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Receiving the Nobel Prize

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Nobel coming
Renato Dulbecco Scientist
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Ma poi tutto è stato interrotto dal giorno che ho preso il Premio Nobel, perché il Premio Nobel è venuto lì a Londra e lì- è interessante seguire gli avvenimenti, perché, per uno scienziato, il Premio Nobel è una cosa veramente incredibile, perché ce ne sono così pochi, è così raro per uno scienziato, perché insomma è proprio una cosa straordinaria. Mi ricordo che io andavo a lavorare a questo istituto- noi non abitavamo nel centro di Londra, abitavamo fuori Londra, nel Kent, come si chiama, a un paesetto, allora era un paesetto chiamato Chislehurst- e, al mattino, io prendevo il treno per andare a lavorare e il treno era sempre pieno zeppo, naturalmente era un posto scomodo, si doveva stare in piedi forse quasi tutto il tempo, ma insomma però funzionava regolarmente, tutto andava bene. Mi ricordo, appunto, arrivavo lì, lì avevo uno studio- con due camere, anzi e nell'entrata c'era la segretaria, che si sedeva lì, e poi io il piccolo studio mio privato a fianco. E lì tenevo tutti- i miei documenti, insomma se avevo delle idee che scrivevo, ecc., era tutto lì. Perciò, quando arrivavo, entravo lì, c'era la segretaria, salutavo e andavo- e poi separato c'era il laboratorio e il laboratorio era mantenuto da una bravissima tecnica che- noi discutevamo che cosa fare e poi lei organizzava come farlo. E appunto, una mattina arrivo lì- anzi, sono arrivato, mi sono cambiato, ho levato il cappotto, l'ho lasciato sul, nel mio studio e poi sono andato al laboratorio. Tornando dal laboratorio, mi accorgo che c'è la segretaria che ha un foglio di carta in mano, lo agita e mi dice- Cosa vuol dire questo? vado a vedere cosa c'era lì. Era un telegramma che veniva da Stoccolma, da una persona che conosco e conoscevo già da molto tempo, e che diceva- Congratulazioni, ci vedremo a Stoccolma in dicembre, ma era anonimo, non c'era nessuna specificata cosa- Non c'era- c'era la firma? Sì, c'era la firma, ma non diceva di che cosa si trattava, perché non poteva dirlo, perché l'annuncio ufficiale sarebbe avvenuto qualche ora dopo, capisci? Beh, insomma, allora, lei mi dice- Cosa vuol dire?, ma dico- Mi pare che l'unica cosa che può voler dire è il Premio Nobel. Questa povera donna è rimasta quasi colpita da un fulmine. E allora io dico, beh, prima di tutto, telefono a Maureen e allora ho detto- è successo questo e lei mi dice- Bene, stai tranquillo, non facciamo nessun rumore finché non c'è qualche cosa di molto più noto. E lei mi diceva che, nel frattempo, lei aveva organizzato un piccolo lunch con delle amiche che aveva, erano donne i cui figli erano nella stessa classe di Fiona, capisci- perciò il solito- e io vabbè. E allora, io vado lì, mi metto a lavorare, parlo col mio amico che era direttore dell'istituto e anche lui dice -Beh, aspettiamo, vediamo come vanno le cose. E così passano due o tre ore, viene l'ora di andare a fare il lunch, vado giù dove c'è la caffetteria, ci sediamo lì col mio amico e cominciamo a mangiare. A un certo punto, lì dalla porta, vedo, devo dire, l'enorme pancia della mia segretaria, perché era- Robusta? No, no, era incinta e vicina alla nascita. E lei- Oh, dico- C'è qualcosa di serio se lei viene qui! e lei- allora vado a vedere cosa c'è- dice- C'è un giornalista di Stoccolma che vuole parlarle al telefono- Ah, ho detto- Questo allora è vero. Allora l'ho detto al mio amico e così le cose sono andate avanti benissimo, poi è arrivato il telegramma, poi le festività, tutto sai- lì nel laboratorio. Quando c'è stata questa ultima cosa, ho telefonato a Maureen dicendo- Le cose, non c'è dubbio, è proprio vero e lei poi mi ha raccontato che, quando ha ricevuto questa telefonata, lei era ritornata con le sue amiche, così, e le amiche le han detto- Ma che cosa c'è, sembri preoccupata. Cosa succede? È successo qualche cosa? Dice- Sì, mio marito ha vinto il Premio Nobel- perciò le amiche naturalmente- perciò le cose sono andate così, perciò molto bello. Ed è interessante la reazione, perché io abitavo a Chislehurst, che era una zona in un certo qual modo privilegiata, e mi ricordo che parlando a gente così, anzi mi dicevano- la gente era stupita, dice- Come è possibile che uno di questo posto possa avere il Premio Nobel! Perché loro pensavano che son tutti ricchi, persone ricche che non lavorano, ecc. Mah pensa, strano però. Beh, questa è insomma la prospettiva della gente.
