All Six Of The US Nobel Prize Winning Scientists Are Immigrants


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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Science knows no boundaries. After all, a fair portion of the world’s most esteemed scientists were refugees, including Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger. Even Soviet Union cosmonauts and US astronauts shook hands in space in 1971 in an act of cross-border solidarity, during the height of the Cold War. It's a tradition that continues today, even against growing anti-immigration sentiments in much of the Western world.

The United States had six science winners at the 2016 Nobel Prizes. All of them are immigrants.


Sir Fraser Stoddart was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.” He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland but became a naturalized citizen of the US.

David Thouless, Duncan Haldane, and Michael Kosterlitz were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” Thouless and Kosterlitz were born in Scotland, and Haldane was originally from England.

Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström were awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics “for their contributions to contract theory.” Holmström was born in Finland and Hart was born in England.


Of course, there was a seventh American Nobel laureate this year if you include the Nobel literature prize: songwriter and poet Bob Dylan, whose grandparents were Eastern European Jews who came to the US escaping anti-Semitic persecution in the early 20th century.


 As a wider trend, science in the US has increasingly benefited from the fruits of immigration over the past decade.    

The number of immigrant scientists and engineers in the US has risen from 3.4 million to 5.2 million between 2003 and 2013, according to a report by the National Science Foundation. In total, nearly 20 percent of the science and engineering workforce are immigrants.

This includes 3 million scientists emigrating from Asia, 1 million from Europe, 330,000 from Africa, and over 600,000 from Central and South America.

"I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global," Sir J Fraser Stoddart, one of the three laureates in chemistry, told The Hill.


"It’s particularly pertinent to have these discussions in view of the political climate on both sides of the pond at the moment... I think the United States is what it is today largely because of open borders."


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