Nobel Prize for Physics 1945

Nobel prize celebrations in Princeton

In November 1945, Wolfgang Pauli was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of the exclusion principle. The event was welcomed with enthusiasm at Princeton because Pauli was the first active member of the Institute to receive this ultimate accolade. His colleagues staged a large official ceremony to which many prominent people were invited. The climax was the spontaneous address by Albert Einstein, in which he described Pauli as his intellectual successor.

Nobel prize certificate

The award came at a favourable time for Wolfgang Pauli since it opened up all sorts of interesting possibilities for furthering his career. He received offers from Princeton and Columbia University in New York. He was also granted American citizenship.

Return to Zurich

Wolfgang Pauli's "Maikäferrede" at a meeting of Nobel laureates in Lindau

After all these honours and offers, nobody in Zurich reckoned seriously on Wolfgang Pauli's ever returning. His Zurich colleagues and the School Council were all the more surprised when in April 1946 Pauli did indeed fulfil his promise to take up his chair again. It had not been easy for Pauli to turn down the professorship at Columbia University or Princeton. A major role in this decision was apparently played by the increasing influence of the military over physics research in the United States, of which Pauli disapproved as a proponent of free science.