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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,
Robert Lefkowitz,
Mario Molina,
George Rathmann,
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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

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Nobel Prize
Profiles in Science
Pauling Institute

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Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling
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Linus Pauling Interview (page: 7 / 9)

Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Peace

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  Linus Pauling

Do you find the controversy over your views terribly frustrating? You feel that you know what is right, but you still hear people either dismissing it, or saying there are dangers from doing what you think is an excellent way to good health.

Linus Pauling: Yes, it bothers me.

For 17 years -- for 16 years starting in 1973, I tried to get the National Cancer Institute to carry out some studies of vitamin C in the prevention and treatment of cancer, without success. They gave us some money once for animal studies, but only once. They turned us down eight times and then I stopped applying to NCI. Last year, I went to see the new director of the National Cancer Institute. He didn't want to talk to me at first, but he agreed and said that he could spare an hour. He listened to me for three hours. The first two hours he was incensed by my saying I thought it was criminal that the authorities were not paying attention to this really important possibility of controlling cancer. He didn't like that, but he continued to listen to what I had to say. Finally, after he had said the Mayo Clinic has shown that vitamin C has no value in the treatment of cancer, I said that Mayo Clinic study was a fraud. And I can explain just how. The Mayo Clinic people didn't follow the procedure that Dr. Ewan Cameron used at all. They say that they did, but they didn't. We know that they didn't. So you can't rely on that. Finally, he became interested.

The National Cancer Institute, together with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, sponsored jointly an international conference, held in the fall of 1990 in Bethesda in the National Medical Library Building, at which 40 scientists presented papers on vitamin C and cancer, basic scientific studies bearing on the question of the use of vitamin C in the control of cancer.

The National Cancer Institute has now set up a panel of physicians to examine the case histories of the patients that my associate Dr. Cameron has sent to them as having remarkable responses to vitamin C. So it looks hopeful in this respect. The National Cancer Institute is also carrying out studies on the value of increased intake of vitamin C in preventing cancer, an epidemiological study. So things are moving along. I regret that it took 16 years to get the National Cancer Institute interested, but I am pleased now that they are moving ahead.

Do you finally feel vindicated, at least to some extent, that people are taking an interest?

Linus Pauling Interview Photo
Linus Pauling: Well, people have taken an interest for a long time. It is estimated that 40 percent of American families take high doses of vitamin C regularly. A few years ago the amount of vitamin C used in the United States had increased fivefold, and it may be tenfold now. Over the years, I've received many hundreds of letters from people thanking me for suggesting vitamin C to control colds, saying they no longer get these colds. And I have gotten hundreds of letters from people, including physicians, asking for more information about vitamin C for controlling cancer, but also sending information about how long they have been able to control their cancer by taking perhaps 36 grams a day, day after day. Or in the case of this one man, a chemist in San Jose working for IBM, taking 130 grams a day.

It must be very rewarding to you, in spite of the controversy, to know that people everywhere, when they think they're catching a cold, they think of vitamin C.

Linus Pauling: Yes, it is. I'm sure that most scientists accept what I have been saying these years. I wasn't the first to say it either. Other people had been advocating vitamin C for controlling the common cold and cancer and other diseases back starting 50 years ago. I do feel satisfaction in thinking that I have been able to contribute to this, what I think is a great step forward in the control of disease and the decrease in the amount of suffering.

It seems that so many people these days are dying from cancer or suffering from cancer. Has something changed in our world?

Linus Pauling: We don't have good evidence for that.

Up to 40 years or 50 years ago, people suppressed the fact that someone had died of cancer. When Arthur Amos Noyes, the head of our chemistry department, died of cancer in 1936, the death certificate said pneumonia. Well, many cancer patients develop pneumonia because they are so debilitated they no longer have any resistance. So in the old days, cancer was not put down as the cause of death. It was thought to be - it was a stigma for a person to develop cancer and die of cancer. So, the old statistics are not of much value. The more recent statistics indicate that the incidence of cancer -- the age standardized incidence -- has not changed much. Despite all the hullabaloo about the anti-cancer drugs and other new methods, the death rate stays essentially the same.

What do you see as the next frontier in this area?

Linus Pauling Interview Photo
Linus Pauling: If I knew the answer, I'd start working on it. So I can tell you what I've been doing during the last few months. With my associate Dr. Mattias Wrath, I've been working on the problem of what causes cardiovascular disease. What causes atherosclerosis? Dr. Wrath discovered and reported that it is not LDL, low density lipoproteins. He published a paper last year on his studies in blood vessels obtained from patients with bypass operations, and he was able to show with his collaborators that it isn't the LDL that is laid down in the arteries, but another lipoprotein called lipoprotein LPA, which usually isn't reported. It is just mixed in with the LDL. He and I have published a paper on the relationship between LPA and vitamin C. The more LPA you have in your blood, the more chance there is of dying of cardiovascular disease. The more vitamin C you are taking, the less LPA in the blood. And it has been known for years that people with low vitamin C levels in the blood have a higher death rate from cardiovascular disease that those with a high level. So Dr. Wrath and I are right now putting the finishing touches on a paper in which we say essentially that cardiovascular disease is caused by a low intake of vitamin C

If you were a young person now in the sciences and chemistry, what would you want to go into? What would you suggest people go into?

Linus Pauling: I think that I was fortunate, by the time I got my doctors degree, in getting a good understanding of physics, basic physics and advanced physics and of chemistry as a whole.

I had one short course in organic chemistry, but I'm considered to have made great contributions to organic chemistry. I had no courses in biochemistry, but I'm usually described as "the great biochemist Linus Pauling." You see, I have made contributions to biochemistry. There were no courses in molecular biology. I had no courses in biology, but I'm one of the founders of molecular biology. I had no courses in nutrition or vitaminology. Why? Why am I able to do these things? You see, I got such a good basic education in the fields where it's difficult for most people to learn by themselves. Very few people are able to study mathematics by themselves, they need to have it taught. I learned a lot of mathematics, a lot of physics, a lot of chemistry. The chemistry, much of it I might have learned by myself, but when it comes to these other subjects, I was able to learn enough about these other fields just by reading because my basic understanding was so great that I could interpret the sentences that I read. I can read -- if I become interested in cardiology say, or in general -- I can read books, medical books about heart disease and understand what the authors are saying.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

So my recommendation to young people, which I have been making for 50 years, is that if you want to go into biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, why don't you start out by majoring in physics and chemistry and mathematics and then move on later? I recommended 50 years ago to students interested in biology to take the Ph.D. in chemistry, rather than biology, and then get a job in plant physiology or some other field. With your basic understanding you will be able to be successful in this field.

Linus Pauling Interview Photo
Even 50 years ago I was recommending to students in the California Institute of Technology who came to me for advice to do graduate work in chemistry rather than in biology, even if they were interested in biology. They could take some courses in biology, but they could do reading by themselves to learn most of biology. Genetics was already a good science in biology. I recommended taking a course in genetics.

So ever since then, I have said to students, if you are interested in science, I think a good thing for you to get is as much training as possible in the basic sciences -- mathematics, physics, chemistry, including physical chemistry. And then you can move on into these more applied fields. Many of these fields I consider to be just applied chemistry. Molecular biology is a branch of chemistry, just as biochemistry is a branch of chemistry. Astronomy in some respects is because the astronomers are studying the molecules in interstellar space that show up on the spectrographic studies that they make. And the geologist of course, much of geology depends on minerals, and that essentially is a branch of chemistry.

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