Linus Pauling: A great scientist and/or a crooked quack?
  • Linus Pauling is the only person to have won more than two Nobel Prizes in different fields. For some reason, Linus started taking very large doses of vitamin C and wrote a bestseller in 1970 on Common cold, vitamin C and ‘Flu. Even today, people buy and swallow vitamins, while wisdom says vitamin substitutes other than the ones in food are bad for health
“What by a straight path cannot be reached by crooked ways is never won.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I used to meet Linus Carl Pauling every time I went to the Bay Area in California where my daughter lives-not far from where he used to live in Palo Alto till his death.  I had a great admiration for him as my education was what our conventional textbooks write about these “greats”. I used to spend my mornings in his house. He was a pleasant man at 95 and had a clear thinking. What surprised me was that he used to have large barrels of sodium ascorbate, which he would scoop out now and then to drink it mixed with water. He would offer that to me also in place of midmorning tea. I never used to like it and had serious doubts about its validity even then. Most of our talk used to centre round vitamin C and its divine powers to cure all ills from common cold to cancer. When a double unshared Nobel Laureate opines thus, ordinary mortals like me are liable to be influenced. He used to write extensively on vitamin C and used to lecture all over the place.
Linus became famous at the young age of 30 when he got his first Nobel in 1954 for “his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances". Pauling summarized his work on the chemical bond in The Nature of the Chemical Bond, one of the most influential chemistry books. Even today, many modern scientific papers and articles in important journals cite this work, more than 70 years after the first publication. 
As an aside, my mentor and one of the greatest brains of this century, Prof Rustum Roy of Penn State University-fame did a stint with Linus Pauling at Berkeley. In 1954, when Linus got his first Nobel, Rustum Roy published his landmark paper on the “Sol-Gel” technic, the method to extract Nano particles. This paper has been cited 78,000 times to date. Although, he was nominated 21 times for the Nobel, the wise Nobel Committee ignored him and honoured some of his own students instead!  You can guess why.
How did Linus Pauling, such a brilliant person, become almost a quack blindly believing in Vitamin C’s prowess in treating all diseases even in the face of multitude of studies showing not only its uselessness but its dangers in large doses? 
In between, he became a fanatic anti-nuclear power activist and was partly responsible for the 1962 nuclear weapons ban treaty. In this, he unknowingly demonised that father of American Hydrogen Bomb, Edward Teller. Thus, he got his second Nobel Peace Prize. He was one of the four who got double Nobel prizes.
Edward Teller had significantly contributed to science including medical science. While trying to detonate the first hydrogen bomb in the Nevada desert, he had recorded the health status of Nevada citizens also that of the neighbouring states. One year after the test, Teller observed that those in the periphery, who got a miniscule dose of ionising radiation, had better health than before but those who got a bigger dose living close by did very badly. 
Teller called this effect Hormesis, where a very small dose of any substance can be bio-positive but the larger dose of the same could be bio-negative. He elegantly demonstrated that and published his data. Linus attacked him for that and said that he was wrongly destroying the health of the population. This added to the weight of his Peace Nobel for demonising Teller and his own colleague, Edward Calabrese, his director of research.
Calabrese’s sin was that one of his doctoral students worked on vitamin C and showed that while a small dose of vitamin C in nature (in a tomato) is strongly bio-positive,  even a 100 mg vitamin C tablet becomes strongly bio-negative, thus for the first time showing Hormesis in chemical drugs! Linus was mad at both the student and his guide, his own right hand man. Calabrese was dismissed and the student did not get his PhD. Linus even filed a civil liabilities case against Calabrese, which was settled after Linus died and his university had to pay ten million to Calabrese and reinstate him as Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.
What surprises most is how on earth, did Linus arrogantly go against all sane studies on vitamin C and vitamins in general as being bad for health to advocate Vitamin C in horse doses for cancer and many other illnesses including heart attacks? Nobody knows but the story is the same even now. 
In 2011, Minnesota University researchers showed that patients on multivitamins died at a faster rate and later Cleveland Clinic study showed that vitamin E increased prostate cancer deaths in men. At least 15 studies done in leading US universities, in London, Scotland and Netherland disproved Linus’s theory without exception -100% negative data. Even a surgeon in Scotland wrote to Linus that vitamin C had nothing to do with cancer, but Linus would not budge.
In 1962, Linus got a letter from one Irwin Stone, who advised him to take large doses of vitamin C to ward of his constant colds. Stone was only a small time chemist but Linus strongly believed that Stone was a doctor and called him so. For some unknown reason, Linus started taking very large doses of vitamin C and wrote a book in 1970 on Common cold, vitamin C and ‘Flu. 
This became a best seller and people lined up to buy Vitamin C and the chemists could not keep pace. The manufacturers got double, triple, and quadruple sales. They happily called that as “Linus Pauling Effect.” Even today mad people buy multivitamins, C, E, D etc. and swallow them while the present wisdom says that vitamin substitutes other than the ones in food are bad for health. In India doctors prescribe vitamins for their patients, mostly for the benefit of the drug lobby! God save man!
 “Lawyers have to make a living, and can only do so by inducing people to believe that a straight line is crooked.” -Alfred Nobel
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London.) 
Robert Lall
9 years ago
I would like to see the published studies showing the ineffectiveness of high dose intraveniously administered high dose vitamin C in curing viral and bacterial infections. I would like to see the proof the writings of Dr. Frederick Klenner about the use of intravenious vitamin C are untrue or deliberate falsehoods.
prasad gadgil
9 years ago
very interesting... did know that the natural sources are best, but not about this scientist etc...
9 years ago
Professor Hedge claims that, "wisdom says vitamin substitutes other than the ones in food are bad for health."

