Kenneth G. Wilson

Banquet speech

Kenneth G. Wilson’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1982

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank everyone who has made our stay in Sweden so wonderful.

The Nobel Prize is the highest honor recognized by the scientific community. The Nobel award occasions a unique celebration of the vision of science by the public at large. The prestige the prize confers today is largely due to the extraordinary diligence of the Nobel committees. Their heroic efforts over the years have maintained the highest standards expected by scientists the world over. My colleagues who have devoted their lives to the study of critical phenomena feel especially honored by today’s Prize, as I know from their many letters to me. My many friends in elementary particle physics likewise share in present joy.

The scientist’s inquiry into the causes of things is providing an ever more extensive understanding of nature. In consequence, science is more important than ever for industrial technology. Industry now should become a full partner of government in supporting longrange basic research. This is necessary to overcome the slippage of the last decade, especially in instrumentation for both basic research and advanced training in universities. Through this additional support, we must renew our commitment to provide talented young people with the opportunity to build scientific careers based on their curiosity, the same opportunity that was provided to me when I began my work.

The hardest problems of pure and applied science can only be solved by the open collaboration of the world-wide scientific community. Scientists under all forms of government must be able to participate fully in international efforts. There are equally hard problems in determining the impacts, harmful or beneficial, of technology on man and his environment. World-wide collaboration and debate is necessary to obtain correct assessments of these impacts. Scientists, wherever they may be, should be listened to in both government and industry when they report their findings.

The greatest barrier to human progress is the international arms race. Military planning and technology development should be concentrated more on purely defensive systems. There should be less reliance on nuclear arms, because of the terrible consequences of their use. Nuclear weapons development throughout the world should cease.

I accept with pride the 1982 Nobel Prize for Physics. I accept also the responsibility to work myself on some of these issues. I will try to do my best on them. Thank you.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1982, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1983

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1982

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