Established in 1895 by the Swedish chemist and inventor of dynamite Alfred Bernhard Nobel, the Nobel Prize is an annual award acknowledging outstanding contributions to physics, physiology, medicine, literature, peace, or chemistry. Several Harvard faculty and alumni have been honored with this prestigious award.

Martin Karplus

Chemistry, 2013
"for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems."

Martin Karplus, the Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Harvard, received the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his research “directed toward understanding the electronic structure, geometry, and dynamics of molecules of chemical and biological interest.” The theoretical chemist, who is also affiliated with Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, shares the prize with Michael Levitt of Stanford University and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Karplus employed semi-empirical quantum mechanics, theoretical and computational statistical mechanics, and classical and quantum dynamics to develop multiscale models for complex chemical systems.

Alvin Roth

Economics, 2012
"for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design."

Alvin E. Roth shares the 2012 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel with Lloyd S. Shapley of the University of California, Los Angeles. Roth built on Shapley's research to improve the design and functioning of markets, and his work matches “agents” in markets. Roth is one of the founders and designers of the New England Program for Kidney Exchange. He also helped design the high school matching system used in New York City to match approximately 90,000 students to high schools each year, and helped redesign the matching system used in Boston Public Schools. In 1998, Roth helped redesign the National Resident Matching Program to facilitate placement for couples seeking a medical residency in the same city.
Roth is the George Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration at Harvard Business School and in the Economics Department at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Jack Szostak

Physiology and medicine, 2009
"for pioneering work in the discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that protects chromosomes from degrading."

What began as a simple question regarding yeast cells, has broadened the scientific community’s understanding of aging and death on the cellular level, and quite possibly, our bodies as a whole. Described as a “scientist’s scientist,” Szostak has been studying the ends of chromosomes and a special enzyme, called telomere, which helps hold the ends of chromosomes together and protect them from deterioration. In his research, he discovered that some cells whose telomeres do not activate normally have a way of evading destruction – enter cancer cells – and this finding has brought forth a flood of larger questions surrounding cancer research and the aging process. British born, Jack Szostak is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and the affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Since his award-winning reaching on telomeres, Szostak has shifted his intellectual curiosity from the death of cells, to the genesis of life itself as co-director of the Origins of Life Initiate at Harvard University.

Al Gore

Nobel Peace Prize, 2007
"for efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about manmade climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

Through his political and media efforts, Al Gore has been a leading voice on the complex issues surrounding climate change and humanity’s role in it. Gore graduated from Harvard University in 1969. He established himself as a vital public figure, as a U.S. senator from Tennessee, as vice president under President Clinton, and as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000. In recent years, his name is synonymous with environmental activism. His 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth” examined global warming, its causes and prevention, and served as a platform to bring the increasingly important issue to public attention. The Nobel Prize committee recognized his efforts to educate and engage people concerning climate change, and his award-winning film has been hailed as a pivotal moment that helped to re-energize the environmental movement worldwide.

Eric S. Maskin, '72, Ph.D. '76

Economics, 2007
"For having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory."

Eric S. Maskin is an economist and a 2007 Nobel laureate recognized (along with Leonid Hurwicz and Roger B. Myerson) “for having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory.” Among other applications, that theory has helped economists identify socially valuable trading mechanisms, regulation schemes, and voting procedures. Maskin is a Professor of Economics at Harvard. After earning his doctorate at Harvard, Maskin went to the University of Cambridge in 1976, where he was a research fellow at Jesus College, and then taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1977-84), at Harvard (1985-2000), where he was the Louis Berkman Professor of Economics, and at the Institute for Advanced Study (2000-2011), where he was the Albert O. Hirschman Professor of Social Science. Besides mechanism design, he has made contributions to game theory, political economy, and other areas of economics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, the European Economic Association, and the Royal Spanish Academy of Economics and Finance, and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy. He was president of the Econometric Society in 2003 and is currently president of the Game Theory Society. He received the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2010.

Thomas C. Schelling

Economics 2005
"For having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."

