John Cornforth

Banquet speech

John Cornforth’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1975

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

My old friend Vlado Prelog has asked me to offer, from both of us, our thanks to the Royal Academy of Sciences and to the Nobel Foundation for the honour conferred on us.

Our backgrounds, and the experience that has shaped us as scientists, are very different. We were born, and we grew up, on opposite sides of the globe. What we have in common is a lifelong curiosity about the shapes, and changes in shape, of entities that we shall never see; and a lifelong conviction that this curiosity will lead us closer to the truth of chemical processes, including the processes of life.

That our work has been considered worthy of such distinction is a great satisfaction to us both; but I think that we derive equal satisfaction from the sense of being two in the great company of those who approach the truth. In a world where it is so easy to neglect, deny, corrupt and suppress the truth, the scientist may find his discipline severe. For him, truth is so seldom the sudden light that shows new order and beauty; more often, truth is the uncharted rock that sinks his ship in the dark. He respects all the more those who can accept that condition; and in returning thanks tonight we are saluting all those who make our load lighter by sharing it.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1975, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1976

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1975

To cite this section
MLA style: John Cornforth – Banquet speech. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2023. Sat. 2 Dec 2023. <>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Nobel Prizes and laureates

Eleven laureates were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2023, for achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Their work and discoveries range from effective mRNA vaccines and attosecond physics to fighting against the oppression of women.

See them all presented here.

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.