It's not "wisdom" that claims that. It is hype, lies, biased studies (including those referred to by Hedge in this piece), and propaganda by the detractors of vitamin therapy, which are mostly spokesmen (like Hedge) and hacks of the business of orthodox medicine (google/bing "2 Big Lies: No Vitamin Benefits & Supplements Are Very Dangerous by Rolf Hefti").

Hedge provides no scientific references anywhere for his anti-vitamin, anti-Pauling statements. You are supposed to trust his words (they must be true because he's a professor - it's the type of authority indoctrination most of the gullible public falls for endlessly). This is politics.

The lackluster significance of this article is further supported by Hedge's incorrect statement that Pauling "was a pleasant man at 95" when he died at age 93.

Supporters and salesmen of the mainstream medical establishment, like Hedge, have long discounted Pauling as some crooked quack when in fact a closer look at the real evidence shows irrefutably who the real quacks are.

The fact that such drivel is getting published is a sign of the hegemony of the propaganda culture.
kapil bajaj
Replied to ButNito comment 9 years ago
ButNito, with words like "hype", "lies", "authority indoctrination", "drivel" this comments of yours borders on the vituperative.

Instead of engaging in such a rant, which doesn't inform or enlighten anyone in any meaningful way, you should make the point you want to make in reasoned terms.

You rail against the "hegemony of the propaganda culture" and yet your comment and its inability to convey anything sensible makes you come across as propagandist yourself - a 'swear and scoot' kind of propagandist who doesn't have anything good to offer.
9 years ago
Its like Farmers disagree on what Fertilizer to use, Manure or Chemical Fertilizer, Manure adds fiber to the soil, yet can also pathogens, add E. Coli to the soil. Plants are pleased with Chemical Fertilizers and adds no pathogens to the plants or soil.

I found people speak of all cancers as being the result of viruses, therefore hard to believe that Vitamin C would help then. Wikipedia wrote he died of prostate cancer.

A virus can camouflage themselves as a food particle, a lipoprotein, a lipid surrounding a protein - the virus, they appear in different sizes, so very small are they, that a electron microscope is used to see them.

That is why its good to get vaccinated, its good to educate your body, to find the Trojan horse in the body - the virus.

