Severo Ochoa

Banquet speech

Severo Ochoa’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1959

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

I cannot find adequate words to express the depth of my appreciation of the great honor which has been made me, the highest honor that a scientist can receive, and I am very happy to share it with my former associate, my friend of many years Arthur Kornberg. I am deeply conscious of the distinction of which my colleagues of the Karolinska Institutet have deemed me worthy and I cannot but feel proud, although humbly so, to be among the great men who have preceded me. This is indeed a great challenge which I will endeavor to meet with increased effort and dedication since the Nobel Prize is not the end of a path but the beginning of a new, and perhaps more arduous one.

Being a native of Spain, the country to which I owe much of my education and cultural background, I was deeply influenced by my great predecessor Santiago Ramon y Cajal. I entered Medical School too late to receive his teachings directly but, through his writings and his example he did much to arouse my enthusiasm for biology and crystallize my vocation. Among the great names that adorn the roll of Nobel prize-winners in Medicine is that of Otto Meyerhof, my admired teacher and friend, to whose inspiration, guidance and encouragement I owe so very much. I was very fortunate to have worked also under the guidance of other great scientists and I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to Sir Rudolph Peters and to Nobel prizewinners Carl and Gerty Cori who did so much to add new dimensions to my scientific outlook and enlarge my intellectual experience.

My work would not have been possible without the devoted help of the research students from many countries with whom I had the good fortune to be associated over the years; to them I owe deep gratitude. My gratitude and love is also due to my great country of adoption, the United States of America where I, as many others have, found a haven of generosity and understanding as well as ideal environment and facilities for my work.

In recent years biochemistry – the chemistry of life – has come more and more into the foreground of biological research. This is natural since chemical reactions are at the bottom of all life. The enormous growth of biochemistry would not have been possible without the comparable but prior development of chemistry and Sweden can be rightly proud to have had such outstanding pioneers as Bergman, Scheele, Berzelius and Arrhenius who laid many of the basic foundations of this science. She also has men who stand in the front line of biochemistry today. The study of the way in which the basic substances of life, the nucleic acids and the proteins are perpetuated from generation to generation, which followed the elucidation of their chemical structure, and the spectacular advances of the science of Genetics bring us closer to an understanding of life’s most characteristic features. Man has all but conquered the atom and is now preparing for the conquest of space. He has uncovered many of the secrets of inanimate matter and begins to delve deep into the frontier realm between the lifeless and the living, the world of the viruses. He may never find the clue to the nature or the meaning of life but we may look forward with confidence and anticipation to a much better comprehension of many of its riddles.

In closing I should like to express on behalf of my wife, my devoted companion, and myself our profound indebtedness for your most friendly welcome and generous hospitality. Vi kommer att bevara minnet av dessa lyckliga dagar, så länge vi lever.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1959, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1960

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1959

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