Susumu Tonegawa’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1987
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have great difficulties in finding proper words to express my heartfelt gratitude to those in the Committee and Assembly who considered my work worthy of this ultimate recognition. It is, indeed, a high honor that you have bestowed upon me today.
My scientific career has developed on three continents: Asia, Europe and North America. A quarter of a century ago as a student at the University of Kyoto in Japan, I started my career as a scientist, inspired by the operon theory of François Jacob and Jacques Monod. At the suggestion of Professor Itaru Watanabe and with his help I left Japan at the age of twenty-three to pursue graduate study at the University of California at San Diego. Seven years later, following the suggestion of Dr. Renato Dulbecco, I left the United States to embark on research in immunology at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Basel, Switzerland. This unique research Institute had recently been established by the Hoffmann LaRoche Company to allow pioneering immunologists from around the world to carry out basic research. Under the directorship of Professor Niels Kaj Jerne, the Institute conducted its work in an atmosphere of freedom and cooperation. It was in this great Institute that I and my colleagues carried out the research on antibody genes, that is being recognized today by the Nobel Assembly. In 1981, after ten years in Basel, I returned to the United States to continue my research on the immune system at the Center for Cancer Research of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where Director Salvador E. Luria provided me with an excellent laboratory.
Yesterday during the tour of the Nobel Foundation I had the opportunity to view the original of Alfred Nobel’s will that led to the establishment of these first truly international prizes. I could not help feeling very proud when I read the passage in which Mr. Nobel emphasized his wish to have these prizes bestowed upon the most worthy without consideration of nationality. I too have always believed that the community of science recognizes no national boundaries, and I have been practicing this belief throughout my career.
On this very special occasion I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to all my coworkers, technical assistants and secretaries. Without their interest and devotion, the work recognized by the Nobel Assembly could not have been accomplished. Slutligen vill jag tacka det svenska folket for dess storartade gästfrihet.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.