Henry Way Kendall
Henry Way Kendall (December 9, 1926 – February 15, 1999) was an American particle physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990 jointly with Jerome Isaac Friedman and Richard E. Taylor "for their pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics."
A Distant Light : Scientists and Public Policy (2000)
- The world's problems are pressing in on us all. The scale and impact of human activities now affects a great portion of the global resources important to human welfare. These activities are putting growing, often destructive pressure on the global environment, pressure that appears likely to increase as human numbers swell toward the doubling of the world's population that evidently lies ahead. These pressures can spawn or aggravate conflict that. in a world with so much destructive weaponry, generates important national security problems. Great changes are necessary to help ensure a humane future for the generations to come.
Most of the world's scientific community and many people in the environmental movement are aware of the gravity of the problems. Yet despite sober warnings from these and other groups, in both the industrial and the developing world, re- medial efforts frequently appear powerless and ineffectual. The scientific community has not taken a sustained, powerful role in the public arena where this great cluster of issues is debated and where the problems must be resolved. There is much more that our community can contribute to assessment, warning, and proposals for new patterns of behavior.
- Introduction, p. 1
- While science and technology play critical roles in sustaining modern civilization, they are not part of our culture in the sense that they are not commonly studied or well comprehended. Neither the potential nor the limitations of science are understood so that what can be achieved and what is beyond reach are not comprehended. The line between science and magic becomes blurred so that public judgments on technical issues can be erratic or badly flawed. It frequently appears that some people will believe almost anything. Thus judgments can be manipulated or warped by unscrupulous groups. Distortions or outright falsehoods can come to be accepted as fact.
- Introduction, p. 4
- Distortion and false statements have a sturdy history in public discourse. Neither the government nor large organizations can be depended on to support their objectives honestly and with integrity. Replying in kind turns out not to be an option, not just to retain scientific integrity but for practical reasons. Critics, whether individuals or public interest groups, cannot afford to slant the truth, ever. Scientists are far more vulnerable to the consequences of their own ill-considered words than are laypeople, owing to the care and integrity that is believed to characterize the scientific approach to problems. Intentional distortions are almost always uncovered and the purveyors pilloried without mercy. It may not be forgotten for years and surfaces over and over again. So too will honest mistakes which, along with even minor exaggerations, are seized on and exploited mercilessly. Not a bad rule — one that I and some colleagues observe — is to pull back a bit in most argument. Not only should one never distort nor exaggerate, it is best, I believe, to understate.
- Introduction, p. 4
- We are immersed in one of the most significant revolutions in man's history. The force that drives this revolution is not social dissension or political ideology, but relentless exploitations of scientific knowledge. There is no prospect that this revolution will subside; on the contrary, it will continue to transform profoundly our modes of living and dying. That many of these transformations have been immeasurably beneficial goes without saying. But, as with all revolutions, the technological revolution has released destructive forces, and our society has failed to cope with them. Thus we have become addicted to an irrational and perilous arms race, and we are unable to protect our natural environment from destruction.
- "Beyond March 4", essay for the Union of Concerned Scientists (1968), p. 9
- What should thoughtful people do? Are there means to brighten future prospects in the face of such human myopia and stubbornness?
There are many in the scientific community whose views are bleak. One biologist, speaking to me many years ago, remarked that many of his colleagues thought of the behavior of the human race as similar to a one-celled animal's. Such an animal may extend a pseudopod in search of food; if hurt or blocked, it pulls back, but otherwise its activity continues, mindlessly, without understanding, without end. With larger perils unperceived, it can destroy itself.
- Epilogue, p. 303
- All we who can gauge the threats can do is soldier on, exploiting what tools we have, gaining as much ground as time permits: seizing issues when they are ripe, remaining patient and careful with facts, even when faced with relentless and reckless opposition, mounting sustained campaigns and avoiding simple shots across the bow, combining solid analysis with persistent outreach and public education, touching people as widely as we can, and, as Winston Churchill emphasized, never giving up.
Many of us in science understand well what the costs of inattention and lack of care will be. … Yet neither we nor others have yet caught the sustained attention of our fellow humans, and, until we do, the world cannot escape from its troubles . Thus the deepest question before us all is: How will our species reach the understanding and gain the political will to alter the prospects on the horizon? No one now has the answer to that need. It is indeed a distant light.
- Epilogue, p. 304
- Oral History interview transcript with Henry Way Kendall 25 and 26 November 1986, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
- National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir (PDF)
- Profile at the Nobel Prize site, including the Nobel Lecture "Deep Inelastic Scattering: Experiments on the Proton and the Observation of Scaling" (8 December 1990)
- Henry W. Kendall papers, MC-0550. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Distinctive Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts.