Sir Cyril Hinshelwood

Banquet speech

Sir Cyril Hinshelwood’s Address to the University Students on the Evening of December 10, 1956

May it please Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Students of Stockholm.

Replying to this toast is a great responsibility for two reasons. On the one hand I have to speak for colleagues in a variety of different subjects and from various countries of the world. This consideration does not, however, weigh so very heavily on me. They have chosen me to speak for them, and therefore they must share the responsibility. Science and learning, moreover, are international, and just as earlier this evening I felt a special pleasure in the thought that Professer Semenov was representing me so now I hope we may all feel that a single spokesman is not inappropriate for what a great American called ‘one world’. In learning at least that is true.

The responsibility which weighs rather more heavily on me is that in thanking the Students of Stockholm for their greeting, I am in a sense passing a message from an older to a younger generation. That is something which I feel all the laureates will regard as a matter of great moment, because I believe we have all been, and are, in one way and another teachers, and I believe most of my colleagues will feel, as I do, that the handing on of knowledge has been one of the most satisfying things in their lives.

What else can I say to you that none of my colleagues will want to contradict?

You are citizens of a great city, a great home of Swedish science, with illustrious names in every field, and at the same time, through the Nobel Foundation, a world capital in Science. We are confident that you will maintain the great traditions of your home city.

You see us today receiving great rewards. I think I can say that such things do not come by being sought. They are strokes of good fortune. Speaking for myself, I was surprised to receive the award. I expect most of my fortunate companions will support me when I say that to follow the urge to know is the chief reward which should be sought. And if good fortune comes it may be accepted with gratitude. Faraday once said that although he did not actually want to be proved wrong, he looked forward to the day when all he had written would by the advance of discovery come to belong to the bygone parts of science. Perhaps we should say that to you, and it will be for your generation to bring it about.

One last thing: I am speaking for representatives of Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Literature. That we should stand together is an important symbol. You should remember that the division of knowledge into sciences and humanities is a false one. Both are parts of the great adventure of the human mind, and both should always be cultivated side by side. That is something which should never be forgotten.

Let me conclude by thanking you most sincerely for your greeting to us, and by offering with the warmest feelings of hope and confidence, our greeting to you: one generation to another.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1956, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1957

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1956

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