Robert B. Woodward’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1965
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen.
We are told that the Nobel festivities are a celebration of achievement. Therefore, I hope it will be regarded as appropriate for me to express my feeling that the things my fellow laureates and I have experienced here – the splendid and obviously so heart-felt hospitality, the magnificent ceremonies, and the unparalleled sense of occasion – all of these are in themselves achievements of the first rank. It is a high privilege for me to be a participant in this great occasion, and in many ways it cannot but be pleasant. But that pleasure is mixed with some concern, a concern which must have been shared by many, if not all, who have stood in this place. Can anyone deserve so concentrated an accolade? That concern for me is lessened if it is not suppressed by my awareness that my work has been done in close association with more than two hundred and fifty men and women. With them I have shared many challenges, surprises and pleasures, and their hands, their minds, and their hearts have brought me here tonight. And I am glad to have this opportunity to say in this very public place that they share this honor with me. But even this thought in a way gives rise to another concern. Alfred Nobel intended his prizes to be awarded for personal achievement. If I search for my personal achievement, it may be that I have led these men and women – and perhaps in some measure all organic chemists – to the higher ground of a greater appreciation of the power, and above all of the beauty of their science. If I have done this during the last almost thirty years, I have done it in circumstances which have been enormously exciting and quite rewarding enough in themselves. Beyond that, to have all this is somehow beyond one’s dreams. For it, I thank you one and all.