They told me a molecule is molecule, whether you get a vitamin pill or fruits and vegetable, the blood work that the doctor sends people to, a lab, will show how much is there. They are undecided on some minerals, they wonder if some are are worth while to use.

Simple Indian
9 years ago
Yet another excellent article from Prof Dr. Hegde. Always enjoy reading his well-researched articles. Ironically, though he is a medical practitioner himself, he often berates his ilk for prescribing excessive medicines, usually when none is required. Kudos to his resolve to bring blatant malpractices in medical profession to lay readers.
As for Linus Pauling, seems he was a maverick scientist who had blind faith in Vitamin C. Being a scientist, one would expect him to be more rational, unless he thrived on large funding from the pharma industry for his scientific pursuits. Perhaps it also proves that geniuses are often highly eccentric too.
9 years ago
As the saying goes excess of everything is very bad I agree with Dr. Hegde in a way that too much of artificially created drugs, vitamins etc will affect a bio species adversely. It is well known by now that the medical professionals recommend a large quantity of medicines and vitamins to increase the profit of the drug companies. But Dr. Hegde has cited very little authentic references- just one or two- to prove that Linus Pauling advocacy in favour of Vitamin C was wrong. He has also not provided comparative data to show how much would be too much. Linus, surviving for 94 years with high intake Vitamin C goes in favour of Linus advocacy.
kapil bajaj
Replied to vns comment 9 years ago
vns, you are perhaps slightly off the mark as regards the place and purpose of this article.

I don't think any reader of Moneylife would reasonably expect this site to publish articles in the manner of medical research papers with what you'd describe as "authentic references" and "comparative data" in quantities that might satisfy the technically inclined such as yourself.

Conversely, why would be the readers of medical research papers be looking into Moneylife for "authentic references" and "comparative data" to "prove" (as you put it) things like whether Pauling was right or wrong in his advocacy of Vitamin C?

The article says, by the way, that "At least 15 studies done in leading US universities, in London, Scotland and Netherland disproved Linus’s theory without exception - 100% negative data."

Moreover, this article is being read on the Web. I am sure interested readers would not find it too inconvenient to find some time to do their own search for and research into more material.

(I am also unsure about your suggestion that Pauling's age goes in favour of his advocacy of Vitamin C.

There must be thousands of people across the world who would have lived beyond 94 without Pauling-like imbibing and advocacy of Vitamin C.

Does that mean Pauling might well have had a chance of scoring a century without Vitamin C?)
Replied to kapil bajaj comment 9 years ago
There is no point in writing such an Article providing half baked information and Moneylife or any other journal should ensure that Articles provide sufficient information to convince the reader this way or that, not directing every reader to do reasearch. If Linus reco of Vit C was that seriously bad I am sure Americans as a Nation and Western scientists would have done sufficient studies and concluded jointly on the issue of Vit C already. The Article has been made eye catching for no reason. Intake and absorption of eatables also has physiological parameters of individuals. My point is that generalising a few experiences is not good enough.
kapil bajaj
Replied to vns comment 9 years ago
"There is no point in writing such an Article," vns?

You obviously don't take yourself very seriously.

If you did, you wouldn't spend your time reading a rather 'pointless' article through and then spend more time commenting on it twice.

And you wouldn't go all the way to express qualified agreement with the article and then say that "there is no point in writing such an article".

Who's "directing every reader to do research"?

I don't see any such "direction" here.

You are obviously a very imaginative person. And you do seem to know as much about "Americans as a Nation and Western scientists" as you do about "physiological parameters of individuals".
Narendra Doshi
9 years ago
Interesting information.
Madhur Kotharay
9 years ago
Dr Hedge, what is your view on Vitamin D? Your last paragraph seems to indicate that Vitamin D should not be taken as a supplement.

Practically impossible to get it from food for most people. And if you are an office executive, impossible to get from sun exposure.

97% of the 'normal' people we have tested for Vitamin D3 are deficient. How does one rectify that problem? Or are the normal levels recommended by NIH too high and wrong?
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