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1986 May 26 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Speech at Weizmann Institute lunch

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1245-1415.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 904
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Foreign policy (Middle East), Science & technology

Professor Aryeh DvoretzkiMr. President, Lord Chancellor, Prime Minister Peres:

First, on behalf of all guests—and even some of those who work here—can I say thank you for this wonderful lunch on this great occasion.

It is a great occasion for me to return back to this Institute of fame and reputation, even more so, I think to have a luncheon with a set of prime ministers here is quite something.

Of course, as you know, this great Institute has an enormous place in Anglo-Israeli relations. My already close relations and connections with it have been strengthened by your decision to endow a Chair of Chemistry in my name, and I was very thrilled when that happened. As you know, it was an occasion we had in London, but those who chose to endow it in my name did not know quite how closely I had been associated, because the first time I came here I happened to discover working here someone who is no longer with us, but Gerhard Schmidt with whom I worked in a laboratory in Oxford on something called Gramicidin B which was meant to be the simplest protein nuclear chain to get out but which took twenty years to find the structure of. So I was particularly glad when you named a chair of chemistry after me.

But may I say a word about Chaim Weizmann and how happy [end p1] I am to have these two volumes which you have given me, because he made a historic contribution to both our countries, and on his death Winston Churchill spoke of the sense of loss in Britain at the passing of a man who was famous and respected throughout the free world. His name and his achievements live on in both countries, and he personified the close, personal, historic and scientific links between Britain and Israel. All of those links, whether they are personal, historic or scientific—all of those are alive and well today.

And, of course, as a scientist, Dr. Weizmann recognised the contribution which technology could make to material prosperity and even as we travelled earlier this morning in Israel to see some of the research work you have done and to see how much green there is in the desert, we saw the very contribution that technology and science has and continues to make, and it was Weizmann who knew that the land which is now Israel was poorly endowed with natural resources and that it would need high standards of scientific research and its application if it was to make progress. And so, from its earliest days, the Institute subjected itself to the discipline of practical problems yet did not neglect pure science.

Of course, when scientists get together, we always talk about these matters, as we have at this table. We have to continue to carry out pure science, first to unlock the secrets of the unknown—and so long as there is unknown we shall always want to try to find out what it is which are the real laws of nature because it is a fascination in itself—but also we know that we have a duty to try to harness the harness the results of [end p2] our work for the betterment of mankind and can I say how very impressed I am on everything that Israel is doing to help some of the lands in Africa to grow the food and things which they need to make themselves self-sufficient.

So we have the two things and it is marvellous to see them both very well-founded in this famous Institute, and we were all delighted, those of us who know of the Institute, when Dr. Reisner was asked to advise the Soviet Union on the effects of radiation on bone marrow in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and I am very grateful to him for the short talk which I have had with him, which will perhaps enable us to look very carefully to see whether we have all of the contingency plans on the medical side in Britain. And I am convinced that Britain too can cooperate and benefit from increased cooperation with Israeli scientists and I would like to see a team of Israeli researchers come to Britain as our guests this autumn, so that British institutions and companies can fully appreciate what Israel has to offer.

As someone who dabbles in both science and politics—at least I am not sure whether you would call prime ministers dabbling in politics—I have always admired Chaim Weizmann, not just as a brilliant scientist but as a politician of outstanding vision. His great moral authority helped to guide the new State of Israel in its vital first few years and to establish Israel's reputation as a vibrant democracy.

It took courage and foresight in everything that he did and he had both qualities.

Thank you very much for inviting me back here. It is [end p3] my sorrow that I am not able to go round and talk and see the practical research that you are doing, because to me it would be a very welcome respite from my other activities, but I hope that you will understand that this visit is specially for the friendship between Britain and Israel, friendship at all levels, including the scientific level, and as I have a duty to go to the Knesset which I am very much looking forward to, I have to forego this time the pleasure of looking round your laboratories.

Marcus and I have just been plotting that I might come for that purpose on some other occasion and it would be for me a treat in store.

Thank you for inviting me here again. Thank you for the honour you have done me in naming a Chair in my name. Thank you for all that you do here for the pure science of the world and for the applied science of the world and thank you for all that Israel is doing for the larger mankind, of which we are all a part. (applause)