This Day in History

April 29, 1962: Paulings Protest Nuclear Testing

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: Environment, Science

Linus PaulingOn April 28 and 29, 1962 Linus Pauling (Nobel Prize-winner for chemistry in 1954) and Ava Helen Pauling, with several hundred other demonstrators, marched in front of the White House to protest against the resumption of U.S. atmospheric nuclear testing.

The Paulings marched in advance of a White House dinner they were attending on the evening of April 29 for U.S. Nobel Prize winners.

Pauling had written to President John F. Kennedy twice that same year to make the same plea, on January 26 and on March 1, 1962. Here are excerpts from the January letter:

Dear Mr. President:

I urge that you not order the resumption of atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons by the United States.

So far the United States has carried out about twice as many test explosions of nuclear weapons as the Soviet Union. The megatonnage of the bombs tested by the Soviet Union is about 60 percent greater than that of the bombs tested by the United States, but it is the number of tests, rather than the total megatonnage, that determines the amount of information obtained. There is no doubt that the United States still has a great lead over the Soviet Union in nuclear weapons technology.

March 1, 1962 letter from Linus Pauling to President Kennedy. Source: Oregon State University’s Special Collections

It is not necessary for the protection of the United States and the American people for our government to resume nuclear testing in the atmosphere.

There is general agreement among biological scientists about the biological effects of radioactive fallout. No one can deny that the fission products produced by these tests in the atmosphere cause genetic mutations that will lead to the birth of grossly defective children.

Here are excerpts from the March letter:

President John F. Kennedy, White House:

Are you going to give an order that will cause you to go down in history as one of the most immoral men of all time and one of the greatest enemies of the human race?

Are you going to be guilty of this monstrous immorality, matching that of the Soviet leaders, for the political purpose of increasing the still imposing lead of the United States over the Soviet Union in nuclear weapons technology?

Read about Pauling’s defense of Japanese Americans returning to Los Angeles after leaving the concentration camps in Linus Pauling: Advisor and Advocate by Jonathan van Harmelen in Discover Nikkei.

Below are more people’s history resources on nuclear weapons and nuclear power.