Which universities have produced the most Nobel laureates?
On 10th December 1896, Alfred Nobel – Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist – died. According to Nobel’s will, 90% of his enormous fortune would be used to set up the Nobel Prizes. The Nobel laureates would win these prestigious awards for outstanding contribution to the development of society in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and the promotion of world peace. Later, a prize for economics was added to the five existing nominations.
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been awarded annually on 10th December, and to date 900 people have won it – including 53 women. Five of the prizes are awarded by the Swedish monarch in Stockholm, and the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian monarch in Oslo. 18-carat gold medals, diplomas, and ten million Swedish Kronor per subject are bestowed on the laureates. But the glory doesn’t end there: prize-winners enjoy a week of conferences, museum visits and embassy events, as well as the Nobel lectures and a lavish banquet in their honour.
Maybe you’re feeling inspired to follow in the footsteps of these world leading figures. But where to begin? At university, of course! Today, we’ll introduce you to the 15 universities that have produced the most Nobel laureates. The list shows the comfortable dominance of American higher education institutions; 10 out of 15 positions are occupied by universities from the United States. Let’s begin our countdown.
15. University of Göttingen
The University of Göttingen is the oldest and largest university in Lower Saxony, founded in 1734 by the British king, George II. Established to further the ideas of Enlightenment, Göttingen is renowned for its atmosphere of free exploration and research. Its Faculty of Law was known as a ‘Mecca’ for the study of public law, and even Napoleon himself studied there!
In the first decades of the 20th century, the university was the centre of many areas of modern physics. Pioneering research conducted there has continued to the present day, and the activities of 44 Nobel laureates are associated with the University of Göttingen – most of them in the field of physics.
14. University of Paris
The University of Paris was established in the middle of the 12th century and is the fourth oldest university in the world. Also known as ‘La Sorbonne’, it presented high academic performance in the humanities, especially in philosophy and theology. Popes and royal family members are counted among the scholars who have graduated from here.
In 1970, the University of Paris was dissolved into 13 autonomous institutions – the highest ranking being the Sorbonne University, rated #83 in the world. 51 Nobel laureates are affiliated with the University of Paris and its successor branches, amongst them, Marie and Pierre Curie, Jean Paul Sartre, and T.S. Eliot.
13. Humboldt University of Berlin
Humboldt University of Berlin is one of the major German universities and is ranked among the top 120 universities in the world. Known as the ‘mother of all modern universities’ after its foundation in 1810, 57 Nobel laureates taught and studied here.
The university is known for its turbulent history. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Humboldt was regarded as the best institution for natural sciences and physics, and Albert Einstein was a professor here. It implemented progressive educational reforms and allowed the enrolment of female students (which was completely new for Europe). Yet, later, the university supported the Nazi regime, persecuting Jews, non-Aryan teachers and students, and burning books in May 1933. The dark days are now over, and Humboldt University is again one of the best in Europe. It offers some of the world’s top teaching in classics, philosophy, arts and humanities.
Cornell University is one of the largest and most famous universities in the United States, and is represented in the elite Ivy League. The university campus is located in New York. From the very beginning the principles of the university focussed on secular education and access to education for everyone, regardless of their sex, religious beliefs or race. 61 Nobel laureates are affiliated with Cornell University, winning the prize for their pioneering efforts in physics, medicine, chemistry and economics.
11. Yale University
Another Ivy league university represented in this list is Yale, one of the most famous, wealthiest and prestigious educational institutions in the world. The university is part of the “Big Three” along with Harvard and Princeton, and is one of the 9 colleges founded in the colonial period of US history. Entering Yale University as a student or professor is no easy task, and so among its alumni and staff the university boasts countless talented people, from five US presidents to 65 Nobel laureates.
- If you’re interested in admission to Yale or other top American universities, check out our article.
Princeton University is the fourth oldest university in the USA, and ranks #12 in the world! Unsurprisingly, young people from all over the globe dream of entering this prestigious university, which is distinguished from other educational institutions by its teaching of politics and economics. Moreover, students at Princeton can benefit from the small student body (only 10,000 students) and gorgeous green campus. And that’s not all. 69 Nobel laureates are affiliated with Princeton University, winning a great number of prizes in the economics category.
9. University of Oxford
We hardly need to introduce the University of Oxford. But if you still need some convincing that it is one of the world’s most magnificent institutions, then we have some more facts for you. Oxford is the oldest university in the UK and the second oldest in the world – the very first mention of the university dates back to 1096.
Given its centuries of academic experience, Oxford boasts a very long list of famous graduates, among them Stephen Hawking, Oscar Wilde, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Lewis Carroll. Also among the alumni and staff are 72 Nobel laureates, including writer William Golding, mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose, and activist Malala Yousafzai, who is the world’s youngest laureate.
California Institute of Technology, also known as Caltech, is a relatively small university with a student body of just 2,300. But its diminutive enrolment does not reflect its output; the institution is ranked #4 in the world!
