E. M. Purcell’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1952
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and gentlemen,
The Nobel Prize, so long regarded in our science as the highest reward a man’s work can earn, must bring to its recipient a most solemn sense of his debt to his fellow scientists and those of the past. You may be sure that Professor Bloch and I share alike in this feeling. It has been expressed more eloquently by others in this place. In these few words, I want to mention another result of our work, one that has deeply gratified us both. It is the fact that our particular field of research, growing since the war, has played some small part in renewing the bonds with laboratories in many countries. I think first of three great laboratories on this side of the Atlantic, the Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory at Leiden, the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford, and the Nobel Institute for Physics here in Stockholm, with its illustrious tradition of elegant and precise experiment. Progress in the understanding of nuclear magnetism, and in its applications, owes very much to the work in these laboratories. But there are many other laboratories too, some as far away as Tokyo and Calcutta, where our scientific friends are working in nuclear magnetism. No walls of secrecy or suspicion divide us. On the contrary, free and friendy exchange of ideas has brought us close together. I wish only that these friends could share with us the warmth and kindness of your hospitality – for which, from Professor Bloch and myself, our very sincere thanks.
Prior to the speech, Harald Cramér, member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, addressed the laureate: “Dr Bloch and Dr Purcell! You have opened the road to new insight into the micro-world of nuclear physics. Each atom is like a subtle and refined instrument, playing its own faint, magnetic melody, inaudible to human ears. By your methods, this music has been made perceptible, and the characteristic melody of an atom can be used as an identification signal. This is not only an achievement of high intellectual beauty – it also places an analytic method of the highest value in the hands of scientists.”