Vivian and I have always enjoyed visiting Stockholm. The Baltic light generates very special colors in the summer skies, and even in the longer nights of Swedish winters the air has a refreshing crispness that is given a special sparkle in December by the Christmas lights shining in most windows. Stockholm has always seemed an especially friendly city, with a welcoming architecture, and the many lakes and Baltic inlets that surround and hold the city generate their own special aura.

Our latest visit, as guests of the Nobel Foundation, the Swedish government, and the Swedish Institute was very special for two reasons. First, we were able to participate in this year’s “Nobel Week” activities, which were climaxed by the annual presentation of the Nobel Prizes in Literature, Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine and Physiology. Other activities range from the delivery of the Nobel lectures (by each of the Prize recipients) to luncheons, dinners, formal banquets and balls, concerts, and meetings of various types. Second, the December 1993 Nobel ceremonies were a very proud moment to be a Princetonian or to be Princeton’s president, since three members of our community were Nobel Prize winners. As you – and the world – know by now, Toni Morrison won the Prize in Literature and Joe Taylor and Russell Hulse were awarded the Prize in Physics.

Everywhere we went people asked about Princeton and its accomplishments. Toni Morrison, Joe Taylor, and Russell Hulse gave wonderful Nobel lectures (the only requirement of the Prize). When Vivian and I entered Stockholm’s Concert Hall (white tie only!) and realized once again that Princeton scholars would occupy three of the nine chairs onstage, it was a proud moment. Eight of the nine prizes went to scholars working in the United States. The ninth went to Professor M. Smith of the University of British Columbia.

At the City Hall Banquet and Ball following the award ceremonies, Toni Morrison entered the Great Hall (with trumpets blaring) on the arm of the King of Sweden, and I think this was his greatest moment! The other Nobelists, members of their families, and other dignitaries followed in a grand procession. Pageantry, scholarship, Swedish tradition and pride were somehow combined into a quite spectacular sequence of events.

The Nobel Prizes are approaching their one-hundredth anniversary, and our colleagues in Sweden are to be congratulated not only on their impressive achievement of having sustained the distinction of these awards for almost a century, but also for focusing the nation’s – and the world’s – attention on the importance of literature and scholarship.

I have to say that the Swedish people and organizations involved made too big a fuss about Princeton’s president. The Scandinavian airline (SAS) had a special agent assigned to us in both Newark and Stockholm. In the latter case, it was an agent whose sister-in-law was a Princeton graduate. The Swedish Institute somehow arranged to have cars and drivers to take Vivian and me just about everywhere. Wherever I went I found people with some type of Princeton connection. Many had been visiting scholars, some were alumni, others had colleagues on our faculty, and still others had relatives and/or friends who had studied at the University. In any case, it was a great week for anyone from Princeton to visit Stockholm.

Vivian and I attended the two lectures in physics, the two lectures in economics, the two lectures in chemistry, and of course, Toni’s lecture in literature. Toni received a standing ovation from those present (there was standing room only) both as she entered the hall and when her talk concluded.

In addition to these lectures, we attended a number of special dinners and lunches. I also had the opportunity to spend some time with the Swedish Minister of Education and Science and the presidents of universities in Sweden (Stockholm, Lund, and Uppsala), Denmark (Arhus and Copenhagen), and Norway (Oslo and Bergen). Finally, at the City Hall Banquet, I happened to be seated beside the Swedish Minister of Finance (herself the daughter of a Nobel Prize winner in Economics) and discussed the possibilities of a European (and Swedish) economic recovery. Her main hope, however, was for a slow appreciation of the Swedish currency. It was a busy and wonderful five days for Vivian and me, and I am sure the Prize winners – despite the now greater obligations laid upon their shoulders – also enjoyed themselves.

What is most important, however, is to pay tribute to the enormous individual intellectual achievement that these Prizes represent. To focus on Princeton’s winners for a moment, let me quote from the citations that were read at the Prize presentations themselves. For Toni Morrison the Prize citation read: “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import gives life to an essential aspect of American reality,” and, speaking directly to Professor Morrison during the awards ceremony, the presenter Professor Sture Allén continued: “I have just told the audience (in Swedish) that, in your own words, your project rises from delight, not disappointment. As you disclose fundamental aspects of hidden reality, you make gravity and humor abide side by side in your remarkable work, with its verbal music. It is my privilege and pleasure, on behalf of the Swedish Academy, to convey to you our warmest congratulations on the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1993, and to invite you to receive the Prize from the hands of His Majesty the King.”

Professor Joseph Taylor and his former student, Russell Hulse, received the Prize in Physics with the following Prize citation: “for the discovery of a new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation.” Once again I would like to quote the final words of the actual presentation of the Prize at the Stockholm Concert Hall by Professor Carl Nordling: “You have been awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for your discovery of the first binary pulsar, PSR 1913+16, a discovery which has had a great impact on gravitational physics. It is my privilege to convey to you the heartiest congratulations of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and I now ask you to receive the Prize from the hands of His Majesty the King.”

Most of all, therefore, this week was an opportunity to honor our colleagues for an achievement of the spirit that has changed us all. In addition, the morning I left Stockholm, the European papers were full of the wonderful news regarding the successful outcome of important fusion experiments achieved at PPPL. This new success enhanced still further the privilege and honor Vivian and I felt in representing Princeton. I only wish more Princetonians could have been in Stockholm to enjoy this wonderful occasion!

This was originally published in the February 9, 1994 issue of PAW.