|Returning to Basics
Pauling was assigned to a medical advisory committee chaired by Walter W. Palmer,
a professor of medicine at Columbia University. Other than Pauling, the committee
was comprised entirely of medical specialists. While he seemed out of place among
the physicians and cardiologists, he had been deliberately selected for the position.
During his service as a consultant for the CMR from 1943-1944, Pauling had proven
himself to be an adept problem solver and knowledgeable on matters outside his own
field. More importantly, his experience with the intermixing of chemistry and biology
placed him at the forefront of a new approach to medical research. He was selected
because his work represented the future of medicine.
Once the committees had been organized, Bush plied them with discussion topics, asking
them to review the implications of government support for the sciences and to tease
out potential benefits and problems. Pauling was an enthusiastic advocate of government
funding for research. Like most researchers of the day, he was aware of the financial
troubles that often forestalled research and acted as an impediment to discovery.
Despite his displeasure with the OSRD, he believed that government dollars were the
best way to promote scientific growth and allow otherwise underfunded scientists to
make real progress in fields that didn't promise an immediate financial return.
Science leading up to World War II had been funded almost exclusively by universities
and corporations, both vying for the prestige and monetary profit resulting from marketable
discoveries. Many of the country's major companies like Bell, General Electric, and
Eastman Kodak hired chemists to work on new products or means of production, providing
well-staffed and well-equipped laboratories. This research often led to the commercially
successful discoveries that were so rare in academic research, but added much less
to the general body of scientific knowledge. The pure science that was being conducted
was based largely in the universities and research institutions around the country:
places like Caltech, Harvard, and MIT. Because pure science couldn't promise the
same economic returns that commercial science could, funding for university labs was
significantly less. By extension, corporate scientists often enjoyed larger paychecks
and better working conditions, leading many promising researchers to abandon their
professorships in favor of positions in the private sector.
Because of this phenomenon, universities were being bled of their most valuable researchers
and pure science had taken a back seat to the gadgeteering supported by private corporations.
Pauling believed that the most efficient way to address this problem was through government
funding. A governing body with the ability to assess the potential value of a research
project and then provide funds accordingly would allow for a sort of meritocracy within
the research community. Funding would be provided with an eye to the value of the
research in relation to the general body of scientific knowledge rather than its potential