The Nobel Prizes, awarded annually in recognition of extraordinary achievement in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace, have once again been won by Americans who came here as immigrants and refugees. Three out of the five Nobel Prize categories included immigrants or refugees.
Immigrants have a history of winning The Nobel Foundation’s numerous awards—33 of 85 American winners have been immigrants since 2000. In the chemistry, medicine, and physics categories respectively, foreign-born Americans have won 38 percent of chemistry and medicine prizes, as well as 40 percent of all physics prizes awarded in the last 17 years.
This year, scientists and researchers have been awarded prizes in physics, chemistry, and peace:
- The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded, in part, to German-born Joachim Frank. The biophysicist developed a method by which water can be frozen rapidly, ensuring that biological molecules in the water don’t form ice crystals and become blurred. This allows Frank to take a more detailed image of molecules. This image can then be used to study the molecules and potentially identify new cures for diseases.
- The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to physicist and MIT professor Rainer Weiss, among other members of his team. Weiss, also originally from Germany, designed an instrument that can detect gravitational waves. By studying these gravitational waves, Weiss is able to detect celestial events such as black hole mergers. Notably, Weiss is also a refugee—he fled from his home as a boy and immigrated to the United States during the Nazi’s rise to power.
- The Nobel Prize in Peace was awarded to Alexander Glaser and Zia Mian, among the other members of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Glaser and Mian, both researchers at Princeton University and born in Germany and Pakistan respectively, work to “outlaw and eliminate all nuclear weapons” under international law through their work with ICAN. Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, remarked that the award represented “encouragement” to nuclear powers to continue negotiations around their use of weapons.
As with the winners from previous years, these immigrants and refugee have shared their talents, innovation, and energy with the nation. These Nobel Prize winners show that the United States must remain a welcoming place because our country would be losing out on a great deal if it shuts itself off to the foreign-born.
Photo by Adam Baker