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Nobel Prize Winners 2019

Each year, in memory of Alfred Nobel, a prize committee carefully selects the people they believe deserve an award for their out outstanding creative and/or intellectual achievement. As the 2019’s Nobel Laureates are announced, we thought we would check out what they got their PhD in and where!


This year’s award has been given to William G. Kaelin, Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability”. As we all know, we need oxygen to survive. This has been known for centuries, but how we, in particular our cells, adapt to changes in oxygen levels has, until now, remained a mystery.

The work carried out by this year’s Nobel Laureates has revealed the molecular machinery that allows the cell to respond to different levels of oxygen, and how this can affect cellular metabolism and physiological function.

What’s more, these discoveries are the foundations for promising new strategies to fight cancer, anaemia and many other diseases.

William G. Kaelin, Jr

PhD in Oncology, Duke University (1982)

Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe

PhD in Molecular Biology, University of Cambridge (1987)

Gregg L Semenza

PhD in Medical Science and Genetics, University of Pennsylvania (1984)


The Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 was awarded to James Peebles, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz “for their contributions to the understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos”. The prize was split into two parts. One half was given to James Peebles, who is renowned for contributing to the new era of modern cosmology, when he realised that the radiation that remained after the Big Bang could provide answers to questions like ‘How old is the universe?’ and ‘What is its fate?’, which is what every cosmologist wants to know.

The other half was jointly awarded to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for the discovery of an exoplanet. Only 5% of the Universe’s matter and energy is known. So, when Michel and Didier announced they discovered the first exoplanet to orbit a solar-type star, they knew our Sun was not alone in having planets. It also didn’t take long for this discovery to be confirmed, as astronomers turned their telescope and watched as the exoplanet orbited its sun in just four days!

These discoveries have not only revealed different worlds, but have changed the conception of our own.

James Peebles

PhD in Atomic Physics, Princeton University 1962)

Michel Mayor

PhD in Astronomy, University of Geneva (1971)

Didier Queloz

PhD in Astronomy, University of Geneva (1995)


The Chemistry Nobel Prize for 2019 was awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for their role in the development of the lithium-ion battery. Most of you will be aware of the lithium-ion battery, and if not, you will definitely have used one before!

The lithium-ion battery is the world’s most powerful battery and it is used in wireless electronics such as mobile phones and laptops. Lithium is lightweight, and willingly loses electrons, which makes it the perfect battery. John B. Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino have worked to improve the lithium-ion battery, and this has made a fossil fuel-free society possible, bringing a huge and necessary benefit to humankind.

John B. Goodenough

PhD in Physics, University of Chicago (1952)

M. Stanley Whittingham

PhD in Chemistry, University of Oxford (1968)

Akira Yoshino

PhD in Engineering, Osaka University, Japan (2005)


As last year’s announcement for the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 was postponed, we can now reveal that the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018 was awarded to the Olga Tokarczuk “for a narrative imagination that represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life”. As well as publishing 16 books, she is a an activist and public intellectual. She is the first Polish writer to win the Man Booker International Prize in 2018 for her novel Flights.

Olga Tokarczuk

BSc in Psychology, University of Warsaw

This year’s Laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature is Peter Handke. He was awarded this prize “for his influential work exploring the periphery and the specificity of human experience with linguistic ingenuity”.

Peter Handke is an Austrian novelist, playwright and translator who started his studies in Law at the University of Graz, but abandoned them soon after publishing his first novel, Die Hornissen (The Hornets). He has since written controversial pieces about the Yugoslav Wars and the subsequent NATO bombing, and has also directed and written scripts for films such as The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty and The Left-Handed Woman.


The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. The prize recognises Abiy Ahmed Ali’s efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular his initiative to resolve the border conflict with Ethiopia’s neighbour, Eritrea, which has been ongoing for decades.

Prime Minister Abiy has also engaged in other peace and reconciliation processes in East and Northeast Africa. Having done all of this since becoming Prime Minister in just April 2018, he has provided many citizens hope for a better life and brighter future.

Abiy Ahmed Ali

Masters in Business, Ashland University, Ohio (2013)

PhD in Peace and Security, Addis Ababa University, Ehtiopia (2017)


Finally, the Laureates for the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences 2019 are Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. Poverty is one of humanity’s most urgent issues, as 700 million people still have to survive on extremely low incomes.

These three people have won the prize due to their contribution to transforming development economics in just two decades. Using their new approaches, we can now tackle these issues in a more manageable and reliable way. Already, five million Indian children have benefitted from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in schools as a direct result of their research.

Their role in reshaping research in development economics has great potential and has already demonstrated that more lives can be greatly improved, for even the most impoverished people in the world.

Abhijit Banerjee

PhD in Economics, Harvard University (1988)

Esther Duflo

PhD in Economics, Institute of Technology, Massachusetts (1999)

Michael Kremer

PhD in Economics, Harvard University (1992)

So, as you decide on what PhD to study, you may want to choose a path that follows in the footsteps of these great pioneers, whose work is deemed to have ‘the greatest benefit to humankind’.

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