George Porter’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1967
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentemen:
It is a joyous occasion for a scientist when the subject which interests him most is recognised by the highest honour that the world can bestow. When the honour is given to that scientist personally the happiness is sweet indeed. Science is, on the whole, an informal activity, a life of shirt sleeves and coffee served in beakers. Indeed, as the newspapers have shown us, one of the new Nobel Laureates drinks even his champagne from a beaker. No wonder if we are overawed by the splendour of the occasion tonight. But none of us, I am sure, would have it otherwise. Science and Literature are splendid, and it is really to science and literature themselves that this distinguished company pays its homage.
We three chemists here are the most fortunate of Nobel Laureates, many of whom are rewarded after years of patient and painstaking work. We are rewarded for work the very essence of which is that we were so impatient that we spent only a millionth of a second over an experiment.
It was at my new home, the Royal Institution, that I received the news and this was pleasant and appropriate in many ways. Four earlier professors there received the prize and our illustrious benefactor, Alfred Nobel, became a member in 1889. It is not only my laboratory and my place of work but also my home, so that on the 30th October I was able to share my happiness immediately with my students and collaborators and, at the same time, with my wife and family. Tonight I should like to thank all those who have shared my work and to acknowledge the debt that I owe to my wife whose encouragement to put research before all other things has been a great strength to me.
Slutligen, samtidigt med att tacka Nobelkommittén för den stora äran som visats mig, vill jag tacka er alla i detta stora fredsälskande och vänliga land för er stora gästfrihet mot oss.
Their work and discoveries range from the formation of black holes and genetic scissors to efforts to combat hunger and develop new auction formats.
See them all presented here.