Oliver Smithies

Banquet speech

Oliver Smithies’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in the Stockholm City Hall, 10 December 2007.

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

The three of us (Mario Capecchi, Martin Evans and myself) thank the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet and the Nobel Foundation for honoring us today. And we thank our students and collaborators, whose help was indispensable in our research. But we also acknowledge an older debt to our teachers – which I want to illustrate with three of mine.

The first, Dr. G.E. Brown, taught mathematics at Heath Grammar school in Halifax, England. “Oddy” Brown, as we called him, was a poor disciplinarian, and not much liked. But he loved mathematics, and the calculus, and he conveyed this to at least one student – me!

The second, Field Morey, is a distinguished flight instructor. He taught me to fly 30 years ago, a difficult task because I was over 50 years of age! But he taught me something more important than flying – namely, that it is possible to overcome fear with knowledge!

This same lesson applies to scientists – the fear of failing – which many scientists have when trying something new – can be overcome – in the same way – with knowledge.

The third of my teachers is Dr. A. G. (“Sandy”) Ogston. He was my tutor as an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford University, and later oversaw my change from medical school to graduate school in order to take up research. Sandy was an extraordinary scientist, and a dedicated teacher. And he conveyed to his students a view of science, which I quote in closing:

“For science is more than the search for truth, more than a challenging game, more than a profession. It is a life that a diversity of people lead together, in the closest proximity, a school for social living. We are members one of another.”*

* A.G.Ogston, Australian Biochem. Soc. Annual Lecture, Search, Vol.1, No.2, August, 1970.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2007

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