Six of America’s 2016 Nobel Laureates are Immigrants

Written by on October 11, 2016 in Integration with 1 Comment

immigration-impact-nobel-prizeEach year, the Nobel Foundation awards prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace to the most innovative scientists, researchers, writers, and peace-builders in our world. So far this year, six Americans have been awarded the prize in the areas of chemistry, physics and economics—each of whom is an immigrant.

These scientists have been recognized for their distinguished contributions to science in the following areas:

  • The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded, in part, to Sir J. Fraser Stoddart. His research in creating ways to energize and steer molecules is a breakthrough that could eventually transform the treatment of illness and lead to the development of more powerful computers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University, David Thouless of Yale University and Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University. Their theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter could have concrete, practical applications in electronics and computing. However, according to NPR the Nobel was not awarded for those benefits but for their “profound insights into physics.”
  • The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Oliver Hart of Harvard University and Bengt Holmström of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for their groundbreaking work on how to make contracting more fair and effective by designing contracts that discourage corruption and abuse, according to the New York Times.

Notably, not a single one of these American Nobel Prize winners was born in the United States, but rather became Americans by choice, bringing their talent, energy and innovation to the nation.

Two of these winners shared their views on the challenges of emigrating to the United States and the importance of immigration to the American scientific establishment in interviews with The Hill Newspaper.

Duncan Haldane, the English Princeton University researcher who won the prize for physics, described the immigration process as a “bureaucratic nightmare for many people.” Yet, despite these challenges, as the article explains, scientists will continue to come to the United States, if allowed, because of its well-regarded higher-education system and America’s overall commitment to funding research and scientific inquiry.

The American winner for Chemistry Sir J. Fraser Stoddart said “I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global.” Born in Scotland, Stoddart credited “American openness with bringing top scientists to the country.” He added “that the American scientific establishment will only remain strong as long as we don’t enter an era where we turn our back on immigration and added that the United States should be welcoming people from all over the world, including the Middle East.”

There should be little debate over whether the United States has benefited from immigration, as newcomers have long provided the energy and new ideas that fuel the nation’s growth. These six immigrants and Nobel Prize winners are just the latest testament.

Photo by Tim Ereneta.

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  • Diana Gordon

    It is truly exciting that so many Nobel prizes went to immigrants in the US. But I was distressed to read that Stoddart, a citizen since 2011, told an interviewer that he was not planning to vote in the presidential election–too busy. The brilliance of these immigrants does not relieve them of the responsibilities of citizenship!

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