Polykarp Kusch

Banquet speech

Polykarp Kusch’ speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1955

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

No previous experience in life has given me the same sense of humility as the present one. This feeling is inevitable in view of the many illustrious names which adorn the roll of those whom the Swedish Academy of Science has honored through the award of the Nobel Prize. I am deeply conscious of and grateful for the honor bestowed upon me by the Swedish Academy in adding my name to the list of those who have received the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The increase of scientific knowledge lies not only in the occasional milestones of science, but in the efforts of the very large body of men who with love and devotion observe and study nature. No single achievement in science is possible without the painstaking work of the many hundreds who have built the foundation on which all new work is based. To these men I pay my homage.

Scientific experimentation is a complex procedure. It would be an impossible task to perform a meticulous experiment without the aid and help of the technicians, the machinists, the glassblowers and others. These men have been infected by the spirit of science, even if untrained in science and perform their work with skill and enthusiasm. It is to the generations of such unsung heroes that I also pay my tribute.

Polykarp Kusch’ Address to the University Students on the Evening of December 10, 1956

First of all, let me thank you, on behalf of the Nobel Laureates of 1955, for your beautiful songs and your challenging words. In seeing you before me, I am again impressed by the certain knowledge that the future of truth and beauty as described by science and by the arts as well lies in your hands. The destiny of our society is yours to make and you have a vastly greater importance to the world than we do.

We live, I think, in the century of science and, perhaps, even in the century of physics. Science is the greatest creative impulse of our time. It dominates the intellectual scene and forms our lives, not only in the material things which it has given us, but also in that it guides our spirit. Science shows us truth and beauty and fills each day with a fresh wonder of the exquisite order which governs our world. I count myself fortunate to be able to participate in the life of science in this era. I feel, sometimes, as the renaissance man must have felt in finding new riches at every point and in the certainty that unexplored areas of knowledge and experience await at every turn. Those of us who have today been honored through the award of the Nobel Prize in the sciences envy those of you who are about to embark on a career in science. You have a world of unimaginable richness before you and we wish you well as you embark on your adventure of exploration.

The knowledge and understanding of the world which science gives us and the magnificent opportunity which it extends to us to control and use the world for the extension of our pleasure in it has never been greater than it now is. If, on occasion, the knowledge brought by science leads to an unhappy end, this is not to the discredit of science but is rather an indication of an imperfect ability to use wisely the gifts placed within our hands. To study man and his relationship with other men and the society in which he lives is the purpose of many of you. Indeed science alone may perhaps be sterile when pursued without an understanding of the world in which scientific knowledge is created and in which the fruits of science are used. To those of you who study history, economics, sociology, literature and language I present the challenge of the utilization of the enormous resources in our grasp to the problem of creating a genuinely good life for yourselves and your children. It is only through the combined efforts of all men of intelligence and understanding that this may be achieved.

Gentlemen! Every private carries in his knapsack a Marshall’s baton. Go to it, with our best wishes!

From Les Prix Nobel en 1955, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1956

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1955


To cite this section
MLA style: Polykarp Kusch – Banquet speech. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Mon. 11 Dec 2023. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1955/kusch/speech/>

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