What is it about?

The paper presents the results of a quantitative analysis of speeches by Nobel laureates in the sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Medicine) at the Prize gala dinner throughout the whole history of the Prize, 1901–2018. The results outline key themes and historical trends. A dominant theme, common to most speeches, is the exaltation of science as a profession by the laureate. Since the 1970s, especially in chemistry, this element becomes more domainspecific and less related to science in general. One could speculate whether this happens chiefly in chemistry because its area of activity has been perceived to be at risk of erosion from competing fields (e.g. physics, biology). Over time, speeches become more technical, less ceremonial and more lecture-oriented. Emphasis on broad, beneficial impact of science for humanity and mankind (as emphasised in Nobel’s will) is more present in laureates’ speeches during the first half of the XXth century, while its relevance clearly declines during the last decades. Politics and its relationship with science is also a relevant topic in Nobel speeches.

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Why is it important?

Particularly between the two World Wars, science is seen as terrain where nationalistic stances and fights among nations could actually find a context for peaceful competition and even cooperation.


Public communication of science: this article makes clear the moral side of science and scientists.

Enzo Loner
Universita degli Studi di Trento

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Give science and peace a chance: Speeches by Nobel laureates in the sciences, 1901-2018, PLoS ONE, October 2019, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223505.
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