|Returning to Basics
Pauling was assigned to a medical advisory committee chaired by Walter W. Palmer, a professor of medicine at Columbia University.
Other than Pauling, the committee was comprised entirely of medical specialists. While he seemed out of place among the physicians
and cardiologists, he had been deliberately selected for the position. During his service as a consultant for the CMR from
1943-1944, Pauling had proven himself to be an adept problem solver and knowledgeable on matters outside his own field. More
importantly, his experience with the intermixing of chemistry and biology placed him at the forefront of a new approach to
medical research. He was selected because his work represented the future of medicine.
Once the committees had been organized, Bush plied them with discussion topics, asking them to review the implications of
government support for the sciences and to tease out potential benefits and problems. Pauling was an enthusiastic advocate
of government funding for research. Like most researchers of the day, he was aware of the financial troubles that often forestalled
research and acted as an impediment to discovery. Despite his displeasure with the OSRD, he believed that government dollars
were the best way to promote scientific growth and allow otherwise underfunded scientists to make real progress in fields
that didn't promise an immediate financial return.
Science leading up to World War II had been funded almost exclusively by universities and corporations, both vying for the
prestige and monetary profit resulting from marketable discoveries. Many of the country's major companies like Bell, General
Electric, and Eastman Kodak hired chemists to work on new products or means of production, providing well-staffed and well-equipped
laboratories. This research often led to the commercially successful discoveries that were so rare in academic research,
but added much less to the general body of scientific knowledge. The pure science that was being conducted was based largely
in the universities and research institutions around the country: places like Caltech, Harvard, and MIT. Because pure science
couldn't promise the same economic returns that commercial science could, funding for university labs was significantly less.
By extension, corporate scientists often enjoyed larger paychecks and better working conditions, leading many promising researchers
to abandon their professorships in favor of positions in the private sector.
Because of this phenomenon, universities were being bled of their most valuable researchers and pure science had taken a back
seat to the gadgeteering supported by private corporations. Pauling believed that the most efficient way to address this
problem was through government funding. A governing body with the ability to assess the potential value of a research project
and then provide funds accordingly would allow for a sort of meritocracy within the research community. Funding would be
provided with an eye to the value of the research in relation to the general body of scientific knowledge rather than its
potential commercial worth.