Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at the Presentation to Professor Niels Henrik David Bohr of the First Atoms for Peace Award

October 24, 1957

Mr. Chairman, Professor Bohr, Mr. Ford, Ladies and Gentlemen of this distinguished audience:

As I come to this platform, I am moved by a profound hope, a hope that in this gathering of distinguished scientists from whom the atom apparently conceals no more secrets, that there are a few who like myself still see in the radio something nearly miraculous and in the transmission of a picture across space to my television screen see something absolutely impossible.

I am honored to share in this occasion. By fortunate circumstance, this award is being made on a day that we mark as United Nations Day--the 12th anniversary of the coming into force of the United Nations Charter. Moreover, this is the first United Nations anniversary since the International Atomic Energy Agency was brought into being, under United Nations auspices, to promote the peaceful use of the atom. The presentation of the Atoms for Peace Award to Dr. Bohr is today particularly appropriate.

In honoring Dr. Bohr, we pay tribute to a great man, one whose mind has explored the mysteries of the inner structure of the atom, and whose spirit has reached into the very hearts of men.

For most of us, the invisible atomic world which he has explored--a world of dimensions infinitely small and of energies almost infinitely great--is one of which we can have only the most meager understanding. For him and his students, however, his lifetime of study has revealed new information about the mechanics of nature and profound concepts of the universe. These permit him to view men and the universe with a perspective free from the distortions of human strife and undimmed by material and trivial distractions.

During these times of rapid change, which greatly tax man's faith and courage, it is natural that there should be a widespread desire for the tranquility we associate--often wrongly--with the past. It is natural in such times of stress occasionally to grow weary or to neglect the sacrifice and effort necessary to sustain the progress of civilization. But the golden days of history are the days when the restless minds of men explored new lands and new ideas. The rapid growth of science now gives to men unprecedented power for discovery in the outer realm of space and mind and spirit.

In these days when science is so obviously an essential source of national security and material welfare, it is well to remember that it is more than that. Scientific research is a great adventure of the human mind. It is the function of science, and indeed of all learning, and education, to participate in the search beyond the present horizons of knowledge for a greater understanding of nature and for a steadily increasing illumination of truth. The whole world can gain through support and respect for basic research, for education and for learning. Science today is a priceless heritage from the past. We, as trustees of that inheritance, have an obligation to increase it for the benefit of posterity.

By disclosing the secrets of nature and in particular those of the atom, science makes possible new technologies by which these secrets are applied. The world now has a choice between the technology of abundance and the technology of destruction--between the use of power for constructive purposes or for war and desolation.

And, my friends, as we contemplate this simple truth, I think we are moved to believe, to gain the deeper conviction that no matter how long or how far scientists may go in probing the secrets of nature for the benefit of man, yet it will be only the Master Scientist, only The Almighty that will delve deeply enough into the hearts and minds of men to lead us to use these great secrets properly--to develop in us the compassion, the sympathy, the understanding, the consideration for other points of view that will eventually bring peace--a just peace--to the world.

There is no question in the minds of the people of the world as to which choice is to be desired: the constructive use. Our country has sought to encourage the application of atomic energy in the arts of peace--toward the end of happiness and well-being for all men and women.

So, in saluting and honoring Dr. Bohr in the presentation of the first Atoms for Peace Award, which the Ford family has so thoughtfully provided, we give recognition to a scientist and a great human being who exemplifies principles the world sorely needs--the spirit of friendly scientific inquiry, and the peaceful use of the atom for the satisfaction of human needs.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

Note: The President spoke at the National Academy of Sciences where the presentation ceremony was held at 3 p.m. His opening words "Mr. Chairman," et cetera, referred to Dr. James R. Killian, Jr., President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who presented the award to Professor Bohr, and to William C. Ford of the Ford Motor Co. Dr. Bohr, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, was also President of the Royal Danish Academy of Science.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Presentation to Professor Niels Henrik David Bohr of the First Atoms for Peace Award Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233860

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