Hartmut Michel’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1988
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Seven weeks have passed since it has been announced that Hans Deisenhofer, Robert Huber and myself have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry. For me the greatest experience was to see how many, many people were happy upon the decision of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The crystallographers were happy that crystallographers had received the prize, biochemists were happy, young researchers were happy that relatively young researchers were also selected. The German government was pleased. Even our neighbours were happy. However, I have also heard – with great concern – that in the German Parliament this prize has been used as an argument that there is enough funding for basic research in Germany, what I certainly deny.
Especially pleased are the scientists doing photosynthesis research: The Royal Swedish Academy has called photosynthesis the most important chemical reaction on earth. I did not think about this before.
What is so special about photosynthesis? It is the sum of those reactions, which are used in nature to convert and to store the energy of light. According to the bible, light was the first thing created by God. Here in Sweden, where the winter nights are long and during the winter days not much of the sun can be seen, the importance of light, its reception and its conversion, is much more apparent than further down in the south. It is also reflected in the festivities of the Lucia day.
It is not the first time that a Nobel Prize has been awarded for photosynthesis research. 27 years ago Melvin Calvin received this honour for shedding light into the so-called dark reactions of photosynthesis, but it still was dark in the area of the light reactions, an unhappy situation. When making this year’s decision the Royal Swedish Academy might have considered our contributions as light for the light reactions in photosynthesis.
In this light, also on behalf of Hans Deisenhofer and Robert Huber, I would like to sincerely thank the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for shining light on us by this ultimate recognition.
Of course, today with us three only the tip of the iceberg could be honoured. We are especially happy that with one major exception the colleagues constituting the iceberg are here and we can transfer some light to them by thanking them in public and in their presence.
Tack så mycket!