Joseph H. Taylor Jr.

Banquet speech

Joseph H. Taylor Jr.’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1993

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have heard earlier today that scientific discoveries come at unpredictable times. Just as a person cannot say “I shall write poetry,” another cannot say “I shall make a scientific discovery.”

Russell Hulse and I did not set out in 1973 to detect gravitational waves, or even to conduct experiments into the fundamental nature of gravity. Instead, we set out to chart the celestial globe with a new type of star – aware only that we were sailing a route none had explored before, and that wondrous new lands might be revealed beyond the next horizon.

We were young, well-prepared, and receptive, but not yet wise. We were playing a detective game, gathering clues and solving logical puzzles as they presented themselves.

One special new island, at first only faintly visible in our telescope, later showed its bounty in full relativistic glory. When its treasures were gathered and brought home, some after many years of labor, they provided keys to long-locked gates and added new notes to the symphony of natural law.

In discovering this new island and gathering its exotic fruits, Russell Hulse and I, and other colleagues in later years, were enjoying the privilege of doing what we like best: satisfying our own curiosities, by asking and answering questions. We sought no other reward than the pleasure of an exciting journey. To be honored by being here tonight is beyond our wildest youthful dreams of nineteen years ago, and brings us joy that mere words cannot express.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1993, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1994


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1993

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