Ludwig Boltzmann at Clark

Ludwig Boltzmann was awarded an honorary degree by Clark University in 1899. This year coincided with Clark's 10th anniversary. Boltzmann's reply to his award is given below.

Boltzmann also gave four talks on the principles and basic equations of mechanics. These talks are currently being translated from German into English.

To honor Boltzmann's work and his visit to Clark, a honorary degree was awarded to Joel Lebowitz, a recipient of the Boltzmann medal, on May 23, 1999.

Boltzmann's reply

The problem of science is a twofold one: first, to advance our knowledge of nature independently of any practical application; and second, to make practical applications of the knowledge gained. Although to a superficial observer it may seem that the latter is of greater importance, the development of humanity has shown in the most convincing way that the first kind of activity is not only of paramount importance, but that the leading role belongs to it. In fact, it is only thanks to the pioneers of science who, laying aside all practical applications, penetrate deeper and deeper into the essence and arrangement of the forces of nature, that humanity has obtained that sway over the laws of nature which makes possible the present practical achievements.

The German universities have devoted themselves at all times to the nurture of pure science apart from its practical applications, although but one of the four university faculties is consecrated to it, and that one not entirely. It must be considered as a good omen, therefore, that here in America, which is usually taken to be the land of practical men, the ideal of a place entirely consecrated to the service of pure science, unattainable in Germany, has found its realization, so that I, who am body and soul a German professor, deem it a great honor to have conferred on me in this place, the greatest distinction which the University can grant. While desiring Clark University to flourish and thrive in the intimate conviction that the whole scientific world is interested in her prosperity, I express my thanks to the President and all its members for the high honor bestowed upon me today.

Updated 23 July 1999.