In 1958, Schelling was appointed professor of economics at Harvard, but he spent his first year on leave working for the RAND Corp. In 1960, Harvard University Press published what would become Schelling’s best-known work, “The Strategy of Conflict,” in which he used game theory to analyze international conflict, thereby encouraging the use of game theory throughout the social sciences. In 1969, Schelling became one of the “founding fathers” of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The Kennedy School annually bestows the Thomas C. Schelling Award for transformative work in public policy. Retiring from Harvard in 1990, Schelling became a professor at the University of Maryland. Schelling shared the 2005 Nobel in economics with Robert J. Aumann of Hebrew University.

Roy J. Glauber

Physics, 2005
"For his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence."

A friendly, unassuming man and a popular teacher, Glauber updated the theory of the nature of light from its origins in the 19th century to include modern quantum principles. He helped explain how light can travel in the form of quanta (particles) as well as rays or waves. As an undergraduate at Harvard, Glauber took graduate level math courses and worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb, before he graduated. He first worked at what he calls “routine” tasks, and then participated in the “calculations that were important in determining the critical mass (of explosives) and the efficiency of the explosion.” Glauber has been tenured longer than any currently active member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, having received tenure on July 1, 1956. Despite his position at the apex of discovery, Glauber continues to teach the complex science to freshmen and to the public through a well-attended course at the Harvard Extension School. Glauber shared the prize with John L. Hall of the University of Colorado and Theodor W. Hansch of the Institute for Quantum Optics in Munich, Germany.

Linda B. Buck

Physiology or Medicine, 2004
"For discoveries of “odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system."

Buck received the Nobel Prize for work relating to the sense of smell, which the Nobel committee noted had “long remained the most enigmatic of our senses. The basic principles for recognizing and remembering about 10,000 different odours were not understood.” Buck and Richard Axel, with whom she shared the prize, published the fundamental paper describing odorant receptors in 1991. That year Buck became an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “The discoveries on the organization of the olfactory system that were cited by the Nobel Foundation were made over a period of 10 years, during which I was a faculty member at Harvard,” she said. Since 2002, Buck has been at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Riccardo Giacconi

Physics, 2002
"For pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources."

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honored Riccardo Giacconi with the prize because of his pioneering work with X-ray astronomy, including developing instruments to detect X-rays in space. He did much of this work while Associate Director of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Professor of Astronomy between 1973 and 1982.

Giacconi contributed to the development of the Einstein X-ray Observatory, which was a great improvement over earlier X-ray telescopes because it provided sharper images and was stronger. He also initiatived the construction of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, known for its extraordinarily detailed images in X-rays. Giacconi shared the Nobel Prize with Raymond Davis Jr. and Masatoshi Koshiba.

A. Michael Spence, Ph.D. ’72

Economics, 2001
"For analyses of markets with asymmetric information."

A. Michael Spence won for economic theories based on his Harvard doctoral thesis. Markets with asymmetric information happen when people on one side have much better information than those on the other: for instance, borrowers who know more about their repayment prospects than lenders, or Nobel Prize committee members who know who the winners are before anyone else does.

When Spence chose his dissertation topic, he did it out of personal interest, not because he was trying to win prizes. In a 1984 interview with The New York Times, Spence said, “I can’t imagine people making decisions [about what to study] on the basis of how much something would contribute to their winning a Nobel Prize or a John Bates Clark Medal (which Spence won in 1981). A large amount of winning such prizes is randomness. To win a Nobel you have to be a certified genius, which I am not, or lucky, which I have been. But you can’t bet on it, so it doesn’t enter into the decision-making. You spend so much time doing this, that if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, it just wouldn’t work.”

In addition to holding a number of professorial appointments at Harvard, Spence served as dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 1984 to 1990. He is also a former dean at Stanford University, where he is currently the Philip H. Knight Professor Emeritus. Spence shared the Nobel Prize with George A. Akerlof and Joseph E. Stiglitz.

Amartya Sen

Economics, 1998
Research on welfare economics

Three million people died in India’s 1943 Bengal famine. Witnessing it was 9-year-old Amartya Sen, who 55 years later won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on poverty and famine. Sen has made key contributions to the research on problems in welfare economics. Almost all of Sen’s works deal with development economics, which is often devoted to the welfare of the poor. His work has improved the theoretical foundation for comparing different distributions of society’s welfare and enhanced understanding of the economic mechanisms underlying famines.

