Bruce Merrifield’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1984
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very proud to be here today to experience this marvellous occasion. The hospitality and friendship of the Swedish people will not soon be forgotten.
I have asked myself why am I here – how did it happen – and the answer is difficult. I recalled my first day in James A. Garfield high school some 50 years ago and remembered the words of our 20th president that we were all required to memorize and recite. He said, in part, that if one had “a clear head, a true heart and a strong arm” he could succeed in life. I did not have all those qualities, but took him to mean that if you were honest and worked hard you could accomplish your goals. I have tried to follow his advice, but I never dreamed that it would lead me to this place where I stand today. Clearly there was more; it required good teachers, a good place to work, good friends, a good family and a great amount of good luck.
When the field of peptide chemistry was founded in 1901 by the great Emil Fischer he could not have imagined how it was destined to expand in so many important directions; into biochemistry, molecular biology, virology and nucleic acid chemistry. Because of that lucky and timely circumstance my contributions to the synthesis of this class of compounds have been amplified beyond my expectations. As so often happens, the idea behind the work was not fully accepted at the beginning, although some people were enthusiastic. I believe Emil Fischer would have been a supporter, however, and I am certain he would be happy to know that his far sighted vision of a totally synthetic protein was not just a dream.
On behalf of my many colleagues I want to express our gratitude for your recognition of our field.
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.