but again suggested that the world of man was an anomaly to nature’s pattern of balance and structure. Pauling lamented that “we see groups of men, who make up the nations of the world, devoting the material wealth of the world and the intellectual powers of man, the ‘rational’ animal, not for the welfare of mankind, but for destruction.”

He attributed most of the problems that existed during the time to the struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States, pointing out that nearly ten percent of the world’s income was being used for war or preparation for war. He also stressed that, in the U. S., the fear of communism or any form of liberal thought was prohibiting many scientists from finding work in universities and the private sector alike. Pauling’s solution to the problems of the era was to propose that more funds be channeled toward UNESCO’s peace efforts, and that less be spent on war.

Pauling’s participation in the Mexico City assembly managed to rankle both the U. S. government as well as his fellow delegates.  As it turns out, unbeknownst to Pauling, the Western Continental Congress for Peace was  a Communist-organized gathering, and was accurately criticized as such back home.  In biographer Thomas Hager‘s words,

…that, of course, did not bother the Paulings.  They loved Mexico City – Ava Helen was becoming an admirer of folk art from around the world and spent time combing the mercados for pieces to add to her collection – but were less enthusiastic about the meeting, which seemed to consist of speech after long-winded speech defending the Soviet Union and attacking the United States.  His keynote address ranged from standard socialist anti-imperialism…to a purposeful and carefully evenhanded denouncement of both the United States’ and USSR’s policies of curtailing freedom and preparing for war.  The audience, expecting another one-sided attack on the Yankees, responded with lukewarm applause.

Pauling’s next visit to Latin America came about in May 1955, when Linus and Ava Helen were invited to a conference at the University of Puerto Rico by the Chancellor of the University, Jaime Benitez. At the meeting, Pauling gave three speeches: “The Hemoglobin Molecule in Health and Disease,” “The Structure of Proteins,” and “Technology and Democracy.”

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling posing with an unidentified group. Los Canos, Puerto Rico, 1955.

In “Technology and Democracy” – of the three, the only talk that he did not give on a regular basis to many other groups – Pauling commented that it was impossible for people to consider themselves “cultured” if they did not know about the sciences as well as about the rest of the world. He argued that “non-scientists, too, should be people of culture who have an understanding of the world, and this they cannot be without a knowledge of science.” Pauling also urged that more science be included in the curricula of elementary schools, and at a more advanced level. Pauling felt that people should be more interested in science because “knowledge of the nature of the world in which we live contributes to our happiness.”

Pauling’s trips to Mexico and Puerto Rico were just the beginning of an extensive political and scientific relationship that he maintained with Latin America.  In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at several of his Ava Helen’s many visits to countries south of the border, from the 1960s through the 1980s.

“Force of Nature,” now available as an e-book

Tom Hager

The blog has recently acquired an e-reader and is taking the opportunity to re-read Thomas Hager’s excellent 1995 biography, Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling, now available for download.  The Hager biography has long been out of print, so it’s especially good news that this valuable book has re-entered the marketplace in digital format.  Not long ago, we caught up with Tom to talk about the e-book and to see what he’s up to lately.

Pauling BlogHow did the e-book version of Force of Nature come about?

Tom Hager: Almost since the moment Force of Nature was first published in 1995 I have wanted to do an updated version. Part of the motivation was the desire to correct some niggling little errors (like getting Senator Joe McCarthy’s home state wrong); part was a desire to incorporate at least a little of the new information that became available after Linus’s death and the release of the last of his papers to Special Collections at Oregon State. Because of the size of the book, it was difficult to get a publisher to put out a new edition. So I decided to do it myself, in e-book form.

What’s different in this version as compared to the print version? How much new material is included?

I combed back through the notes and letters I received after the 1995 book was published, and made a comprehensive review of all needed corrections. These were made. I got the chance to smooth some prose, and added material in several places. Most notable, I think, is an expanded discussion of Herman Branson’s contribution to the alpha helix structure. This new information came about in part because of discussions that took place at the Pauling Symposium held at Oregon State in 1995.