Robert C. Merton

Economics, 1997
For a new method to determine the value of derivatives

When Robert C. Merton was a graduate student in applied mathematics he had an unusual moonlighting job – he’d visit a local brokerage at 6:30 every morning and spend a few hours trading securities. Later, when he went to M.I.T. to study economics under Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, it struck him that his early morning activity could be placed on a scholarly footing. “I realized that what I’d been doing could be a field of economics.” And so it became. Since the 1960s, Merton has been researching the financial risk associated with derivatives, a financial instrument connected to a stock. Merton was was the George Fisher Baker Professor of Business Administration from 1988 to 1998, and the John and Natty McArthur University Professor from 1998 until his retirement in 2010.

Seamus Heaney

Literature, 1995
For poetic works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past

Raised in a thatched farmstead in County Derry, Ireland, Heaney studied as a “scholarship boy,” as his father called him, at Queens University in Belfast, where he began to write poems. In 1966 his collection Death of a Naturalist was published. In the nine volumes since, he has treated subjects ranging from farmwork to politics to the beauty of the Irish language. “I rhyme / to see myself, to set the darkness echoing.” Heaney was the Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet in Residence from 1995 to 2006.

Elias J. Corey

Chemistry, 1990
Devised rules that allow scientists to make complex new molecules from ordinary chemicals

Before Corey’s work, organic chemists synthesized compounds through trial and error. Now they use his guidelines to build complex compounds. Fellow Harvard Nobelist Dudley Herschbach has said, “E.J. changed the whole way that chemistry is done . . . his syntheses are like great works of art. Like Beethoven, he takes the equivalent of simple notes and rhythms and puts them together into marvelous creative works.” Corey is Sheldon Emery Professor of Organic Chemistry Emeritus.

Joseph E. Murray

Medicine, 1990
Developed new procedures for organ transplants (with E. Donnall Thomas, formerly of the University of Washington)

The ambidextrous Murray, who performed the first successful human kidney transplant, is one of the few surgeon-scientists to win the Nobel. Although committed to his lab work, Murray’s first concern has always been the patient. During World War II, doing reparative surgery, particularly with burns patients, Murray became intrigued by the dynamics of tissue rejection and acceptance, leading him to his interest in transplant surgery.

Norman Ramsey

Physics, 1989
Research on separate oscillatory fields to make precise measurements of how various parts of atoms and molecules interact with each other

“When I learned,” said Ramsey about his vocation, “that you could make a living studying how nature operates, I knew that was what I wanted to do.” Ramsey’s explorations have had many applications: from his research on radar and the atomic bomb during World War II to the work which led to the invention of phenomenally accurate atomic clocks – devices that are able to operate for thousands of years without losing a second. Ramsey is Higgins Professor of Physics Emeritus.

Dudley R. Herschbach

Chemistry, 1986
Developed techniques enabling scientists to see collisions taking place between pairs of molecules and detect the products of such collisions

A die-hard Red Sox fan, Herschbach describes his research by pitching baseball metaphors. “Think of a crowd at a baseball game. In ordinary chemistry, you have to deal with the whole crowd at once. You observe the general behavior of a crowd of molecules but want to know more about individual molecules. In effect, what we’ve done is eavesdrop on conversations between molecules, as if listening to a pair of people in that crowd.” Herschbach actively promotes the public appreciation and understanding of science, hosting a PBS special on the Nobel Prize, and even appearing in a commercial for Sears Roebuck stores.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

Peace, 1985

Founded in Boston in June of 1980 by four Harvard physicians, Bernard Lown of Harvard School of Public Health, and Herbert Abrams, Eric Chivian, and James Muller of Harvard Medical School, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War is a federation of national groups dedicated to mobilizing the influence of the medical profession against the threat of nuclear weapons.

Carlo Rubbia

Physics, 1984
Discovery and investigation of new subatomic particles and their properties

Rubbia has been the dynamic leading force in some of the most dazzling recent advances in physics, including the discovery of the sixth (or final) quark. Quarks are believed to be the fundamental constituent of which all particles are made. The flamboyant Rubbia has been characterized by fellow Harvard Nobelist Sheldon Glashow as “a wild man in the best tradition of wild men . . . emotional, ebullient, and full of life.” Rubbia is the former Director-General ofCERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, in Geneva.

