Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin

Banquet speech

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1964

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must first of all with all my heart thank you for the very great honour that you have done me and the great happiness that you have conferred upon me and my family today. My breath is quite taken away by the succession of impressions, this beautiful city and this beautiful golden byzantine hall, the meeting with very many old friends, and the making of very many new ones, the coming of my children by adventurous journeys from different parts of the world, all of this makes it difficult for me to stop and be serious at all this evening.

I must admit that when I first saw the list of Nobel Laureates, sent to me for this occasion, and saw that it began with Roentgen and X-rays, and van ‘t Hoff, whom I connect with ‘chemistry in space’, – whom Your Majesty will remember having seen at the beginning – I found myself suddenly thinking how very appropriate that I should be here today. But now – of course – my heart a little fails me, thinking also of all of the great names between us, and of all those on whom my work has depended, whose encouragement has brought me here today, on whose hands and on whose brains I have relied. I could hardly stand here, were it not that I am supported by the pleasure and congratulations that have come to me from all over the world. And now I must tell you, that the last night that we were in England, we were being entertained at an Arabian party in London. My hosts advised me then, telling me how one should reply in Arabic to congratulations that one receives, congratulations on some very happy event: the birth of a son, perhaps or the marriage of a daughter. And one should reply: “May this happen also to you.” And now even my imagination will hardly stretch so far that I can say this to every one in this great hall. But at least, I think, I might say to the members of the Swedish Academy of Science: “In so far as it has not happened to you already, may this happen also to you!”

At the banquet, S. Friberg, Rector of the Caroline Institute, made the following remarks: Mrs. Crowfoot Hodgkin, Mr. Bloch and Lynen. When one of you received the news by telephone, that you had been awarded the Nobel Prize, you modestly asked: “Why?” Each and all of you would have been fully justified in asking the same question by entirely different reasons, for you have all achieved such outstanding results, that several merit a Nobel award. I believe, that I may be permitted the indiscretion of revealing that the only problem relating to your prizes was to decide whether they should be awarded in medicine or chemistry. Your intellectual accomplishments and the immense technical difficulties, you had to overcome can only be grasped by the specialist, but their significance can be understood by all. Within the foreseeable future, your discoveries may provide us with weapons against some of mankind’s gravest maladies, above all in relation to cardiovascular diseases. Achievements like yours make it not unrealistic to look forward to a time, when mankind will not only live under vastly improved conditions, but will itself be better.

Mrs Crowfoot Hodgkin, Address to the University Students on the Evening of December 10, 1964

Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Students of Stockholm:

I am very happy indeed to hear you speak today as you do. We knew, when we came here as Laureates from our different countries, that we should greatly enjoy meeting one another and talking together about scientific problems in our international language. I do not think that any of us had realized how much more this festival might mean both to you in Sweden and to the whole world. I was chosen to reply to you this evening as the one woman of our group, a position, which I hope very much will not be so very uncommon in future that it will call for any comment or distinctions of this kind, as more and more women carry out research in the same way as men. But I might have been chosen for you for other reasons to reply to your speech, as a country woman of Tom Paine who wrote an early book of the rights of man, from whom the declaration of human rights which you mentioned today derives.

With great seriousness I thank you for your words and say that we share your anxieties and your endeavours. I see all of you here, the hope of the world, the hope of getting the kind of world that we all want and I should like to say – that knowing my own children – that I think that this hope is very soundly based in a solid and scientific sense. As you know I heard the news of my Nobel award in Ghana, in the newly independent country where we are very conscious of the need to work for peace and progress and we celebrated this Nobel Prize in my husband’s institute of African studies with an enormous party and with dances danced by the students of music and drama. There were some very traditional court dances at the ashanti, a hunter dance of the Ewe people, one quite modern dance, symbolizing work and happiness, and I made a speech there under the stars in Africa, saying that never before was a Nobel Prize celebrated in this way. But I think I was quite wrong, for it seems to me that here every year you celebrate Nobel Prizes in this way with singing and dancing in Stockholm, and here too you make this world here and now the kind of place that we all want to live in. Thank you very much.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1964, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1965

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1964

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