How has your perspective on Pauling changed since the book was published in 1995?

My views of Linus’s life have not changed appreciably.

You’ve published two major history of science books – The Demon Under the Microscope (2006) and The Alchemy of Air (2008) – since the Pauling biography. How has your approach to writing science evolved over time?

I am more concerned now with narrative – effective, accurate story-telling – and less with a desire to be comprehensive. Force of Nature, with its great length and detail, certainly serves a purpose. But if I were to write it today, I would probably make the book about half the length and twice as dramatic.

What are you working on now?

My main interest now concerns the future of food, and how humanity is going to avoid mass famine as the population rises (while at the same time protecting our last wild places and avoiding pollution). I am also interested in the history of psychopharmacology, an interest of Linus’s in the 1950s.

Tom Hager maintains a blog at his homepage,  The e-book version of Force of Nature is available here at

Barclay Kamb, 1931-2011

Barclay Kamb, 1994.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda and Barclay Kamb, 1957.

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

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

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

Linda and Barclay Kamb, 1963.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pauling family photograph, 1976.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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William Lipscomb, 1919-2011

Bill Lipscomb speaking at the 1995 Pauling memorial symposium, Oregon State University.

When I was growing up and learning science and all through my undergraduate days, I thought the worst thing you could possibly do is publish something that is wrong. It turns out that’s not right. Linus taught me that. It is much worse to work on something that is dull.

– Bill Lipscomb, November 1991.

William N. Lipscomb, Jr. a Nobel laureate with close ties to Linus Pauling, died last month at the age of 91. Several obituaries and remembrances are available online, published by sources as diverse as Chemical & Engineering News, National Public Radio and Harvard University, where he worked for over fifty years.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Kentucky, Lipscomb conducted his undergraduate work at the University of Kentucky, which he attended on a music scholarship. In his own words,

I read Dushman’s Quantum Mechanics in my spare time and completed requirements for majors in both Chemistry and Physics. An appointment to graduate study in Physics at Caltech, at $20 per month, allowed me to refuse Northwestern’s offer of $150 as research assistant, and also allowed me to come to terms with a nice letter from Harold Urey rejecting my application to Columbia University.

Lipscomb initially planned to study quantum mechanics at Caltech under the direction of William V. Houston. His path changed, however, upon his first encounters with Linus Pauling.  Lipscomb recalled

I would sit in seminars and Linus Pauling would make comments afterwards, and they were comments that I was thinking about too, pretty much the same, and I decided to switch to chemistry after my first semester. And I went in to see him and he was a little surprised and looked at my record and said very good record, except there was a C in economics. He says, ‘I got an A in economics.’ And I said, ‘yeah, but I didn’t go to the classes at all.’

As a graduate student working under Pauling, Lipscomb conducted research on structural chemistry and also participated in the Institute’s vast program of scientific war work. Following the completion of his time in Pasadena, Lipscomb moved on to the University of Minnesota, where he began investigations into the structure and property of boranes – a program of research which would eventually lead to Lipscomb’s receipt of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

It turns out that there was a strong Pauling connection to this research as well. A New York Times feature following the Nobel announcement put it this way.

When William N. Lipscomb was a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, he heard a professor propose a theory of chemical bonding in certain boron compounds. Something about the theory did not seem right, and he set out to prove his professor wrong. In so doing, he won the 1976 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The professor was Linus Pauling, a Nobel laureate and a strong influence on the career of Dr. Lipscomb. In fact, he used a research technique taught him by Dr. Pauling to identify and study the structure of boranes, the complex compounds combining the element boron with hydrogen.

Time magazine described Lipscomb’s breakthrough in these terms.

He discovered that boranes…were bonded differently from other chemicals. That discovery led to his finding that borane molecules were polyhedral, or many sided, and to a new understanding of how a host of new chemical compounds could be constructed.

