Geoffrey Wilkinson’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1973
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen, My Fellow Students,
It is an old English convention that experienced speakers always begin by saying “unaccustomed as I am to public speaking”. In my case it is really true and when I was given the honour of replying on behalf of my fellow Nobel Laureates, and was struggling to find some appropriate phrases, I was reminded in my situation, though in an insignificant way, by a similarity to the plight of the ancient Chinese philoshoper Lao Weh Chang.
As you will recall, as a young man, labouring under the wild fig trees of Fu Chong, he discovered the secret of transforming base metals into gold. With increasing knowledge of the chemical arts of old China, he was able to turn everything into everything else, and ultimately at his pinnacle, everything into nothing. Finally, when contemplating the awesome magnitude of his achievements he was rendered totally speechless. But we have it on excellent authority that whenever he opened his mouth there ensued a most magnificent display of fireworks and all was suffused with an everlasting rosy glow.
Now friends, when I was labouring under the eucalyptus trees of California, I too made some gold, but unfortunately it was only from platinum and I didn’t make much since it was costing 100 m dollars a gram. Later I turned many things into many other things but the ultimate has always eluded me. However, my students have quite often turned everything into nothing but a lot of old rubbish. Finally on October 23rd, when contemplating what had been wrought here in Stockholm, I too was rendered speechless. Unfortunately this proved only temporary, so that I am quite unable to provide you with the magnificent display of fireworks that this happy occasion so richly deserves.
However, in thanking you most sincerely for your kind thoughts, on behalf of my fellow Laureates, I can only pray that everyone of you will be suffused with that most satisfying of rosy glows – the inner one of tranquility, the spirit and the intellect – and that it will last you throughout your lifetime.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.