Andre Geim’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in the Stockholm City Hall, 10 December 2010.
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Friends
A lot of praise has already been given to our work and the exciting new material graphene. We will certainly hear even more tribute as graphene’s impact on our lives becomes more obvious. So, let me refrain from further praise because today is also an occasion to celebrate something else.
The last decades were relatively peaceful and quiet for the planet. But with no obvious danger from outside, we are facing another danger, from inside. Instant information about everything and everyone often allows an individual opinion to compete with consensus and paranoia with evidence. It is a time when one blunt honest statement can finish a life-long political career, and one opinionated journalist can bully a government or a royal family. Science is not immune from such pressures. For example, how many Nobel prize-winning experiments – you think – would have been stopped, if ethics or health-and-safety regulations at that time were as zealous as they are today? I can think of more than a few.
Human progress has always been driven by a sense of adventure and unconventional thinking. But amidst calls for “bread and circuses”, these virtues are often forgotten for the sake of cautiousness and political correctness that now rule the world. And we sink deeper and deeper from democracy into a state of mediocrity and even idiocracy. If you need an example, look no further than at research funding by the European Commission.
Against this backdrop I salute the Royal Swedish Academy for keeping the candle of merit alive. The great esteem in which the Nobel prizes are universally held is due to the fact that for several generations they have been given purely on scientific merit and not through lobbying and politicking. I do hope that it will stay this way, and the prizes will never be given according to the number of votes in live TV contests!
Let me also thank the Royal family for lending their unwavering support to the great Nobel tradition. It is a great feeling to partake in the lavish celebrations that put scientific achievement on such a high pedestal. The generosity of the Nobel foundation and all the Swedish people contribute to making the prize so very special.
From the very bottom of my heart, thank you all.
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