Top 10 Nobel Prize Winners

Script written by Sean Harris It's one of the highest awards achievable on Earth, so the following people really are the best of the best! Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Nobel Prize Winners! Special thanks to our users aldqbigsquare and christo for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Sean Harris

Top 10 Nobel Prize Winners

It's one of the highest awards achievable on Earth, so the following people really are the best of the best! Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Nobel Prize Winners!

For this list, we’ve looked at all winners of the Nobel Prize, regardless of the category in which they won.

#10: Werner Heisenberg (1932)

Werner Heisenberg was first nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1928 by Albert Einstein. Eventually awarded the 1932 prize for physics, he didn’t actually receive his medal until the following year. Recognized for ‘the creation of quantum mechanics’, Heisenberg revolutionized scientific thought regarding atomic behavior, presenting it all via abstract mathematical structures, called ‘matrices’. In 1927, he also identified the ‘uncertainty principle’, a fundamental law of quantum mechanics referring to the impossibility of exact simultaneous knowledge of the momentum of a particle, and its position.

#9: The International Committee of the Red Cross (1917; 1944; 1963)

A unique organization within Nobel Prize history, the ICRC is the only three-time recipient of the award. Winning the Peace Prize in 1917 and 1944 as recognition for its humanitarian efforts during the First and Second World Wars, it also shared the 1963 Peace Prize with the League of Red Cross Societies. Furthermore, the first ever Peace Prize, awarded in 1901, was given to Henri Dunant, the man who founded the Red Cross Movement in the first place.

#8: Hermann Joseph Muller (1946)
Physiology or Medicine

Awarded his prize for ‘the discovery that mutations can be induced by x-rays’, H. J. Muller’s win was recognition for decades of work in the field. Given to him shortly after World War II, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the prize brought public attention to Muller’s on-going campaign to highlight the dangers of radiation. As the world entered into a Cold War state, Muller became an increasingly prominent public voice, highlighting his growing concerns about atomic warfare.

#7: Jean-Paul Sartre (1964)

One of only two Nobel Prize winners to voluntarily decline the award, Jean-Paul Sartre did so because in his view, ‘a writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution’. A controversial figure throughout his life, Sartre was, in truth, more than just ‘a writer’. He earned a worldwide reputation for political commentary, social opinion, and existentialist philosophy. He gave speeches and wrote essays on Cold War politics especially, and sought a higher understanding of life, and how to live it best.

#6: Francis Crick, James Watson & Maurice Wilkins (1962)
Physiology or Medicine

The discoverers of the double-helix structure of DNA, Watson, Crick and Wilkins successfully answered biology’s most complex riddle. The existence of DNA had long been accepted before the 1953 determination of its structure, but not until this trio of scientists was anybody able to understand exactly how it worked, or what it looked like. Rosalind Franklin’s is a fourth name with strong links to the discovery, which is remembered by most as a joint effort and process. But these three were there when the code was finally cracked.

#5: Alexander Fleming (1945)
Physiology or Medicine

The man who discovered penicillin, Alexander Fleming chanced upon his ‘wonder drug’ largely by accident. In September 1928, Fleming returned from a vacation and to used petri dishes that he’d absent-mindedly left out in his lab. Unexpectedly, he found that a mold had killed the bacteria that had previously been in them – that mold came to be penicillin. It was another 12 years before Fleming’s joint Nobel Prize-winners, Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain, began mass-producing the drug. But, Fleming’s initial work was what made the subsequent advances in medicine possible.

#4: Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)

A tireless campaigner for racial equality, the Nobel Prize institute estimates that Martin Luther King travelled over 6 million miles during his social/political career, speaking more than 2,500 times. Regarded as one of America’s greatest ever orators, King was the youngest ever recipient of the Peace Prize at the time of his being awarded it in 1964. It was given to him just over a year after his historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, which he delivered to more than 250,000 supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

#3: Marie Curie (1903; 1911)
Physics; Chemistry

Marie Curie was the first woman ever to win the Nobel Prize when she won for Physics in 1903. When she won the Chemistry award eight years later, she became the first person to win twice, and remains the only woman with two awards. She’s also the only person ever to win twice in multiple sciences. The 1903 award was given to her and two others, Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel, in recognition of early research into radiation; while the 1911 award was hers for her work with the newly discovered elements, polonium and especially radium.

#2: Mother Teresa (1979)

Though some view her as a controversial figure, Mother Teresa worked to improve the lives of the poor, sick and needy across the world. Born in Macedonia with Albanian ancestry, she moved to Ireland to practice as a Roman Catholic sister. She then moved to Calcutta, India to teach English, where she experienced a calling telling her to devote her life to helping those in need. And, she certainly did that. Mother Teresa set up the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, which gradually expanded into over 130 countries, establishing itself as one of the great humanitarian achievements of modern times. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Ernest Hemingway (1954)
- Linus Pauling (1954; 1962)
Chemistry, Peace
- Robert Koch (1905)
Physiology or Medicine
- Max Planck (1918)
- Otto Hahn (1944)

#1: Albert Einstein (1921)

If ever a person could be considered an archetype for brainpower and intellectual thought, then it was Albert Einstein. A man probably most famous for his theory of relativity, he actually won the Nobel Prize for another piece of work; ‘his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect’, which made new sense of light, the energy that it carried, and how it behaved. Dramatist George Bernard Shaw once described Einstein’s genius by calling him a ‘maker of a universe’; in terms of the Nobel Prize, he’s the best that’s ever been awarded it.

Do you agree with our list? Which laureate did we overlook? For more prize-winning top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to


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