Gerhard Herzberg

Banquet speech

Gerhard Herzberg’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1971

Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is very difficult to find appropriate words to say “thank you” for an honour like the Nobel Prize. It is the supreme honour that a scientist can receive. Some of the giants in physics and chemistry have received this prize. Rutherford, the founder of nuclear physics, received the prize in chemistry in 1908. A number of those who have taught me either directly or indirectly are on that list: James Franck, Max Born, Peter Debye, Harold Urey and many others. I should also like to pay tribute to two pioneers in molecular spectroscopy from Sweden, Heurlinger and Hulthén, who accomplished the first difficult analyses of molecular spectra in the 1920’s.

In receiving the award this year I think not only of these giants from whom I learned so much but also of my first teacher, Hans Rau, who guided my first steps in research, and to the many collaborators who helped me in my later work. Of them I should like to single out A. E. Douglas, whose quick and critical mind was always ready to help. I also think of my adopted country Canada, which gave a haven to me and my wife when we arrived as refugees. I think of the University of Saskatchewan which supported my work in its early stages and the National Research Council of Canada which provided an atmosphere so conducive to research.

Five years ago I received the great honour of an Honorary Degree from the University of Stockholm here in this building. It was at the same ceremony that His Majesty the King received an Honorary Degree from the Royal Caroline Medico-Chirurgical Institute. I felt doubly honoured that His Majesty was present throughout this ceremony. I could hardly have expected at that time that five years later I would stand here again in this building having received the great and supreme honour of the Nobel Prize from His Majesty’s hands. I shall be forever grateful. Tack så mycket.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1971, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1972

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1971

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MLA style: Gerhard Herzberg – Banquet speech. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Mon. 2 Oct 2023. <>

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