Professor Sir Martin Evans and Lady Judith Evans
Professor Sir Martin Evans was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Here, he and his wife Judith talk about their week in Stockholm and the “glittering experience” that was the Nobel Prize Ceremony
Sir Martin and Lady Judith Evans with fellow Laureate Mario Capecchi and his wife Laura at the Nobel Banquet
We arrived in Stockholm on December 5 2007. As we left the plane we were greeted as VIPs and escorted by limousine across the tarmac to the “cherry blossomed” avenue of trees leading to the personal lounge.
The Grand Hotel, where all laureates and their families stay, was built in 1874 and is a classic landmark in the centre of Stockholm, overlooking the harbour, the old town and the Royal Palace.
All laureates are invited to bring family and friends so we were a party of seventeen including our two sons, Christopher and Simon, their wives Jane and Amanda, our daughter Clare and her husband Andrew, our grandchildren, Emily, Arthur, George and Charlie and Clare’s new baby, five week old Indiana.
The morning after our arrival we visited the Nobel Museum for a guided tour of the Nobel Centennial Exhibition “Cultures of Creativity”. The children often had special programmes planned and on this occasion they were all dressed in white coats as “scientists” concocting noxious grunge and making exciting smells!
Highlights of the week were the Nobel Lectures, Nobel Minds - a television discussion with all the laureates, a tour of the Royal Palace, and a luncheon party with the British Ambassador and his wife. Here again the children enjoyed their own special party with balloons and games. The Nobel Prize concert was given by the outstanding Chinese pianist, Lang Lang with Vladimir Ashkenazy. Lang Lang joined us afterwards for dinner and was delighted by our enthusiasm for his concert.
Professor Sir Martin Evans accepting his award
December 10th is always the date for the Nobel Prize Ceremony and Banquet. This is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. As stipulated in the will of the Swedish born inventor, the prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Economics are awarded in Stockholm and the Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo.
The Prize Award Ceremony takes place in the Stockholm Concert hall and the Banquet is in the Blue Hall of the City Hall. Both are occasions of great splendour and glamour – long evening gowns for all ladies and white tie and tails for all gentlemen including our grandsons! 13,000 flowers, donated by the city of Sanremo in Italy where Alfred Nobel spent the last few years of his life, are woven into intricate and beautiful arrangements. King Carl Gustaf, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine along with other members of the Norwegian Royal Family are guests of honour. The King presents each laureate with a diploma in calligraphic text mounted in red leather and an engraved gold medal made from 18 karat green gold and plated with 24 karat gold.
The Banquet started promptly at 7.00pm. All laureates and their spouses were escorted down a long flight of marble stairs (somewhat daunting to those of us who were wearing new shoes). The menu is a closely guarded secret revealed only when all guests are seated. It is then a race for all the top chefs in Sweden to copy the menus in their own restaurants.
The following evening we attended a banquet given by the King and Queen at the Royal Palace. The Royal Family is immensely popular in Sweden. Crown Princess Victoria escorted Martin to dinner and Prince Carl Philip escorted me. Conversation was lively and entertaining.
On December 13th a quaint pre Christmas celebration takes place. Lucia is an ancient mythical figure with an abiding role as the bearer of light in the long, dark Swedish winter. Nobel Laureates are woken by a choir of girls wearing white dresses with a crown of candles and boys in white robes with pointed hats with gold stars. There is a story of an African laureate who, when he awoke, was quite convinced he had died and gone to heaven and was surrounded by singing angels.
Our last few days in Sweden were spent in Kiruna in the Arctic Circle. We flew up for the tercentenary celebrations of Carl Linnaeus. Staying in the Ice Hotel was a unique experience. It is designed and built every year as it melts in late spring. Stunningly beautiful ice sculptures adorn the corridors and bedrooms and the ice bar serves drinks in ice glasses. Our bed was a block of ice with reindeer skins. We were given huge down filled sleeping bags and although it required some gymnastics to get into bed (without getting the seat of your layers of thermal pyjamas too frozen – sitting on the ice getting boots off) we slept quite well. The next day we went Alaskan Husky sledging across the snowy wilderness – it was exhilarating! We attended the Linnaeus celebration party in the evening. The King and Queen flew up for the occasion and joined us eating risotto and enjoying red wine from plastic goblets while we watched acrobatic dancing on stilts. A firework display ended the festivities – stars cascading into the freezing Arctic night.
We returned home we felt we had been in another world. We have wonderful memories of a truly glittering experience.