Basic Feynman
Richard Feynman's 1965 Nobel Prize Speech
Richard Feynman Receiving the Nobel Prize from King Gustaf VI Adolf
Richard Feynman Receiving the Nobel Prize from King Gustaf VI Adolf

From the introduction to Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track:

After reading through hundreds of letters, I found a compass for them in his notes for the brief speech he delivered at the Nobel Banquet, and it is also perhaps his most eloquent statement on the stature he was afforded in many people's minds.

In these words, he seems to have come to a temporary peace about the recognition and fanfare that so often bothered him, and he expresses gratitude for all the goodwill shown him. In its clarity, grace, humor, and optimism, it is perhaps the most fitting introduction to this collection:

The work I have done has already been adequately rewarded and recognized. Imagination reaches out repeatedly trying to achieve some higher level of understanding, until suddenly I find myself momentarily alone before one new corner of nature's pattern of beauty and true majesty revealed. That was my reward.

Then, having fashioned tools to make access easier to the new level, I see these tools used by other men straining their imaginations against further mysteries beyond. There, are my votes of recognition.

Then comes the Prize, and the deluge of messages. Reports of fathers turning excitedly with newspapers in hand to wives; of daughters running up and down the apartment house ringing neighbors' door bells with news; victorious cries of "I told you so" by those having no technical knowledge—their successful prediction being based on faith alone; from friends, from relatives, from students, from former teachers, from scientific colleagues, from total strangers; formal commendations, silly jokes, parties, presents; a multitude of messages in a multitude of forms.

But, in each I saw the same two common elements. I saw in each, joy; and I saw affection (you see, whatever modesty I may have had has been completely swept away in recent days).

The Prize was a signal to permit them to express, and me to learn about, their feelings. Each joy, though transient thrill, repeated in so many places amounts to a considerable sum of human happiness. And, each note of affection released thus one upon another has permitted me to realize a depth of love for my friends and acquaintances, which I had never felt so poignantly before.

For this, I thank Alfred Nobel and the many who worked so hard to carry out his wishes in this particular way.

And so, you Swedish people, with your honors, and your trumpets, and your king—forgive me. For I understand at last—such things provide entrance to the heart. Used by a wise and peaceful people they can generate good feeling, even love, among men, even in lands far beyond your own. For that lesson, I thank you.

He showed us all how to look at the world. He showed me how to laugh. For that and so much more, I thank him.

—Michelle Feynman, 2004