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If you like Linus Pauling's story, you might also like:
Francis Collins,
Freeman Dyson,
Gertrude Elion,
Paul Farmer,
Murray Gell-Mann,
Eric Lander,
Robert Langer,
Leon Lederman,
Mario Molina,
George Rathmann,
Jonas Salk,
Glenn Seaborg,
John Sulston,
Edward Teller,
James Watson and
Edward O. Wilson

Linus Pauling's recommended reading: The War of the Worlds

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Linus Pauling in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Advocacy & Citizenship
Meet a Nobel Laureate
The Power of Words

Related Links:
National Academies

Linus Pauling Research

Linus Pauling

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Linus Pauling
 
Linus Pauling
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Linus Pauling Interview (page: 5 / 9)

Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Peace

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  Linus Pauling

Your views and actions came under a great deal of scrutiny during that period, and a great deal of suspicion. Would you talk about that period?

Linus Pauling Interview Photo
Linus Pauling: Well, it was a difficult period. For example, my scientific work was in considerable part supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. I got a communication that these grants were not going to be made, despite the letter I received two months before that the grants were going to be made.

For a while I didn't understand what it was about, and I telephoned the National Institutes of Health, and the man that I talked to said, "You have associates, why don't you split up the application. You can apply for part of the work, and your associates, Dr. Corey and Dr. Campbell, can apply for other parts." So we sent in these revised applications. In another week Dr. Corey and Dr. Campbell had their grants approved, the amount increased and the period extended, but they never acted on my application.

I was fortunate that this political action by the National Institute of Health, who were worried about McCarthyism, didn't seriously interfere with my researches. But there were, I understand, 40 scientists who had their grants canceled at this time. I remember talking with one of them at Columbia University. He was despondent. He didn't know what to do. The university wouldn't support him, and his work was more closely knit. He didn't have an associate who could apply for the grant.

So there were scientists who were really very hard hit in their scientific work by this political action. Oveta Culp from Texas, who was Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, was frightened enough by McCarthy to have the people go over the list and select people they thought might be attacked by McCarthy, and cancel their grants.


The State Department prevented me from traveling for two years. The first time, when the Royal Society of London was holding a two-day conference to discuss my work, I was to be the first speaker [to discuss] work on the structure of protons an international conference just to discuss these discoveries that I had made. And, I couldn't go to the conference because I couldn't get the passport. So for two years, the State Department caused trouble for me. They wouldn't tell me why. They said "Not in the best interest of the United States," or "Your anti-Communist statements haven't been strong enough." I was having a scrap with the Communists -- the Russians and the Soviet Union -- at the time, and I was critical of the Soviet Union, but they used that as an excuse, saying they weren't strong enough, my statements. I'm sure this interfered seriously with my work. When I was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the New York Times had an article saying, "Will Professor Pauling be allowed to go to Stockholm to receive this Nobel Prize?" So I received the passport, which had been turned down only a short time before. It was sent to me.


Senator Thomas C. Hennings of Missouri was chairman of a committee in the Senate, investigating the State Department's passport division. The Assistant Secretary of State was testifying after I testified. Senator Hennings said, "How did Pauling happen to get his passport then? Was there an appeal?" They said, "A sort of self-generating appeal." So Senator Hennings said, "Do you mean to sit there and tell me that the State Department of the United States of America allows some committee of foreigners in a foreign country to decide which Americans will be allowed to travel?" Well, he didn't have any answer to that question.

You had some difficulties in the academic world too. Cal Tech didn't look kindly on some of your activities.

Linus Pauling: The trustees, of course, were mainly business men, and conservative, and supporters of the cold war, and they seemed to consider that working for peace between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was in some way subversive, as compared with preparing for a war that would rid the world of the menace of communism. Probably socialism worried them rather than communism.


Trustees tried to get the institute to fire me and a committee was set up -- I didn't know about it at the time, learned only later they reported that they couldn't find a way by which I could be fired. I wasn't guilty of moral turpitude in the usual sense, which was one way in which a professor can lose his job. So they began sort of harassing me. I was chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. The president said, well, that's one job they could take away from me which would mean a decrease in salary. I didn't mind. I had served in that position for 22 years and felt that I had done my duty with respect to that administrative job. But, they began interfering with my research projects and I decided that I was going to have to leave the institute.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity


Linus Pauling Interview Photo
When I received word that I had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I found, when I returned to Pasadena, that the president had stated to the Los Angeles Times that it was pretty remarkable for any person to receive two Nobel Prizes, but there was much difference of opinion about the value of the works that Professor Pauling had done. So I decided that the time had come for me to resign and I did. I didn't like that. I had been at the California Institute of Technology for 41 years then, and I thought it was really the best institution in the world. My opinion of it is still a very high one. With respect to science, it comes close to being the best university in the world. So I wasn't happy about leaving the institute, but I did leave.

Did anyone at Cal Tech express any regrets about this?

Linus Pauling: The Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering did not hold a party to celebrate my getting the Nobel Peace Prize. Whereas, they had held one when I got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. But, the Biology Division did hold a party for me. The biological scientists, I think, were more sympathetic to what I was saying about damage done by fallout radioactivity and carbon-14 than the physical scientists. I was, I think to some extent, disappointed that my colleagues in the institute did not express sympathy with me in this situation.

Did you have any discussions with any of them on a one-on-one basis about that?

Linus Pauling: I'm not sure that I can remember. Beadle, the chairman of the Biology Division, had been a member of the committee to recommend to the trustees whether they could fire me or not, and he told me about it some years later. I don't remember when it was that he told me about it. I note that he was, in a sense, sympathetic to me. There were many people at the Institute that I considered my friends, and perhaps if they are still alive, still consider them my friends. But it was a difficult period, so I can't complain about their not being open in expressing sympathy for me.

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This page last revised on Feb 29, 2008 17:16 EDT