When a man after long years of searching chances on a thought which discloses something of the beauty of this mysterious universe, he should not therefore be personally celebrated. He is already sufficiently paid by his experience of seeking and finding. In science, moreover, the work of the individual is so bound up with that of his scientific predecessors and contemporaries that it appears almost as an impersonal product of his generation.
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 live in this world in order always to learn industriously, and to enlighten each other by means of discussion, and to strive vigorously to promote the progress of science and the fine arts.
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.
To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth.
To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.
The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.