Bengt I. Samuelsson’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1982
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Students,
On behalf of this year’s laureates, I have the great pleasure to express our thanks for your kind words and for your beautiful songs.
Alfred Nobel regarded science and art as the benefactors of mankind. With your idealism, beauty and youth you represent the next generation which we take such pleasure in introducing to the art and sciences. You live at a time and in a country where one can take for granted freedom, education and a cultural heritage which encourages the quest for knowledge and the study of the unknown. It is our hope that your talents will be cultivated and developed to their utmost capacity.
We have heard earlier today about the progress in science connected with the Nobel Prizes awarded this year. It is noteworthy how rapid and unpredictable the progress has been. If we look back ten years at a time it is striking that the only consistent pattern is that we underestimate the rate of progress. In the biomedical sciences e.g. our knowledge about the structure and function of every cell in the human body is far greater today than ten years ago. The revolutionary findings of the new biology has swept through in all disciplines of biomedical research. And the increased knowledge and insight can be used to understand disease processes and to develop methods to combat disease and increase quality of life.
There are almost unlimited possibilities for making discoveries and to uncover the unknown. It is in the nature of the discovery that it can not be planned or programmed. On the contrary it consists of surprises and appears many times in the most unexpected places. However, the basis of the discovery is imagination, careful reasoning and experimentation where the use of knowledge created by those who came before is an important component.
And every time a significant discovery is being made one sets in motion a tremendous activity in laboratories and industrial enterprises throughout the world. It is like the ant who suddenly finds food and walks back to the anthill while sending out material called food attracting substance. The other ants follow the path immediately in order to benefit from the finding and continue to do so as long as the supply is rich. Then they switch to another source opened by another discovery. If we could understand the language of the ant we would probably hear the same excitement and exhilarating joy that one can hear in the laboratories when new knowledge is suddenly uncovered.
We are just in the beginning of gathering knowledge about man and his environment. We can hardly comprehend the enormous possibilities that are inherent in discovering the structure and function of nature from the inner space of particles and atoms to the cells of the human body as well as the outer space of stars and galaxies. To use the new knowledge in technical and medical developments to combat poverty and disease throughout the world is indeed a challenge.
Fellow students, you are the ones who are fortunate to be endowed with the talent to carry out this work. Your future is bright. Let us only hope that you will promote science and art in the spirit of Alfred Nobel and use the advances in a peaceful way to the benefit of mankind.