Pauling was quite fond of Lipscomb and often wrote glowing recommendations on his behalf. A 1950 letter describes Lipscomb as “thoroughly competent” and “extraordinarily likable.” A year later Pauling upped the ante a bit, using the phrase “one of the most able physical chemists in the country” blessed with “an unusually fine personality.” By 1952 Lipscomb was “one of the leading crystal structure workers in the country – he may be the best one of his age,” and by 1979 Pauling had given his full support to Lipscomb’s nomination for the National Medal of Science.

Lipscomb at a Stanford University symposium honoring Linus Pauling, March 1994.

Lipscomb is as many faceted as his molecules; he is a tennis buff, plays a clarinet in local chamber orchestras, and is a genuine Kentucky colonel. His own concern about his Nobel: ‘I’m afraid everyone will think I’m finished, but I still have so much more to do.’

Time magazine, November 1976.

The Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections contain a number of resources related to Lipscomb, including a large correspondence file with Pauling and a lengthy interview conducted by Thomas Hager for use in his Pauling biography, Force of Nature. Lipscomb also spoke at the Pauling memorial symposium hosted by OSU in early 1995. Below are Lipscomb’s thoughts on a number of Pauling-related topics, as extracted from these resources.

On their working relationship

I was always doing some outlandish thing, and he would correct me, but that is the way it worked with Linus; he would come in once every two months, or three months, and ask what you have been doing, and suddenly he would toss up five ideas that you haven’t thought of, that would keep you busy for the next five months. And he’d leave you alone, which was the best thing in the world for me. Being left alone, and left with good ideas.

On Pauling the teacher

One of the most interesting things about those five years [1941-1946], is that Linus continued to lecture and gave only one course. It was his chemical bond course, and you could listen to it year after year, because every year, the lectures were different…. The first third of the lecture someone off the street could understand. The next third was what every graduate student could understand, and the last third was the research socket, which was new…. Also on seminars, when he would listen to a seminar, he would wait until everybody was finished asking questions. Then he would ask the best questions of anybody. A marvelous teaching method but, I regarded him as one of the finest teachers in the world.

On Vitamin C

You have to remember that sometimes Linus exaggerates his case. And if he takes twenty grams of vitamin C, well, I believe him, I take three; something like that. I think that is a good way to put it. Dorothy Hodgkin said that the best indication that Linus’s vitamin therapy…is right is his age and activity. I mean you can’t disbelieve that.

[But] one case doesn’t prove anything. He has one good solid point going for him, and that is most mammals don’t make…vitamin C – for 5 million years [they] didn’t need it because they ate so much fruit, and it is only in the last forty-thousand years since civilization that we really need it. And I think that the gene might have been lost much earlier in evolution if it hadn’t been needed. So, he translates what other animals make into humans and comes out with some large number of grams a day of vitamin C. He is probably right. There are hazards associated with it; I think that when people really look carefully, and they are beginning to look carefully, they will find that it won’t cure a common cold, and it won’t cure cancer, but it may help to alleviate symptoms, and help to scavenge free radicles that start cancer; it may be that statistically people will live longer than they have after taking some large dosage of vitamin C, provided they don’t generate kidney stones or gall. You know, you have to do some selection, or some careful testing before prescription.

On Pauling away from work

Pauling also was interested in reviewing books. He used to read review books, novels, things like that. We’d come in and he’d have a stack of books this high, and said he’d read them over the weekend. He is very, very good about reading. And he used to build chairs and furniture just as relaxation.

On Pauling the showman

At my request, Pauling visited the University of Minnesota in about 1952. In the middle of his lecture he stopped suddenly and began banging the doors of the lecture desk, asking, ‘Bill, don’t you have any structure models here?’ He found it:  a model of the new alpha-helix that he had placed there earlier in the day so that he could put on this moment of performance.