Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.
You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.
We should not allow it to be believed that all scientific progress can be reduced to mechanisms, machines, gearings, even though such machinery also has its beauty. Neither do I believe that the spirit of adventure runs any risk of disappearing in our world.
We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science, and then there is always the chance that a scientific discovery may become like the radium a benefit for humanity.
We have here an entirely separate kind of chemistry for which the current tool we use is the electrometer, not the balance, and which we might well call the chemistry of the imponderable.
We believe the substance we have extracted from pitchblende contains a metal not yet observed, related to bismuth by its analytical properties. If the existence of this new metal is confirmed we propose to call it polonium, from the name of the original country of one of us.
The older one gets the more one feels that the present moment must be enjoyed: it is a precious gift, comparable to a state of grace.
Sometimes my courage fails me and I think I ought to stop working, live in the country and devote myself to gardening. But I am held by a thousand bonds, and I don’t know when I shall be able to arrange things otherwise. Nor do I know whether, even by writing scientific books, I could live without the laboratory.
Physicists always publish their researches completely. If our discovery has a commercial future, that is an accident by which we must not profit. And radium is going to be of use in treating disease… It seems to me impossible to take advantage of that.