Hungarian President Katalin Novák hosted a gala dinner in Budapest on Monday to honour Hungary’s recent Nobel Prize-winning scientists: Katalin Karikó and Ferenc Krausz.
In her remarks at the Pesti Vigadó, President Novák noted that all Hungarians ‘long for the moments when we can feel the Hungarian nation’s unity and sense of belonging, and this is one of those moments.’ The President stated that Katalin Karikó and Ferenc Krausz belong to Hungary, and Hungary belongs to them. ‘Our Nobel laureates are individuals who have always acknowledged their Hungarian heritage, are proud of it, and have lived lives full of struggle.’ She underscored that both Katalin Karikó and Ferenc Krausz credited their success to a great extent to the knowledge they gained from their Hungarian teachers in Hungarian schools.
Katalin Novák highlighted the role of genuine educators in nurturing young talents and ensuring their progress on their chosen paths.
The President requested Karikó and Krausz to assist and engage in ‘passionate and challenging debates about the present and future of Hungarian education,’ as they are better equipped to determine what and how to teach for a successful life.
Novák also mentioned the Stipendium Peregrinum scholarship recipients, who study at the world’s best universities with support from the Hungarian government. Young women were also present at the gala dinner, the President highlighted, who would certainly be encouraged by ther success of the first Hungarian female Nobel laureate.
The President also asked the question of how ‘a nation of fifteen million is so extensively present in the world’s scientific bloodstream?’ In her opinion, the secret recipe of Hungary includes the Hungarian language, the Hungarian way of thinking, and being raised in the Hungarian culture, values, faith, and the inherent love for freedom. ‘This is an inheritance that inspires, encourages creativity, and leads to innovative solutions,’ she suggested.
Biochemist Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, a US microbiologist, are receiving this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their foundational discoveries in the development of mRNA-based vaccines. Karikó shared during the event that she grew up in a house made of adobe bricks in Kisújszállás, where there was no running water. Yet, she spent her childhood on an ‘island of happiness.’
‘I learned early on that hard work is part of our lives. My secondary school biology teacher convinced me that I could be a researcher when I didn’t even know what that meant. It’s important that later on, there were people around me who shaped me. I had to overcome many challenges, and with each one, I became better. Now that everything is given to me, I don’t know what will happen,’ Katalin Karikó humorously stated. She emphasized that when people said she was unsuccessful because she could not win grants, she still felt very successful because her experiments kept improving. ‘At this special event, I have the presence of my two assistants who have helped me for twenty-four years,’ she highlighted.
Physicist Ferenc Krausz, along with Pierre Agostini, a French physicist teaching in the United States, and Anne L’Huillier, a French physicist working in Sweden, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their experimental methods for generating attosecond pulses, which have enabled the study of electrons’ motion within atoms.
Krausz emphasized at the gala dinner that the average life expectancy of the Hungarian people is five to six years lower than the EU average, which can be compared to pulling the handbrake for Hungarian society. ‘Until now, there has been no diagnostic procedure that provided early detection and reliable protection against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, and which was affordable,’ he noted, and added:
‘We hope that we have found a procedure that could meet these requirements. Thanks to the support of the prime minister and the government, we were able to start a globally unique study in Hungary in 2019, which involved ten thousand participants. Among them, two thousand were found to need a lifestyle change to prevent diabetes.’
The laureates were joined at the gala dinner by state dignitaries, including House Speaker László Kövér, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, Chief of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás, ministers Sándor Pintér and János Csák, as well as Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony. The leaders of parliamentary parties, the Presidents of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Hungarian Academy of Arts, and key figures from the cultural and scientific communities were also in attendance.
Sources: Hungarian Conservative/Sándor Palace/MTI