Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet

Banquet speech

Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet’s Address to the University Students on the Evening of December 10, 1960


On behalf of my fellow laureates may I thank you most warmly for your tribute and good wishes. For all of us this is probably the greatest day of our lives – and for myself it has a special significance. I have come to this celebration from a greater distance than any previous laureate and as the first Australian to appear on the Nobel list I think that this occasion has a rather special significance for my own country, a middling small country a little bigger than Sweden but only now beginning to create an image of its own in the eyes of the world. Some day I hope that we will take our place along with Sweden as one of the centres where knowledge can go along with social progress to the good life we all seek. To you as students I would say only one thing. To advance science is highly honourable and I believe the institution of the Nobel Prizes has done much to raise the prestige of scientific discovery. But other things are equally honourable and perhaps when you are 20-30 years older, research as we know it, may be less important than it is today. Today and always there will be an obligation to pass on to the new generation the tradition of liberal scholarship – scientific or in the humanities – and to bring the understanding of things and human actions to everyone.

Education in the broadest sense includes research but it is very much more – I hope that when you are as old as I am, skill and success in education will be as highly rewarded as success in scientific discovery is today. But whether your career is in research, in education or in seeing that some of the wheels of our complex civilization turn as they should we wish you luck and we thank you again for the goodwill that you have expressed to us.

Prior to the speech, B. Lindblad, President of the Royal Academy of Sciences, addressed the laureate: “Dr. Burnet and Dr. Medawar, in your discovery of immunity produced in the embryonic stage and of actively acquired tolerance you have found a new biological law, opening up new vistas in experimental biology. The phenomenon of immunological tolerance which you have discovered will most certainly be of direct practical importance for the treatment of various kinds of injuries and diseases.”

From Les Prix Nobel en 1960, Editor Göran Liljestrand, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1961

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1960

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