Tomas Lindahl’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2015.
Ers Majestäter, Ers Kungliga högheter, Excellenser, Kära pristagare, Mina damer och herrar,
Jag tackar för äran att ha tilldelats Nobelpriset i kemi tillsammans med professor Modrich och professor Sancar.
The topic of my brief comments will be the crucial importance of our early mentors and teachers.
I had the privilege of attending an excellent state school in Stockholm. Bromma Gymnasium. Bromma is a green suburb of Stockholm, close to here.
In this school, I was fortunate to have excellent teachers in chemistry, biology, mathematics and literature. As an arrogant youngster I took this for granted.
But during my upper high school years my family moved to central Stockholm, so it seemed convenient to change school. This turned out to be a minor disaster. I did not like the teachers in the new school, and the teachers did not like me. In fact, one of them failed me in chemistry. This was serious because I needed good marks to be able to enter the Karolinska Medical School in Stockholm at a later stage. Thanks to the concern and help of my parents, I was fortunately able to return to my previous school and the excellent teachers there who supported me. In particular, I had inspiring help from an outstanding chemistry teacher. Her name was Karin Brandt. Mrs Brandt encouraged my interest in chemistry.
Thanks to my improved standing in chemistry, I was then able to enter Medical School. This personal experience of mine shows how important our teachers can be, and they should have our strong and enthusiastic support.
I had similar positive experiences at the Karolinska Medical School. I realised at an early stage that I might not become a very good doctor, but was fascinated by theoretical subjects, in particular medical chemistry. As a result, I started as a graduate student with the legendary DNA chemist, Einar Hammarsten. He was the first scientist who showed in his early work that DNA is a very large molecule, a macromolecule, and he created an important Swedish school in the field. Personally, he was like a cat, with intense green eyes, and totally temperamental and inspirational.
With my teachers and colleagues at the Karolinska, I learnt to think freely and critically, and I also learnt the importance of basic science.
Without outstanding teachers and new insights from basic science, progress in chemistry and biology would be much slower, and might even come to a standstill.
Watch the Banquet speech