Donald A. Glaser

Banquet speech

Donald A. Glaser’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1960

Your Majesties, your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As my fellow laureates in science have just emphasized to you, the advance of modern science is possible only because of the complete cooperation and collaboration of many scientists. We depend heavily not only on the insights and successes of our predecessors who have built the foundations on which we work, but also on the day-to-day exchanges of ideas and experimental results which are the product of scientific research. All of us feel quite strongly that we stand here to be honored mainly as representatives of the scientific community who share in this work.

My own field of research, high energy nuclear physics, is especially remote from the experience of ordinary daily life since it deals with experiments on objects much too small to see or perceive directly. Cooperative efforts are particularly essential in this field because very expensive and large machines must be used in the types of experiments which are currently the most fruitful.

The first Nobel Prize in physics was awarded in 1901, nearly sixty years ago, so in a way I represent the third generation of Nobel laureates in physics.

There are several specific ways in which I consider myself a third generation Nobel laureate. My major professor in graduate school, Professor Carl D. Anderson, is a Nobel laureate, as was his teacher, Professor Robert A. Millikan, so that now my students are beginning to look at each other with a certain increased interest. Secondly, I am the third physicist to be honored for having developed an instrument for “seeing” the tracks of atomic particles. Professor C.T.R. Wilson was the first to do this with his cloud chamber, and Professor C.F. Powell was the second with his development of the nuclear emulsion technique. My work was inspired and was, in fact, only possible because of the work of my predecessors in this field. It will be useful only because of the work of my colleagues and successors. As a final example of cooperation among scientists which has extended into the third generation, the white vest which I am wearing belongs to Professor Edwin M. McMillan, who wore it here in 1951; it was also worn here in 1959 by Professor Emilio Segrè. It has now come to be regarded by Professor McMillan as a very valuable piece of equipment.

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Alfred Nobel and to the many individuals and institutions in Sweden which have so effectively carried out his wishes in bringing great honor to science and literature.

Prior to the speech, B. Lindblad, President of the Royal Academy of Sciences, addressed the laureate: “Dr. Glaser, you have succeeded in making the paths of the elementary particles of matter visible in a new way, by which particles of high energy can be effectively studied. Your methods have been of immense importance for researches concerning the penetrating cosmic rays and in particular concerning the particles created by the extremely powerful accelerators of the present time.”

From Les Prix Nobel en 1960, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1961

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1960


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