Lee Dembart's Feb. 8 commentary on Linus Pauling ("Linus Pauling: A Life in Science and Politics" by Ted Goertzel and Ben Goertzel, Basic Books; "Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling" by Thomas Hager, Simon & Schuster) begins: "Great men are seldom good men." To imply that Linus Pauling was not a good man, but "egotistical" and "intolerant" as well, flies in the face of what I saw when I interviewed him on two separate occasions, and what his staff, fellow scientists and many other associates told me during a documentary I produced with him.
During one interview, I asked how he came to be vilified by so many other scientists. "Excuse me," he interrupted, "you must mean medical doctors, not scientists. Don't confuse the two."
He was right. I had been talking about M.D.s. Even scientists who may have disagreed with him on occasion continue to applaud his brilliance, his courage and his great contributions to mankind. When James Watson and Francis Crick accepted their Nobel for DNA discoveries, they said they would have accomplished nothing without Pauling's earlier work.
While some achieve fame by seeking it, Pauling did not. Real men of science are not fueled by ego or inhibited by the fear of mistake. They usually are humbled by the vastness of knowledge yet to be discovered and they live for the joy of that discovery, which Pauling pursued exhaustively for 93 years. He also followed his conscience even when it wasn't politically correct and dared to challenge power brokers even at his own expense.
To me, he was both a great man and a good man.
CHUCK WINTNER, MALIBU