Although the main focus of teaching and research is in the fields of science and engineering, the university also offers courses in humanities and social sciences, training students in music, art history, and creative writing. However, all students, without exception, take a course of higher mathematics and physics with a duration of 5 semesters.
76 Nobel laureates were forged at Caltech, the majority of them winning prizes for physics or chemistry – including Andrea M. Ghez, the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, and Frances Arnold, the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Stanford University is another unique educational and research university in the USA, ranked #2 in the world. Stanford is an innovator in the field of high technology, whose influence has been felt far and wide. Following World War II, the university encouraged graduates and students to create their own local enterprises, leading to the birth of Silicon Valley. To this day, Stanford is one of the world’s most successful universities in attracting start-up funding. In all, companies founded by Stanford alumni generate more than $27 trillion of revenue annually.
84 Nobel laureates are associated with Stanford University. Of course, this is partly due to the generous funding of scientific research by the university, which exceeds more than $1bn annually! Stanford doesn’t just excel in research, but in sport: its alumni and students have also won 270 Olympic medals!
- Another interesting fact: it was Stanford’s staff who created the famous TOEFL language test!
Columbia University was founded in 1754 with the support of King George II of Great Britain. It was here that a working prototype of the laser was developed and fission of uranium nuclei was discovered. Today, Columbia University consists of 20 faculties, three of which – journalism, business, and law – are considered among the best in the United States.
The Faculty of Journalism annually awards the most prestigious award in the field of journalism – the Pulitzer Prize. Alumni and staff of Columbia are no stranger to another award – the Nobel Prize. There are 96 Nobel laureates affiliated with Columbia University, including former US presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 and 2009 respectively.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is the world’s leading university in the field of science and technology, and is ranked the #1 university in the world!
MIT was founded in 1861 to train engineers and technical specialists, the shortage of whom was strongly felt during the scientific and technological revolution of that time. Despite this, MIT doesn’t adhere just to teaching technical specialties. Among the university programs, you can find social sciences, humanities, management, and the arts. Amongst the 97 Nobel laureates associated with MIT, most were awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, followed by the Prize in Physics.
- If you dream of studying in the United States, then check out our article about scholarships in the US!
The University of Chicago was founded in 1890 by the American Baptist Enlightenment Society and oil tycoon John Rockefeller, who later recognized the university as his “most successful investment’. The university was intended to combine an American-style liberal arts college with bachelor’s programs, and a German-style research university with postgraduate studies. 100 Nobel laureates are affiliated with the university, demonstrating the quality of its teaching and research; it ranks #9 in the world.
University of California, Berkeley is the oldest university in California, and the birthplace of many important scientific achievements and discoveries. Berkelium, one of the 16 chemical elements discovered here, was named after the university itself.
On campus there is a space research laboratory, a botanical garden, and several museums. The UC Berkeley libraries house some 12 million scientific books, journals, and monographs. UC Berkeley is considered one of the best universities in the world for training specialists in the field of physics and chemistry. That’s why, out of a total 110 Nobel Prizes won by people associated with Berkeley, over 60 have been awarded in these two categories.
2. Cambridge University
The University of Cambridge is one of the oldest universities on the planet and a symbol of world-class British education. Founded in 1209 by a group of persecuted scientists from the University of Oxford, today the university consists of 31 independent colleges and more than 100 departments, faculties, schools and institutes. One of the features of the University of Cambridge is its college system, where each independent college has its own property and income, appoints its teaching staff, and determines the range of specialisations offered.
Cambridge provides exceptional teaching and research opportunities across broad fields, and thanks to this, the 121 Nobel Prizes won by alumni and staff of Cambridge are distributed quite evenly among the sciences: 37 for physics, 30 for chemistry, and 31 for medicine.
Ranked #3 in the world, there probably isn’t a university more recognizable than Harvard. It is the benchmark of higher education, a symbol of US scientific power, and the country’s oldest educational institution, named after its first philanthropist, John Harvard.
Founded as a college in 1636, Harvard University has been confidently holding the highest positions in world rankings for many years. This is achieved thanks to the quality of teaching and the scope of research. The Harvard Library, which is the largest university library in the world, also deserves a special mention. With such riches of knowledge, it’s unsurprising that 161 Nobel laureates studied or taught within its walls.
Harvard University has one of the largest university donation funds in the world, and provides a significant number of scholarships. More than 60% of its students receive scholarships or other financial support, exceeding $160 million in total. This allows talented people from all over the world to gain access to the best education and take part in advanced research – you, too, can join the Harvard academic community.
If you’ve been inspired to study at these Nobel Prize-winning universities, we invite you visit our platform to explore their programmes and scholarships. With our expert help, you can apply to a number of our prestigious partner universities, including MIT, Caltech, and Stanford!
Who knows – maybe you’ll become the next Nobel laureate!