Norman Haworth’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1937
Your Royal Highnesses. My Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen,
My first words must be those of gratitude to the Swedish Academy for the encouragement which this award has brought to me in my endeavours to advance the bounds of knowledge by my labours.
In a country such as yours which has given to chemistry such names as Scheele, Berzelius, Nobel, Arrhenius, not to mention the great exponents and investigators you have now in your midst and who are active in the Universities of Sweden, one cannot but feel that Science is international in its relationships and is a brotherhood working beneficently for the well-being and progress of mankind, and that its achievements are appreciated and recognised without limit of frontier or nationality. In this service the Swedish Academy of Sciences has promoted a bond of unity by its encouragement of scientific achievement in the award of the Prizes associated with the immortal name of Nobel.
By popular assent the Nobel Prize is the most coveted honour in the world. Whereas the orders of chivalry may hold higher official rank yet, as is abundantly evident, in the minds of the common people the Nobel award is a thing apart, an international assent, a recognition of proved worth from an unpolluted fount of honour. Thus does it make its appeal to the devotees of learning and more widely to the popular imagination.
We pay homage to the original donor of these awards, Alfred Nobel, whose discoveries released a force which, to an untold degree, has diminished the hard grinding manual labour of man and thus is among those triumphs of science which have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. Many of those enterprises of civil engineering, roads, bridges, reservoirs, waterways which have made life and intercourse between peoples possible in a more congested world, could not have been achieved without his prime invention. That these discoveries could also be used for destruction brought sorrow to Nobel and he was in his lifetime one of the apostles who worked strenuously for peace. Who can say which great gift imparted to mankind may not be misused and turned to destructive purposes? The danger lurks not only in scientific things. Who has not seen the benign gifts of literature, history, and, one might add, journalism so travestied or construed as to lash emotional peoples to fury? Each gift assumes in the user a beneficent sense of responsibility. What less can we ask?
I welcome this opportunity to speak to the people of Sweden in this fine and justly famous City Hall, and to thank you for the great courtesy and boundless hospitality you have offered to my wife and myself on this occasion of our visit to your country. On my previous visit five years ago I saw Sweden in its splendour of early autumn. Now there is a change of scene and your country is in the grip of winter, and under its mantle of snow it is indeed a beautiful picture. My contacts with the Swedish people in their homes and in your great Academy of Sciences have impressed me by the great friendliness and by the evidences of a culture elevated and widespread in its influences on the whole life of your countrymen. May the whole world, like you, devote its strength to the cultivation of its peoples!
Prior to the speech, Professor A.E. Lindh of the University of Uppsala addressed the laureate: To you, Walter Norman Haworth and Paul Karrer, this year’s Nobel Prize laureats in Chemistry and two of the foremost pioneers in present-day research in Chemistry, we extend our greetings. The reward you have received to-day is, in the highest degree, well deserved for the epoch-making and brilliant work you have done in the sphere of research work … you, Walter Haworth, for your great work in Carbohydrates and for your advanced scientific methods which have proved triumphant in the determination of the constitution of Ascorbic Acid, or Vitamin C … and you Paul Karrer for your magnificent investigations into the nature colour substances and their connection with Vitamin A and B. We congratulate both of you on the occasion of your being deservedly rewarded for work which has been, and still is, of paramount importance for both scientific research and for practical medicine, and which is in strict accordance with Alfred Nobel’s desire, “for the greatest benefit to mankind”.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
See them all presented here.