Fifty years ago Oregon born OSU graduate and 1954 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry Linus Pauling with his wife Ava Helen, demanded the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union end nuclear bomb explosion tests, arguing that the fallout from the weapons contaminated the globe with dangerous radioactivity. The Paulings presented a petition to UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld with more than 11,000 signatures, seeking to end nuclear weapons testing as a first step toward total nuclear disarmament.
Later that same year, Linus Pauling and 17 others filed a lawsuit against the Atomic Energy Commission and the Dept. of Defense to end nuclear testing. He also published the seminal book No More War! In 1983, he wrote a new preface to the 25th anniversary edition of the book, which reads in part as follows:
“Twenty-five years ago the message of this book was that the development of great nuclear weapons requires that war be given up, for all time – that the forces that can destroy the world must not be used.
This is still the message of the book.
The danger of world destruction in a nuclear war is greater than ever before…I hope that when the year 2008 arrives, after another 25 years, the world will have survived and the human race still will be here (although I probably shall no longer be living) but that there will be no need to republish the book, because the goal of world peace will have been achieved, militarism and nuclear weapons will have been brought under control and the threat of world destruction will finally have been abolished.”
No More War! approached peace and disarmament in much the same way that Pauling approached science: Pauling used his genius to see the connections between the chemical bond, molecules, biology, physics and genetics to explain the dangers of nuclear weapons, radiation and fallout.
Pauling also presented alternatives to violence to build genuine, lasting security by developing systems of coexistence, human rights and international law.
The final chapter outlined his wish that resources be contributed not to weapons, but to understanding and eliminating the conditions that lead to war by researching what creates peace. He proposed, among other things, a UN World Peace Research Organization.
The book contains appendices that are actually a history of actions and petitions that contributed to the attainment of the Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty, including the famous Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955, the last petition signed by Einstein before his death. That manifesto ends with a plea: “There lies before us, if we choose continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom.
Shall we instead choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest.”
The day that the Atmospheric Test ban Treaty took effect — Oct. 10, 1963 — Pauling was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Ava and Linus Pauling Papers in the OSU Valley Library contain more than 500,000 documents and artifacts of their lives and is the largest such collection anywhere of a scientist. The materials were donated by Linus Pauling in 1986 to OSU in hopes that his and Ava Helen’s work for a better world where human needs are met would be continued.
Masterfully catalogued by archivist Cliff Mead, researcher Chris Petersen and a staff of honor students, the papers are organized to achieve maximum impact and access with vibrant, interactive Web pages.
The Ava and Linus Pauling Papers illuminate Pauling’s ability to connect diverse concepts to find likely unifying theories, using a stochastic approach to truth, as described by his biographer Tom Hager: “Pauling used a leap of courage to make an educated guess.”
Pauling believed in generating lots of ideas that could be discarded to find one that is likely to be correct, and it is with this confidence he has left so much behind for us to continue his work.
Link to a documentary history of Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement:
A three-minute video of Linus Pauling addressing the dangers of atomic power, and additional information relating to Pauling’s book: No More War!
Linda Richards is a master’s degree candidate in the History of Science program at OSU, as well as a graduate teaching assistant.