|The Right to Petition
While the debate raged, Pauling continued to keep a high public profile, speaking
widely and appearing often in newspapers and magazines through 1956 and into 1957,
garnering attention by positing shocking estimates of fallout-related damage to human
health. By the spring of 1957 it appeared that his and Russell’s efforts were yielding
fruit. Alarmed by the dangers of fallout, Japanese, British, German, and Indian politicians
began urging a halt to H-bomb tests, as did the Pope and the World Council of Churches.
In May, after delivering a fiery anti-Bomb speech at Washington University in St.
Louis, Pauling conferred with two other scientists, Barry Commoner and Edward Condon, about next steps. They decided to mount a scientists’ petition to stop nuclear testing
as a way to draw attention to the concerns of a growing number of anti-Bomb scientists.
Their "Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World,"
mimeographed and hand-mailed, garnered more than two dozen signatures within a week.
Pauling took the project back to Pasadena, where he and Ava Helen, along with some
volunteers, mailed hundreds of additional copies to researchers in more American universities
and national laboratories. Within a few weeks they had gathered some two thousand
signatures, including more than fifty members of the National Academy of Sciences
and a few Nobel laureates.
On June 3, Pauling released his signatures to the world, sending copies to the United
Nations and President Eisenhower. The petition made national headlines -- and spurred
an immediate attempt to isolate its primary author. Even the president took a shot
at Pauling. "I noticed that in many instances scientists that seem to be out of their
own field of competence are getting into this argument about bomb testing," said Eisenhower,
"and it looks almost like an organized affair." This thinly veiled allusion to Communist
backing for Pauling’s effort was echoed by a number of other critics of the ban-the-Bomb
movement. The head of HUAC blasted Pauling on the floor of Congress for spreading
Soviet propaganda. A few days later Pauling was subpoenaed to appear before a Senate
investigatory committee (although those hearings were delayed, then canceled). Through
it all, he continued to broaden the distribution of his petition through the end of
1957, expanding his mailing list to scientists around the world, including many in
Communist countries. By the beginning of 1958, he and Ava Helen counted more than
9,000 signatures. When the expanded petition response was submitted to the United
Nations, it once again made headlines worldwide.