Linus C. Pauling

August 27, 1994

After winning his second Nobel Prize, Linus Pauling collected an honorary diploma from the Oregon high school where he'd been a dropout. For 93 years until his death on Aug. 19, he was always brilliant and trenchant -- and often right.

Dr. Pauling was the first winner of two Nobel Prizes since Marie Sklodowska Curie in 1903 and 1911. He would have been a giant of 20th century science just for publishing, in 1939, "The Nature of the Chemical Bond," summing up his research on the force holding atoms in molecules. That work eventually won him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954.

At a stage when other creative scientists stumble into administration, Dr. Pauling went off to new investigations. His work on the structure of proteins goaded Sir Francis Crick and James D. Watson into a race to discover the molecular structure governing heredity. They won. His biochemical discoveries led to medical advances on schizophrenia and sickle cell anemia.

In the 70s (the century's and his own), the California-based scientist crusaded for massive doses of Vitamin C to cure the common cold and cancer. A younger colleague claimed to have done the research, which other researchers have not replicated. Still, Dr. Pauling imbibed an awful lot of Vitamin C and produced scientific papers into his 90s, so it cannot have been all that bad for him.

Eminence as a scientist did not make him less a citizen. Nor did deference paid his views in one sphere deflect him from others where no deference would be paid. And if he was not always right in science, he was not always wrong in politics.

From the late 1940s he crusaded for peace, sometimes with left-wing celebrities-turned-pariahs. And for more than a dozen years he was embroiled with the State Department, Sen. Joe McCarthy and the Senate Internal Security subcommittee, all fearing he was Communist or naive or worse. For this, more or less, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962, after which he picketed the White House before marching in to dinner.

In fact, Dr. Pauling's agitation against nuclear weapons and nuclear testing was positive stimulus for the test ban and non-proliferation treaties that have made the world a safer place. More than almost anyone, he understood equally the good and harm that science could do the human condition, and tried to deal with each. He wanted for humanity more knowledge and also more wisdom. No quarrel there.

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