Herbert A. Hauptman

Banquet speech

Herbert A. Hauptman’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1985

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I speak for Jerome Karle, as well as myself when I say that our journey to Stockholm began some 67 years ago when our parents, with unconscious wisdom, gave us a most precious gift, the freedom to grow as we wished, at our own pace, and in the direction of our own choosing. We chose to read a great deal, as soon as we were able, in all areas of science. To their credit our parents permitted, even encouraged, this activity when there may have been moments when they secretly questioned the wisdom of our course. We wish, on this occasion, to make grateful acknowledgement of our indebtedness to them for their sacrifices on our behalf.

We are grateful, too, for the opportunity to have attended the City College of New York, at a time when a free education was provided to those who qualified and who would not otherwise have been able to obtain a higher education. Without this splendid gift it is doubtful that we would be here today.

We are also indebted to the Naval Research Laboratory for supporting us in our pursuit of scientific knowledge for its own sake.

We wish finally to thank our wives for their continuing support and encouragement, particularly during the early years when our work was received with some skepticism.

We were fortunate, too, that our particular qualifications, Jerome Karle’s in physical chemistry and mine in mathematics, were the exact combination which was needed to enable us to tackle, with some hope of success, the phase problem of X-ray crystallography, the major stumbling-block in the solution of crystal structures by the technique of X-ray diffraction. Our sole motivation was to overcome the challenge which this problem presented, and our satisfactions came from the progress we made. We were fortunate, indeed, that the implications for structural chemistry turned out to be so far reaching; we did not anticipate them.

In summary then, we are grateful to all, including our scientific colleagues, who by their support helped bring us to this place; and we also readily acknowledge that good fortune played a major role.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1985, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1986

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1985

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