The Linus Pauling Legacy Award

Linus Pauling Jr., M.D.

As the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth approached in 2001, I looked for a way to publicly recognize his many varied contributions to our society. The result was the Linus Pauling Centennial Award for Science, Peace, or Health, “established in the year 2001 in honor of Linus Pauling (1901-1994) and dedicated to recognition of outstanding achievement by an individual or organization in a subject of interest to Linus Pauling.” A stellar Advisory Committee, which includes six Nobel Laureates, participates in the Award selection.

The first Award and its accompanying bronze medal went to Daisaku Ikeda “for his indefatigable efforts on behalf of peace—and for the establishment of cultural and educational institutions to inform and educate people of all ages of the necessity for peace.” Ikeda and the organization of which he is president, Soka Gakkai International, with cosponsors Oregon State University and the Pauling family, provided the funding, staff, and expertise for the major exhibition, Linus Pauling and the 20th Century, which was visited by over one million people in 19 venues around the world from 1998 to 2003.

The second Award was presented in 2003 to Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat, now Emeritus President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, “for groundbreaking research in nuclear medicine; for courageous efforts to educate the people of the world of the perils of nuclear war—and to organize and stimulate the scientists of the world to recognize their responsibilities created by technological achievement and to assist in the development of mechanisms for reduction of nuclear threat.”

The third Award, now under the aegis of OSU’s Special Collections in the Valley Library and entitled the Linus Pauling Legacy Award, was presented by OSU President Ed Ray to Matthew Stanley Meselson on May 5, 2004. While at OSU, Dr. Meselson also gave a series of lectures, including the annual Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Lecture in World Peace. Professor Meselson, now Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences at Harvard, took a freshman course in chemistry at Caltech from Linus Pauling. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of Chicago and then returned to Caltech to take his Ph.D. with Linus Pauling. In fact, he was the last doctoral candidate that Linus Pauling accepted.

As a Research Fellow and Assistant Professor in 1958, Dr. Meselson and his colleague, Dr. Franklin Stahl, now a professor at the University of Oregon, developed what has been termed “one of the most beautiful experiments in biology,” which proved experimentally the semiconservative replication of DNA as postulated by James Watson and Francis Crick, whose determination of the structure of DNA built on the work of Linus Pauling. Briefly, the Meselson-Stahl experiment showed that during DNA replication the two strands separate from each other and form the templates for new strands, each of which then combines with one of the old strands in a new helix.

In 1960 Dr. Meselson moved to my alma mater, Harvard, where he’s been ever since, working mainly in molecular genetics and molecular evolution. He has established a reputation as an authority on chemical and biological weapons and is Director of the Harvard Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons Limitation. Dr. Meselson attained notoriety during the Vietnam war for his findings that the defoliant Agent Orange was injurious to humans because it was contaminated with dioxin and that the so-called “yellow rain,” claimed by the American government as being a Communist chemical warfare agent, was actually bee feces. He also investigated the mysterious human anthrax outbreak in the U.S.S.R. in 1979, concluding that it was accidentally caused by a disallowed military test.

Professor Meselson is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the Royal Society, the French Academy of Science, the Russian Academy of Science, the American Philosophical Society, and numerous other distinguished organizations. He has received the Award in Molecular Biology from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the 2004 Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science, and honorary doctorates from Columbia, Chicago, Yale, Princeton, and other universities.

The Linus Pauling Legacy Award will be presented biennially, alternating with the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research, which is an award that recognizes excellence in areas related to the research mission of LPI and will be presented at the LPI “Diet and Optimum Health” conference in May 2005.

Last updated November 2004


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