Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Excellent Adventure


In a stroke of genius, Tara and I both realized it'd make sense to skip school today, in favor of an excursion to Oregon State to visit the Linus & Ava Helen Pauling special collection and Doug Strain reading room, where scholars sit reading these papers, including all manner of private correspondence, although much of it's stashed on the web.

This field trip came about as a result of Linda Richard's presentation to Wanderers at the boyhood home of Linus Pauling on Hawthorne, another facility that owes a lot to Doug Strain, a student of Linus Pauling's at Caltech, Terry having put his ISEPP muscle behind keeping that urban mini-campus going, with Doug's backing and blessings.

Tara, Jeff and I didn't stay for Linda's talk at 4 pm, connecting the dots in the anti-nuclearism movement through the lives of five women and entitled One Woman's Collage of Nuclear Science History: Dorothy Day, Ava Helen Pauling, Dr. Alice Stewart, Rachel Carson and Winona LaDuke.

We're hoping she gives this talk again, or one like it, at the Pauling House sometime, plus she shared some big pieces of it over lunch. I'm so glad Tara got to be a part of all this. Mom would have loved it too, but she's in Geneva on WILPF business.

The archives includes Dr. Oppenheimer's mineral collection, correspondence with Dr. Einstein, the buffalo chaps Linus wore as a small boy, academic regalia. Very impressive. Cliff Mead, chief of special collections, runs a tight ship I can tell you.

When Dr. Pauling finally gave OSU the green light to inherit his papers in the 1980s, after a bruising episode in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War hysteria, Cliff showed up with a huge Mayflower moving truck, which was stuffed like a thanksgiving turkey by the time it was full. That made it very heavy, to where an axle snapped right there in the Paulings' Big Sur driveway, blocking access and egress for like two weeks.

Such was the auspicious beginning of what became a long and productive relationship, many more truckloads to follow (in terms of sheer volume). Tara got to hold a Nobel Prize, one of the two being passed around in one of the exhibit chambers, and came home to watch A Beautiful Mind again, finds that Nash guy intriguing.