But then everything was interrupted from the day that I took the Nobel Prize, because the Nobel Prize came to London and there- it is interesting to follow the events, because, for a scientist, the Nobel Prize is a truly amazing thing, because there are only a few of them, it is so rare for a scientist, so it really is extraordinary. I remember that I went to work at this institute- we didn't live in the centre of London, we lived outside London, in Kent, in a little town called Chislehurst- and, in the morning, I would take the train to work and the train was always packed, obviously it was uncomfortable, you had to stand nearly all the time, but it ran regularly and everything was okay. I remember, I would arrive there, I had an office- with two rooms, and in the entrance there was the secretary, who would sit there, and then my own small private office next to it. And I kept everything there- my papers, if I had an idea I'd write it down, etc, it was all there. So, when I would arrive, I'd go in, the secretary would be there, I'd say hello and go to- and then there was a separate laboratory and the laboratory was run by a great technician who- we discussed what to do and then she organised how to do it. And, one morning I arrived there- I arrived, I got changed, I took off my coat, I left it on, in my office and then I went to the laboratory. When I came back from the laboratory, I noticed that the secretary had a piece of paper in her hand, she shook it and said- What does this mean? I went to have a look at what she had and it was a telegram from Stockholm, from someone that I knew and had known for quite some time, which said -Congratulations, we'll see you in Stockholm in December, but it was mysterious, there was nothing specific- Wasn't there- there was a signature? Yes, there was a signature, but it didn't say what it was about, because he couldn't say, as the official announcement would take place a few hours later. So, then, she said to me- What does it mean?, so I said- The only thing I think it can mean is the Nobel Prize. The poor woman stood as if struck by lightning. And so I said, before anything, I must call Maureen and then I said- Something has happened and she said- Good, stay calm, don't say anything until we know some more. And she told me that in the meantime, she had organised a small lunch with some of her friends, they were women whose children were in the same class as Fiona, you see- so the usual. And so I went, I started working, I spoke with my friend who was the director of the institute and he also said -Well, let's wait, let's see how things go. And two or three hours passed by, the time came to have lunch, I went down to the cafeteria, we sat there with my friend and started to eat. At a certain point, from the door, I saw, I must say, the enormous stomach of my secretary, because she was- Fat? No, no, she was pregnant and close to the birth. And she- Oh, I said, It must be something serious for you to have come down here! And she- so I go and see what's up and she says - There's a journalist from Stockholm who wants to talk to you on phone- Oh, I said- So it's true then. I said this to my friend and then things progressed from there, the telegram arrived, then the celebrations, all there in the laboratory. When there was this last thing, I phoned Maureen saying -There's no doubt, it's true and then she told me that when she received this call, she returned to her friends and her friends said to her -What's wrong, you seem worried. What's happened? Has something happened? She said, -Yes, my husband has won the Nobel Prize- so naturally her friends- as this happened, it was all wonderful. And the reaction to the news was interesting, because I was living in Chislehurst, which was a somewhat privileged area, and I remember speaking to people about it and they would say to me- people were amazed and would say, How is it possible for someone from here to win the Nobel Prize! Because they thought that they were all rich, rich people that don't work, etc. How strange. Well, this is some people's perspective.

The Italian biologist Renato Dulbecco (1914-2012) had early success isolating a mutant of the polio virus which was used to create a life-saving vaccine. Later in his career, he initiated the Human Genome Project and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for furthering our understanding of cancer caused by viruses.

Listeners: Paola De Paoli Marchetti

Paola De Paoli Marchetti is a science journalist who graduated with an honours degree in foreign languages and literature from the University Ca’Foscari, Venice. She has been a science journalist since the 1960s and has been on the staff of the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore since 1970. She was elected president of UGIS (Italian Association of Science Journalists) in 1984. She has been a Member of the Board of EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, Strasbourg), and was its president in 1987-1988 and 1998-2000. In May 2000 she was unanimously elected president emeritus. She was a member of the National Council of Italian Journalists (1992-1998). From 2002 to 2004 she was member of the working group for scientific communication of the National Committee for Biotechnology. She has also been a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Research and Technology and editor-in-chief of the publication MRST, policy of science and technology. She has co-authored many publications in the field of scientific information, including Le biotecnologie in Italia, Le piste della ricerca and Luna vent’anni dopo.

Duration: 5 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008