Victor Weisskopf gave the banquet speeach at the First International Wigner Sympoium. This speeach was published in the Proceedings of the Sympoium, Nucl. Phys. B., Proceedings Suppl. Volume 6 (1989).

It is a great pleasure for me to speak here in this event in praise of our good friend, Eugene Wigner. Let me first say how glad I am to participate in this conference, not only because it is about group theory, but also because it is an international conference. It was since I came to this place, where I first saw how wonderful, how international and how supernational physics is. I think any kind of boundary, any kind of exclusion in doing physics is jut very bad. So international conferences are just the right thing, because physics is international language, an international way of thinking, and an international way of of life. We are not yet where we should be. Also at this conference, there are many countries which were not, or too little represented, where they think just as we do about the same problems and I wish that in the future such international conferences will be truly international. This Symposium is a step towards this ideal which I hope we reach soon.

Let me tell you how I met Eugene Wigner first time. I was, as Larry Biedenharn already indicated, a graduate student in Goettingen under Max Born and I came here in 1928, gosh that is 60 years ago, and I was thinking about Dirac's theory of integrations of an atom with the radiation field of light. It was at that time, a few years before the war, and unfortunately Max Born was very sick and could not give me too much advice, and I was trying to find some way of not using perturbation theory because it was clear that what I was interested in was the natural linewidth which could not be gotten by perturbation theory. So I tried to find another way to do it and I succeeded only half-way, and then here was Eugene who often came to Goettingen. He actually had a job at in Berlin at that time and also at Princeton.

I asked him and He liked the idea and showed me how to do it. We then published the theorization of the line with the natural linewidth on the basis of Dirac's theory of interaction. That was for me a great thing. First of all, it was wonderful to work with Eugene and then there was another thing. This was my first paper of real significance. Of course, I am lucky with with my name Weisskopf to work with somebody after me in the alphabet. So then I made a vow, and said that from now on I will, all through my life, stick to the alphabetical order whenever I publish a paper with somebody else. That was not always easy. For example, when I wrote a book that perhaps some of you remember, namely "Theoretical Nuclear Physics" by Blatt and Weisskopf, the publisher said it must be Weisskopf and Blatt. I told the publisher that I made the vow and I cannot do it. The publisher said "but we must sell the book." Finally, I did convince the John Wiley Company by telling them that if it is Weisskopf and Blatt, the emphasis is on Blatt and not on Weisskopf.

So much about that. I should not talk too much about myself here. I had, of course, many other encounters with our good friend and master, especially I then worked in nuclear physics where he contributed so much. It was always wonderful to discuss things with him. I recall an interesting episode. Once he gave me a paper of his with a formula about the cross section of fast neutrons with nuclei. The cross section of fast neutrons is simply \pi times, not R squared, but (R + \lambda)^{2}, where \lambda is the wavelength of the neutron. Then I asked why, in this paper, there was a footnote that said "see Gregory Breit, Physical Review so-and-so." I went to the library and looked up the paper of Gregory Breit and couldn't find any reference to that formula. I went back to Eugene and asked him to tell me why he mentioned Breit in his paper. He said, "yes, yes, but he could have derived it."

Indeed, it is always wonderful to discuss a problem with Eugene because he never says you are wrong. He would put his finger on his lips. Then he would put his finger on his lips. Then he would react in the manner which Salam has described so wonderfully in his letter. I will read the sentences from Salam's letter. "His mischievous way of putting questions in which he poses as an ignoramus but only succeeds in devastating the poor speaker gives him freshness which belies there eighty six years." I have learned so much from those questions that he asks, always with his finger on his lips.

Well, enough with personal remembrances. There are, of course, a lot of Wigner stories, but the evening is coming to an end. I would like to say a few things about Eugene's significance for our science, which of course is absolutely known. He is certainly one of the great creators of this incredibly impressive edifice, which is quantum mechanics, relativity, and quantum field theory. There are really very few people who gave this edifice its character and I would like to quote a little trait, a quotation of Winston Churchill which he said about the Royal Air Force. Let me say one thing, you see, you know there is a well known saying that there are specialists and generalists, and the specialists know nothing and the generalists know nothing about everything. Now here you have somebody who knows about everything. In some ways, there is a serious matter because I think that the physicists now in the later generation have become too much experts. There are experts in special fields, virtuous in special fields. In physics activities, we must not forget that physics is like a symphony. Every member of an orchestra has to be an expert and virtuoso on his/her instrument. He or she must not forget that he/she plays one instrument in a bigger ensemble. We, I speak now of younger generation, should be more aware of the fact that we are playing a great symphony in our physics activities. This would go, I would say, right away into Eugene Wigner's proposal about special high schools for gifted pupils. This is indeed a good idea to promote. I know people would say, if we do this, that we are elitists. If you call me an elitist, I am.

I would like to express now, at the end, the thanks of all of us to you, Eugene, for ideas, for your inspirations, for you help and for your support and for your leadership. You know, Eugene, we are proud of you. We are proud of you!

Editor's Note: There were many people who had planned to come to the Symposium, but were not able to do due to circumstances beyond their control. Professor Abdus Salam was one of them. He sent a letter to the Symposium organizers, and his letter is on this web page.

-- From the Symposium Proceedings, Nucl. Phys. B, Proc. Suppl. No. 6 (1989).