Percy W. Bridgman

Banquet speech

Percy W. Bridgman’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1946

It is my pleasant duty on behalf of my colleagues in physics, Messrs. Pauli and Stern, as well as on my own behalf, to express our deep appreciation and gratitude for the high honor that has been bestowed upon us. It is, I think, the universal opinion among physicists that a physicist may attain no higher single honor than the Nobel award.

We are also keenly conscious of the arduous labor which the bestowing of these awards imposes on the Nobel Committee. We are grateful to them, and hope that they may feel that their labors have to some extent been justified.

In the United States one often hears the remark that of all the countries of the world Sweden is the most civilized. Not the least of the evidence of this civilization is the provision for the Nobel awards. Alfred Nobel surely displayed the highest wisdom in establishing these prizes. It would not be possible to overestimate the effect which they have had in stimulating the growth of science in all countries, and in promoting the feeling of universal brotherhood among scientists. Not only has science itself been stimulated, but also the cause of peace. There would be no more worthy recipient of his own peace prize than Alfred Nobel because of the indirect effect of his encouragement of science.

Finally it remains to express our deep appreciation of the courtesy and hospitality of all whom we have met in Stockholm. In this you have achieved the supreme success of making us feel that you have enjoyed extending your hospitality. We shall never forget the pleasure you have given us.

Prior to the speech, Sigurd Curman, President of the Royal Academy of Sciences, addressed the laureate: “This year’s Nobel prize-winner in physics, Professor P.W. Bridgman, has taken as his task the study of the properties of matter at very high pressures which, in general, do not exist on the earth, but within it. You, Mr. Bridgman, have succeeded in doing what was once considered impossible. By the use of new alloys and by other ingenious devices you have been able figuratively speaking, to bring into your laboratory parts of the interior of the earth or of other places where no human being is able to exist, and you have been able there to examine the physical and chemical properties of a quantity of different substances under the enormous pressures you have created. You have thus been able to reveal a number of strange phenomena in the behaviour of matter under other circumstances than those which we consider to be normal. Your work has cast new light on nature’s great and mysterious treasure-chamber, about which our famous compatriot Carl von LinnĂ© once said: ‘This is but the least we have yet seen of the work of the Lord, much is still hidden from us.’ When we now congratulate you on the results you have hitherto achieved, we add a heartfelt wish for continued success in your efforts to throw light in things as yet hidden from us.”

From Les Prix Nobel en 1946, Editor Arne Holmberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1947

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1946


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