Doktorspromotion Middag, Lunds Universitet, 28 Maj 1999

Lorenzo Jan Curtis

I would like to say a few words to our hosts on behalf of today’s Hedersdoktor promoti. This is not an easy task, because the events of the past few days have been a moving personal experience that is difficult to describe in words. Therefore, I can only describe my own personal feelings about the University of Lund, based on over 25 years of collaboration and friendship, in the hope that these have resonances with the other recipients.

The University of Lund has long been a magical place for me. Like so many of my generation, I saw Ingmar Bergman’s film Smultonstället (Wild Strawberries) when I was a senior in College. I was very moved by the triumphal scene of the Doctoral Promotion and the retrospective message of the film. We children of the 1950’s were very much influenced by the Swedish Culture, to which we were introduced by the Swedish film makers. They caused us to look forward in time so that someday (at a time like today) we could look back over our lives with some degree of satisfaction. You have transported us into our own fantasies with magnificent Renaissance academic splendor. Today’s Doctoral Promotion was a truly beautiful ceremony!

Lund continued to play a role in my life. Already as a graduate student at the University of Michigan I came to admire the work of Lund Professor Gunnar Källén, who my mentors told me was a genius in a class with Mozart. Like Mozart, he left us too early. At Michigan our most cherished alumnus was the heroic Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. One of the great privileges of my collaboration with Lund has been my friendship with Professor Guy von Dardel, who is not only a pre-eminent high energy particle physicist, but also the half-brother of the most heroic figure of the 20th century.

My own research field of Atomic Physics was not only invented and perfected at Lund, but the University of Lund remains the world center of research in that area. The field was begun by Professor Janne Rydberg with his famous Rydberg formula. Professor Rydberg was before my time, but I have had the privilege of knowing and collaborating with those who have followed him. I have met Professor Rydberg’s successor, Professor Manne Siegbahn, who received the Nobel Prize for the development of X-rays. Although Professor Siegbahn eventually moved to Uppsala, all of the work for which the Nobel Prize was awarded was performed right here at Lund. I was a disciple and pupil of Professor Bengt Edlén, who perfected the spectroscopic techniques begun by Rydberg, and along the way discovered through his measurements that the temperature of the solar corona was 2 million degrees rather 6 thousand degrees as was previously thought. Thus Professor Edlén revolutionized our knowledge of the Sun. I have worked for 30 years with Professor Indrek Martinson, who has opened the field to the crucial new area of time dependent processes, and also raised the level of international collaboration at Lund to an unprecedented level. Late in his life, Sir Isaac Newton reflected on his scientific contributions by saying "If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants!" Here at Lund, I have had the privilege of standing face-to-face with the giants upon whose shoulders I stand!

Lund Professors such as Indrek Martinson have followed Carl Linné, who entered the University of Lund in 1727 as a Medical Student. Linné (similar to our experience today) became the great Carolus Linnæus, who sent his students all over the world to collect biological specimens and bring them back to him for classification. In the same way Lund professors have traveled all over the world, teaching us, sometimes learning from us, and they have brought back to Lund biological specimens like myself! At the University of Lund we have blossomed in the fertile soil of Skåne in ways that would have been impossible without our connections to Lund. I can personally say that any successes that I have had in my career and any accomplishments that I have achieved in my research are owed in large part to my collaborations here at Lund.

The only honor that I treasure more than the Hedersdoktor that I received today is the many years of friendship and collaboration that I have had with my colleagues at Lund.

Vi tackar så mycket för den stora äran som vi har fåt här idag, och för att vi har blivit äkta medlemar av Lunds ryktbar Universitet. Idag är, utan tvekan, en av den största smultronställerna i våra liv, och våra tacksamhetsskuld är oändlig. Tack och skål till Lunds Universitet!


Larry and Maj Curtis in Lund, 28 May 1999