Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA: A Documentary History Narrative  
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Politics Vs. Science
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Anti-communism and the U.S. passport policy did not alter the history of science in this case. Instead, three unrelated factors combined to set Pauling wrong. The first was his focus on proteins to the exclusion of almost everything else. The second was inadequate data. The x-ray photos he was using, Astbury's, were taken of a mixture of two forms of DNA and were almost worthless. The third was pride. He simply did not feel that he needed to pursue DNA full tilt. His success with the alpha helix had proven that he was the only person in the world capable of solving large biological molecules. "I always thought that sooner or later I would find the structure of DNA," Pauling said. "It was just a matter of time."

Pauling sent in another passport application for travel to England and France in the summer of 1952, and while talking to the press -- told one reporter, "This whole incident, to be blunt, stinks."

Pauling's new passport application was discussed intensively at the highest levels of the State Department. A decision was made to end what had become a public relations fiasco with minimal fanfare. Shipley's routine refusal was overruled. Pauling was to be granted a limited passport -- good for a short period of time for travel only in England and France -- provided that he sign a new affidavit denying membership in the Communist Party. No public announcement was to be made. If reporters asked, the official line was to be that "new evidence" had altered the case. Although Acheson had been involved in making the decision, his name was not to be attached to it in any way. No other details were to be provided.

Pauling was surprised and jubilant when he heard the news. On July 11 he showed up at the Los Angeles field office to sign the affidavit. On July 14, his passport was granted.

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George Beadle and Linus Pauling examining a skeletal model of a polypeptide chain, California Institute of Technology. 1952.

Page 1
Telegram from David K. Bruce to Linus Pauling. July 11, 1952.

"During recent years my work on the theory of resonance in chemistry has been under attack in Russia. Russian chemists have been forbidden to make use of this theory in their scientific work. The action of the State Department in refusing me a passport represents a different way of interfering with the progress of science and restricting the freedom of the individual citizen."

Linus Pauling
April 22, 1952
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