André F. Cournand

Banquet speech

André F. Cournand’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1956

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The two laureates with whom I share the greatest honor in the field of medicine and physiology, have chosen me to express their feelings of gratitude in my own words. But if I must speak in their name, I owe it to you to explain the nature of the ties which bind me to them.

Of Professor Forssmann I should like to say that it is especially gratifying to Professor Richards and to me that we have received the award jointly with him, who in a single brilliant experiment offered us the key to the solution of that riddle propounded by William Harvey, more than three centuries ago – the measurement of the passage of blood into and out of the human heart.

To acknowledge publicly my feeling of friendship towards Dr. Richards makes me run the risk of hurting his modesty. United by the seeking of a common goal, we have through twenty-five years lived together the anguish and the elation of scientific investigation in and for the benefits of human beings. To define our bond of friendship, words inspired by Saint-Exupéry come to me in my native language: “L’amitié se reconnait à ce qu’elle ne peut être déçue; l’amitié de même que l’amour ne consiste pas a se regarder l’un l’autre, mais à regarder ensemble dans la même direction.”

Having discharged this first duty, I find now that the power of words is indeed weak to express the gratitude which is in our hearts, and the indebtedness which we owe to so many: Gratitude, to the Collegium of the Royal Caroline Institute for Medicine and Surgery, and to its Nobel Committee, for their choice; Indebtedness to those who have worked before us, and those who have worked with us – our own collaborators over many years, and our colleagues the world over, in our own special field of endeavor.

My first contact with Sweden dates back to my adolescence. While I was studying the life of Charles XII, by Voltaire, my father – who was the discreet mentor of my thoughts, as well as the ardent companion of my games – appraised me of the unique example given by the life of Swedenborg, a contemporary of this Swedish king.

As a great encyclopedic scholar, he had contributed to the advancement of every science of his time, including, I learned later, the physiology of respiration and had, long before being old, run through the Theme of Knowledge which led him to the Theme of the Essence of Man and from there to supreme Wisdom and Love.

His contribution to human knowledge and ideals appear to me now as an embodiment of all the qualities which Alfred Nobel proposed to reward when he wrote his will.

Much later I visited your country twice and acquired Swedish friends. Through them grew my understanding of your culture, of a civilization which we share in common, not made of possession but of gift, based on the premises that happiness stems from the appreciation of a task, from what is asked of man and not from the satisfaction of his material appetites.

To your people and to your city, our wives and our children – and there are many of them here – joining with Professor Forssmann, Professor Richards and myself, address our deepest thanks for their hospitality and express also the hopes that we may soon be able to visit them again, in days when the sun shines more brightly than it does through the clouds of the world’s trouble and unrest.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1956, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1957

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1956

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