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The Marshall W. Nirenberg Papers

[Draft of acceptance speech given upon receiving the Gairdner Award] pdf (111,088 Bytes) transcript of pdf
[Draft of acceptance speech given upon receiving the Gairdner Award]
In the draft for his acceptance speech for the award granted by the Gairdner Foundation, a non-profit corporation devoted to the recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of biomedical research, Nirenberg asserts that a driving force behind science "is that the individual strives for truth and [publicly] accepts full responsibility for his work."
Number of Image Pages:
2 (111,088 Bytes)
Nirenberg, Marshall W.
Reproduced with permission of Marshall W. Nirenberg.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Awards and Prizes
Exhibit Category:
Translating the Code of Life and the Nobel Prize, 1962-1968
Box Number: 4
Folder Number: 3
Unique Identifier:
Accession Number:
Document Type:
Drafts (documents)
Physical Condition:
Series: Series I: Personal and Biographical, 1945-2000
SubSeries: Other Awards and Honors, 1962-1988
Folder: Gairdner Foundation Award (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) [includes notes and drafts of speech], 1967 Nov
Dr., Mr. Gairdner, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I deeply appreciate the honor that the Gairdner Foundation has conferred upon me. Previous recipients of the Gairdner Award, by their accomplishments have contributed much to medical science. To be included in this group is a recognition which I shall always remember, and for which I am grateful to you.
In ancient times in the Orient, an artist always used an assumed name to sign the pictures that he painted. The reason was that no on other than the artist would know who created the picture, and so people then could never directly criticize or reward the artist for his work. The artist then would always be free -- he could never be punished directly, and he could never be corrupted by praise.
Certainly the concepts of freedom and creation for the sake of creation are ideals to cherish. But contrast this philosophy with the fundamental philosophy of science. Certainly one of the most magnificent aspects of science is the devotion of the practitioners of science to truth. The essential factor in this process is that each individual accepts personal responsibility for the correctness of his work. Every scientist labors long and hard to be sure that his findings and his interpretation of facts are correct. For his colleagues judge his scientific ability on the basis of what he creates or what he strives to create.
The basic values of the scientific community are simple and good. The very heart of the philosophy though is that the individual strives for truth and publicly accepts full responsibility for his work. The individual then is freely available to everyone in the scientific community and can be punished by criticism or rewarded by praise. So constructive criticism plays an essential role in the scientific community and praise, which is far less frequent than criticism is also needed for balance.
As for the possibility that the scientist can be corrupted by praise, I can only say that I do not know anyone who has been adversely affected by praise.
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