Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

“A Liking for the Truth: Truth and Controversy in the Work of Linus Pauling.”

February 28, 2001

Videos: Session 1

Introductory Remarks and President's Greeting

Cliff Mead (Special Collections, Oregon State University Libraries), Steve Lawson (Linus Pauling Institute), Paul Risser (President, Oregon State University)

11:42 - Transcript Available

Cliff Mead, Steve Lawson and President Paul Risser open the Pauling Centenary Conference by describing the origins of the event's theme, acknowledging those who organized the occasion and providing an overview of the presentations to be made by the day's speakers. The broad ramifications of Linus Pauling's work are likewise touched upon, as is a more-detailed discussion of his contemporary impact on the Oregon State University campus.


Keynote Address: “Timing in the Invisible”

Ahmed Zewail (Chemistry and Physics, California Institute of Technology)

1:22:48 - Transcript Available

In his keynote address, Ahmed Zewail reflects upon his own relationship with Linus Pauling, mentioning in particular his organization of a symposium to celebrate Pauling's 85th birthday and his editing of The Chemical Bond: Structure and Dynamics, a collection of essays - including two written by Pauling - that trace the development of structural chemistry from 1900 to the present. Zewail then begins a discussion of the work on femtoscience that led to his receipt of the 1999 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Broadly speaking, femtoscience may be defined as the study of atomic behaviors that occur in very short periods of time. Prior to discussing the methods and instruments that he developed that have been so vital to the development of femtoscience, Zewail details several earlier historical breakthroughs in the measurement of longer segments of time. These breakthroughs include the development of the first calendar in 4200 BC, the invention of sundials in 1500 BC as well as the first mechanical clocks in 1500 AD, Edward Muybridge's famous photographic studies of galloping horses in 1887 and the first femtoscopic experiments, begun in 1980.

Zewail then offers a few ideas on the reasons why femtoscopic studies are useful to scientists. One primary use of femtoscience is the study of "the fundamental vibrational time scale" - the "spring-motion" movement of two bonded atoms - that occur in tiny segments of time ranging from 10-12 to 10-14 seconds. Within the fundamental vibrational time scale, scientists are able to observe many interesting chemical and biological phenomena including, for example, the mechanics of human vision and the properties of photosynthesis in plants. Femtoscopic experiments also provide a method for researchers to determine the amounts of energy that hold together different types of chemical bonds. In effect, femtoscience allows scientists to, in Zewail's words, "see bonds and atoms."

From there, Zewail discusses the import of femtoscience to the study of physics. In particular, femtoscopic methods have enabled physicists to develop better models of atoms in space without violating the postulates of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Likewise, femtoscience has assisted physicists in their quest to improve their understanding of the nature of light. Zewail then describes the experiments and the laser apparatus that his laboratory developed to make their crucial femtoscopic breakthroughs. Zewail's early work focused on relatively simple observations of the periodic stretching and compression of bonds between two atoms. From there, the laboratory moved on to more complex investigations, including measurements of the energy needed to break the bonds of a given atomic arrangement. At the time of his presentation, Zewail's current program of research was oriented toward the structure and function of complex systems, including hemoglobin and DNA, as well as inquiries into the theory of "molecular recognition."

Zewail concludes his talk by providing insight into the future of femtoscopic research. One particularly tantalizing possibility is the prospect of being able to break specific bonds within large chemical systems, a process that would allow scientists to modify and control the outcome of given chemical processes. Another area of focus is the development of more accurate models of biological systems, which might prompt a more complete understanding of certain biological phenomena, such as the poorly-understood idea of protein folding. Zewail likewise describes both contemporary work on the illumination of halogens as well as the evolution of improved experimental instruments, two welcome developments which, in tandem, suggest that Zewail's thoughts on future avenues for femtoscopic research are well within reason.

Following the close of Zewail's prepared remarks, members of the audience were given a chance to ask several questions of the Nobel laureate.


“The Price of Controversy”

Tom Hager (Pauling biographer)

44:27 - Transcript Available

Hager's talk focuses on the very real consequences that Linus Pauling faced for the outspoken anti-war and anti-nuclear views that he espoused, beginning shortly after World War II and spanning the duration of his life. Raised in a politically-conservative environment, Pauling was not initially inclined, philosophically, toward the positions that he would eventually advocate. Hager suggests that Pauling's radicalization, when it came, was swift and prompted by two sources: the awesome nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945, and the encouragement of his influential, left-leaning wife, Ava Helen. Hager also touches upon the impact that J.D. Bernal's writings had on the evolution of Pauling's thinking on society, science and warfare, and likewise describes Pauling's response to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the persecution of Jewish populations during the second world war.

Following the war Pauling rather quickly became a prominent figurehead for a growing movement among the scientific community that advocated for civilian control of nuclear technologies. As the Cold War heightened, Pauling's views - in particular his vociferous opposition to nuclear testing - grew increasingly at odds with those of the American political and media mainstream. Hager details the myriad ways in which Pauling was made to pay for his dissident beliefs: he was investigated by a private committee enlisted by Caltech president Lee DuBridge, he was frequently accused of contributing to an international Communist conspiracy, he was forced to defend his beliefs before both state and federal loyalty commissions, his security clearances and passport were revoked, and he was routinely castigated in the press.

Despite the many levels of resistance that he encountered, Pauling continued to speak out for the remainder of his life. Hager suggests that this resiliency was, to a degree, founded in Pauling's upbringing in Oregon - a state defined by independent, "cross-grained" attitudes. Hager honors Pauling's courage and concludes by lamenting the extent to which similar moral stands are now so uncommon within the scientific community.


Watch Other Videos

Session 1

Session 2