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.
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.