Peace, prose and alchemy: Change the world and you'll win the prize

September 29, 2000

Small proze for man, a giant leap for mankind. Laureates reveal what winning meant to them

Sir John Walker was awarded the Nobel for chemistry in 1997 for elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of ademosine triphosphate. He is director of the Dunn Human Nutrition Unit at the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

"The prize has offered me a much wider perspective. It has given me the chance to put ideas that I had into practice on a larger scale," Walker says. "I became director of the MRC institute, I think, as a result of the prize, and that has enabled me to refocus the institute and build a science team with all the right interests. This is working really well and that aspect has been really pleasing. There is no question that the prize opens doors.

"The reaction you get differs greatly from country to country, and I think there is much more general respect for Nobel prizes in other countries. There is also a lot more media interest in Britain in the peace and literature prizes than the science prizes - perhaps because the science topics seem more obscure. It is a pity that newspapers often put the wrong kind of slant on science because they have to tell a good story. People get worried by BSE and 'Frankenstein foods'.

"As a result of the prize I have talked about my work much more widely and extended contacts with local groups and schools. People want to hear about what we do." EC

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