Murray Gell-Mann’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1969
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
As a theoretical physicist, I feel at once proud and humble at the thought of the illustrious figures that have preceded me here to receive the greatest of all honors in science, the Nobel prize. I think also of my colleagues in elementary particle theory in many lands, and feel that in some measure I am here as a representative of our small, informal, international fraternity.
We are driven by the usual insatiable curiosity of the scientist, and our work is a delightful game. I am frequently astonished that it so often results in correct predictions of experimental results. How can it be that writing down a few simple and elegant formulae, like short poems governed by strict rules such as those of the sonnet or the waka, can predict universal regularities of Nature? Perhaps we see equations as simple because they are easily expressed in terms of mathematical notation already invented at an earlier stage of development of the science, and thus what appears to us as elegance of description really reflects the interconnectedness of Nature’s laws at different levels.
For me, the study of these laws is inseparable from a love of Nature in all its manifestations. The beauty of the basic laws of natural science, as revealed in the study of particles and of the cosmos, is allied to the litheness of a merganser diving in a pure Swedish lake, or the grace of a dolphin leaving shining trails at night in the Gulf of California, or the loveliness of the ladies assembled at this banquet.
Detta lands folk har visat kärlek och hänsyn till skönheten som den framträder i alla dessa former; i synnerhet kan man gratulera svenskarna till att ha värdesatt och bevarat sitt naturliga arv. Nu lyssnar vi i Förenta Nationerna till Sveriges uppmaning till hela världen att undersöka hur vi alla kan bidra till att bevara och återställa det naturliga tillståndet på var blåa planet, som ser så inbjudande ut fjärran ifrån.
För mig är det ett stort personligt nöje att åter besöka Sverige och att för första gången få besöka dess vänliga huvudstad. På min kära hustru Margarets, min brors, och mina egna vägnar: ett hjärtligt tack for all gästfrihet mot oss. Tack!
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.