The U.S. Postal Service Honors Linus Pauling
When Linus Pauling enrolled at Oregon Agricultural College — Oregon State University’s predecessor — in 1917 to study chemical engineering, he was taking the first steps on a path that would lead him to Stockholm, Sweden, in 1954 to accept the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
By the time Pauling died in 1994, he was not only the first person ever to win a second individual Nobel, but one of the most decorated and respected scientists of the 20th century. The U.S. Postal Service recently recognized Pauling’s lifetime of achievements with a new set of “American Scientists” stamps honoring Pauling, biochemist Gerti Cory, astronomer Edwin Hubble and physicist John Bardeen.
To celebrate the stamp’s official March 6 release, OSU hosted an unveiling in the Memorial Union Ballroom featuring Linus Pauling Jr. and Corvallis Postmaster John Herrington, who stamped envelopes with a commemorative postmark (PDF) designed specially for the occasion. More than 300 people attended the event, and the city of Corvallis sold out of American Scientist stamps by the end of the event. “The way that Linus Pauling has taken off here at OSU is extremely rewarding, and OSU has my eternal thanks,” said Pauling Jr.
Pauling was known for working successfully in different disciplines throughout his life — physics, chemistry and biomedical research, to name a few. His stamp honors one of his most significant discoveries in molecular biology — a field he pioneered. Pauling’s studies of hemoglobin led to his 1948 discovery of the molecular nature of sickle cell anemia. “That discovery made him look into the scientific, social and political aspects of that kind of work,” says Cliff Mead, head of Special Collections for the OSU Valley Library. It was because of Pauling’s discovery, Mead says, that sickle cell anemia became treatable.
Though Pauling earned his bachelor’s degree in 1922 and spent the rest of his academic and professional life at California universities and research centers, his fondness for OSU never waned. In 1986, he donated his papers to OSU; the collection numbers more than 500,000 items, and it includes material on Pauling’s research into human blood and sickle cell anemia.
Two years after his death, the Linus Pauling Institute, which he helped to create, was moved from California to OSU, where it continues Pauling’s scientific legacy through internationally acclaimed research on vitamins and essential minerals. The institute was named a center of excellence for complementary and alternative medicine by the National Institutes of Health in 2003 — a status renewed recently with a $6-million grant from the NIH.
Pauling’s legacy lives on in many other ways at OSU as well, from the annual Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture for World Peace to the Linus Pauling Chair in Chemical Engineering, held now by Dr. Philip Harding.
“Linus Pauling placed an enormous amount of trust in OSU to serve as the guardian of his legacy,” says Mead. “We take that responsibility very seriously, and we honor the faith he invested in OSU through our efforts to make his knowledge available to scholars around the world.”