Abstract of the lecture
As an octogenarian I am happy even to be alive and still more so to be the recipient of a Kyoto Prize that celebrates the values of work, knowledge, and idealism. My contemporary cohort reached adu1thood after the Great Depression and during World War II. The Depression was a world-wide tragedy, and strongly affected my family. My parents were in their early 30's, with a new home, two young children, and rising expectations. They were suddenly faced with unemployment and the loss of their home. Their aspirations were crushed, and shifted to thoughts of a brighter future for themselves and their children. My sister and I learned not to want unattainable material things. I also developed a life-long consciousness of, and sympathy for, the underprivileged of the world.
We were fortunate to have excellent schools, and parents who found underpaid employment that spared us from poverty. We had a humble home for my musically talented sister and myself, but one where the importance of hard work, education, and ethical living were emphasized. I became interested in art and inspired by literature. The teachers in my public schools revealed the scientific glories of Euclid, Mendeleev, and Newton which prepared me for the California Institute of Technology, and the privilege of studying genetics in the department of Morgan, the first Nobelist in genetics.
World War II began as I was making the transition to college, and affected all of us. It was my good fortune to be sent to Medical School while in the U.S. Navy. Genetics and embryology both fascinated me and led naturally to an interest in Pediatrics. I became fascinated with the thought of combining scientific inquiry with caring for sick people. World War II ended, and I continued my training, inspired especially by my teachers in pediatrics. I found there was nothing I could imagine that surpasses the feeling of curing a child with a deadly disease like meningitis. All barriers of race, religion, or social status disappear. During my pediatric training I first encountered children with cancer, a subject of central interest for me ever since.