Gerald M. Edelman’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1972
Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel honored and privileged to be with you together with Rodney Porter. In the course of receiving the highest honor of my life, I had two thoughts about human community, both particularly moving to one. The first is of the selfless and spontaneous jubilation of people who are not scientists but who are glad of such occasions as these and the circumstances they celebrate. I have thought of what they must think and I suppose that, surrounded by painful and difficult news of struggle and darkness, they say: “Well, we must be doing something right”. In this way, the Nobel Foundation has made itself a part of the world community, and a part which is justly appreciated.
The second thought is that I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to know directly so many people in the world community of scientists, including people who have occupied this table before me. It is said that most of the scientists who ever existed are alive today. This extension of the community of researchers and the compression of time in our age are probably the reasons for my good fortune.
Science is imagination in the service of the verifiable truth and that service is indeed communal. It cannot be rigidly planned. Rather, it requires freedom and courage and the plural contributions of many different kinds of people who must maintain their individuality while giving to the group.
There is no more satisfying or fortunate way to belong to a community. Being here on this splendid occasion has reminded me more strongly than any event in my experience of this privilege for which I am truly grateful. I am sure that Dr. Porter shares these sentiments.