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Letter from Linus Pauling to Norman Cousins. March 25, 1958.
Pauling writes to suggest ways in which they might work together to increase their effectiveness as peace activists.


25 March 1958

Mr. Norman Cousins

The Saturday Review

25 West 45th Street

New York, New York

Dear Mr. Cousins:

I am writing in part to express to you my personal appreciation for the many fine actions that you have been taking about the great world's problem that must be solved. In particular, I wish to tell you how much I have liked some of the editorials that you have written in The Saturday Review.

The editorial in the 15 March issue, entitled "Dr. Teller and the Spirit of Adventure," seemed to me to be less effective than others that you have written, and also less effective than the book review by Dr. John M. Fowler in the 22 March issue. I shall mention only one point about your editorial. You say that "A report for the AEC made public very recently revealed that radioactive strontium in the bones of American adults has increased thirty percent as the result of nuclear tests. The radioactive strontium in the bones of children has increased fifty percent, according to the same report." I do not know just what you are saying here. Perhaps you mean during one or two years these increases took place. Of course, no American adults and no American children had any radioactive strontium in their bones a few decades ago, so that the increase as the result of nuclear tests.

Also, later on there occurs the sentence "At the end of twenty-eight years, the radioactive strontium in the air still retains half its strength." This would be a satisfactory statement if the words "in the air" were left out. With these words, it is hard to know what the statement is supposed to mean.

I think that your discussion of radium dials of wrist watches is not very good. One should not call this radiation "the infinitesimal amount." Also, I doubt that the statement is true that the peril of radioactive fallout is less than that represented by the radiation from the radium dial of a wrist watch. The reference to opening the face of the watch and eating the radium seems to me to be of no significance, and it serves only to confuse the issue.

I should like to see your efforts as effective as possible, and I believe that they could be made still more effective if you were to receive good advice about scientific questions. I should, of course, be pleased to have you call upon me at any time.

If you would like me to do so, I could give you other examples of statements in your editorial that seem to me to be more or less unsatisfactory. Perhaps I should give you one more example now. You say "Every particle of radioactive strontium taken into the body is stored by the body..." This statement is not true. Most of the radioactive strontium taken into the body is excreted again, and only a fraction, usually a small fraction, is stored in the body. If Dr. Teller were to reply to your editorial, he could quite properly attack it on the grounds that you make untrue and exaggerated statements about fallout

I note that you repeat this untrue statement near the end of the article, saying "Every little bit that enters the body is stored..."

Let me repeat my offer to you to assist in any way that I can. I have had a great deal of experience in the various scientific fields that relate to this question - the biological and medical as well as the physical and chemical. I have read and thought a great deal about these matters, and I know what the pitfalls are. In all of my writings and public statements I have taken great care to avoid exaggeration and to avoid the use of untrue or misleading statements. I know, however, how easy it is to make a statement that turns out not to be quite correct.

There is a question that I should like to ask you. On 13 January 1958 I sent to you a news release that I had prepared about the petition by myself and 9235 scientists to the United Nations. This petition is mentioned in the 15 March issue. I have not seen all of the issues of The Saturday Review this year, but I do not remember having seen any earlier mention of the petition. I should be pleased if you could send me tear sheets of earlier mention of the petition in The Saturday Review. I am especially interested in this petition because it was almost entirely the result of my own effort. The job of gathering the signatures was done very largely by me, with the help of a few volunteers, and a secretary whom I employed for the purpose, on a part-time basis. Almost the entire cost of gathering the signatures was borne by me, and, in fact, the total cost was not very great.

Sincerely yours,

Linus Pauling: LL

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