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The Top 5 Colleges Producing Nobel Prize Winners

Here's a countdown of five amazing schools where Nobel Prize winners attended college, plus five honorable mentions for schools we just couldn't leave out.

Ah, the coveted Nobel Prize! It’s one of the most prestigious awards for excellence in Literature, Peace, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, and Economic Sciences. First awarded in 1901 at the request of Alfred Nobel’s will, these awards have been given to leaders in these fields who have done great service to mankind with their work. Unsurprisingly, many of these incredible people also attended or worked at amazing colleges and universities. The institutions listed below are some of the best schools with the most Nobel Prize–winning alumni, faculty, and researchers. You’ll find a little bit about each institution and a spotlight on a few Nobel Laureate alumni, plus five honorable mention schools we just couldn’t resist bragging about as well.

5. Stanford University

Stanford UniversityStanford University is a private research institution with an over 8,000-acre campus in Stanford, California. Founded in 1891, Stanford boasts 55 Nobel Laureates with association to the College through study or research, with Physics, Chemistry, Economics, and Physiology/Medicine being the most represented categories. The University offers 69 undergraduate majors and nearly 200 graduate degree programs through its seven-school university system. 

A glance at Stanford Nobel Laureates

Eric Cornell

  • Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics
  • BS in Physics, 1985 (attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate studies)
  • Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and a physicist at the United States Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology

Alvin Roth

  • Winner of the 2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
  • MS (1973) and PhD (1974) in Operations Research (attended Columbia University for undergraduate degree)
  • Professor of Economics at Stanford and of Economics and Business Administration at Harvard University

Richard E. Taylor

  • Winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics
  • PhD in Physics, 1962 (attended University of Alberta for both his BS and MSc)
  • Pioneering investigations into and the development of the quark model of particle physics

4. Princeton University

Princeton UniversityPrinceton University is a private, comprehensive Ivy League university on a 600-acre campus in Princeton, New Jersey—50 miles southwest of New York City. Founded in 1745, Princeton has graduated or employed 74 Nobel Prize winners who have won the coveted award in almost every category. The University offers BA and BSE degrees with 37 concentrations as well as more than 50 interdisciplinary certificate programs.

A glance at Princeton Nobel Laureates

Woodrow Wilson

  • Winner of the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize
  • Bachelor of Arts, 1879 (attended Johns Hopkins University for graduate studies)
  • 28th President of the United States

Frances Arnold

  • Winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
  • BS in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, 1979 (attended University of California Berkley for graduate studies)
  • Co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

John Forbes Nash Jr.

  • Winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences
  • PhD in Mathematics, 1950 (attended Carnegie Mellon University for undergraduate degree)
  • Best known for his contributions to partial differential equations and the mathematics of game theory 

Connect me with Princeton!

3. Columbia University

Columbia UniversityColumbia University is a private coeducational institution on a 36-acre campus in the heart of New York City. Founded in 1754, Columbia is associated with 84 Nobel Laureates, with the highest number of winners being for Physics, Chemistry, and Economics. The University offers more than 100 majors and concentrations, including a range of interdisciplinary and joint programs, as well as hundreds of academic and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

A glance at Columbia Nobel Laureates

Barack Obama

  • Winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize
  • BA in Political Science with specialties in International Relations and English Literature, 1983 (attended Harvard University for graduate law studies)
  • 44th President of the United States

Edward Calvin Kendall

  • Winner of the 1950 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • BS (1908), MS (1909), and PhD (1910) in Chemistry
  • Well known for contributions to biochemistry and medicine through hormone research with the Mayo Clinic

Isidor Rabi

  • Winner of the 1944 Nobel Prize in Physics
  • MS and PhD (1927) in Physics (attended Cornell University for undergraduate studies)
  • Chairman of the Science Advisory Committee under Dwight D. Eisenhower and well known for the discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance 

Connect me with Columbia!

2. The University of Chicago

The University of ChicagoThe University of Chicago is a comprehensive private university on a 217-acre campus just south of downtown Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1746, the University has association with an impressive 94 Nobel Laureates, with Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, and Economics being the most present awards. UChicago offers over 50 majors and more than 40 minors as well as double majors, the option to create your major, and interdisciplinary programs.

A glance at UChicago Nobel Laureates

Tsung-Dao Lee & Chen-Ning Yang

  • Winners of the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics (the first two Chinese Laureates in history)
  • Lee: PhD in Physics, 1950 (attended Zhejiang University and National Southwestern Associated University for undergraduate and graduate studies); Yang: PhD in Physics, 1948 (attended National Southwestern Associated University and Tsinghua University for undergraduate and graduate studies)
  • Most well known for the Lee-Yang theorem on parity in particle physics

George Stigler

  • Winner of the 1982 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
  • PhD in Economics, 1938 (attended the University of Washington for undergraduate studies and Northwestern University for graduate studies)
  • Key leader of the Chicago School of Economics and best known for developing “The Economic Theory of Regulation

James Watson

  • Winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • BS in Zoology, 1947 (attended Indiana University in Bloomington for graduate studies)
  • Best known for his work with his team in discovering the double-helix structure of DNA

1. Harvard University

Harvard UniversityHarvard University is a private Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts—just across the Charles River from Boston. Founded in 1636, Harvard has seen a staggering 161 Nobel Laureates pass through its halls as students, faculty, and researchers. The University offers 50 undergraduate fields of study as well as 12 graduate and professional schools that offer advanced programs to its large body of students.  

A glance at Harvard Nobel Laureates

T.S. Eliot

  • Winner of the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature
  • BA equivalent to modern degree in Comparative Literature, 1909; MA in English Literature, 1910
  • Poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic, and editor

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

  • Winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize
  • Master of Public Administration, 1971 (attended University of Colorado Boulder for undergraduate studies)
  • 24th President of Liberia 

John Franklin Enders

  • Winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • PhD in Microbiology (attended Yale University briefly prior to joining the US Army Air Corps at the onset of World War I)
  • Referred to as the “Father of Modern Vaccines” for his part in working on polio and measles viruses and the development of the measles vaccine

Related: A Look Inside the Prestige: What Makes Ivy League Colleges So Special?

Honorable mentions

Although the following featured schools haven’t produced quite as many as our top five, they deserve an honorable mention for having an impressive number of Nobel Laureates attending or working on their campuses.

We hope you enjoyed learning about these schools and the outstanding graduates they’ve produced in honor of Nobel Prize Day, celebrated every year on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Click the green “Connect me” buttons underneath each school to request more information from them, and who knows—you may count yourself among this impressive list of alumni someday!

Explore even more schools based on other interesting and important criteria with our CX featured college lists.

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