Nicolaas Bloembergen

Physics, 1981
Discovery of laser spectroscopy, whereby atoms can be studied with higher precision

As a 26-year-old graduate student at Harvard, Bloembergen worked with Edward Purcell to develop the theory of nuclear magnetic resonance, for which Purcell was awarded the 1952 Nobel Prize. Bloembergen’s subsequent work with masers and lasers have found hugely diverse practical applications, from surgical operations to boring and cutting metal to the development of fiber optics. Bloembergen is Gerhard Gade University Professor Emeritus.

Torsten Wiesel

Medicine 1981
Research on information-processing in the visual system (with David Hubel)

When told he’d been awarded the Nobel Prize, Wiesel said, “Oh, no, I was afraid of that! I better go and hide.” For Wiesel, what really counts is the research and its results, like improvements in the treatment of congenital cataracts and other blinding conditions found in children. Wiesel is President Emeritus of The Rockefeller University.

David Hubel

Medicine, 1981
Research on information-processing in the visual system (with Torsten Wiesel)

In a partnership spanning decades, Hubel and Torsten Wiesel have provided the basis for our understanding of how the brain analyzes visual information. The pair describe their work as a 50-50 effort. Says Hubel, “It’s been a real Gilbert and Sullivan sort of thing. Not that we would compare ourselves to those celestial people, but they did do different things and you wouldn’t say one did more than the other.” Hubel is John Franklin Enders University Professor of Neurobiology and Senior Fellow of the Society of Fellows.

Walter Gilbert

Chemistry, 1980
Developed methods to work out the structure of DNA

Gilbert discovered a rapid method to decode the base sequences in DNA and then apply this knowledge to induce bacteria to produce medically useful substances, such as insulin and interferon. In 1988, the physicist-turned-biologist called for the scientific community to engage in the “human genome project,” a massive effort to chart, by the year 2000, the entire sequence of DNA that makes up our genetic material. Gilbert is Carl M. Loeb University Professor.

Baruj Benacerraf

Medicine or Physiology, 1980
Discovered that disease-fighting ability is passed on genetically, although the immune-response gene varies from person to person

Benacerraf’s discovery has several dramatic applications, helping us to understand: 1) the body’s ability to repel microbial invasions, 2) the mechanism by which the body accepts or rejects skin grafts or organ transplants, and 3) the growth of tumors, invaders that outwit or fool the body’s defense system. Benacerraf is the George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology Emeritus.

Steven Weinberg

Physics, 1979
Used mathematical hypotheses to explain electromagnetism and “weak” interactions (with Sheldon L. Glashow)

In addition to his primary task – that of elucidating the unity and simplicity underlying nature’s apparent complexity – Weinberg’s avocation is history, specifically medieval and military history. His interest in the subject goes way back: his book The First Three Minutes (1977) graphically recreates the birth of the universe. Weinberg, a colleague notes, is “dedicated but not driven. He even works with the television on.” Weinberg holds the Josey Regental Chair in Science at the University of Texas at Austin.

Sheldon L. Glashow

Physics, 1979
Used mathematical hypotheses to explain electromagnetism and “weak” interactions – two of the four basic forces in nature – according to the same laws (with Steven Weinberg)

Despite the fact that Glashow and co-winner Steven Weinberg attended Bronx High School of Science and Cornell University together, and remained friends through their Harvard years, they separately developed this stunning advance toward a unified field theory. Glashow was driven by a curiosity which many more modest homeowners would understand, saying about the universe, “It is intellectually vital to know what the place in which you live is made of.” Glashow is Higgins Professor of Physics Emeritus.

John H. Van Vleck

Physics, 1977
Pioneered the application of quantum mechanics to the study of magnetism

Van Vleck, known for his love of the arts, his quietly piercing wit, and his intense loyalty to Harvard, made cutting-edge contributions to the fields of radioastronomy, microwave spectroscopy, and magnetic resonance. His application of quantum mechanics altered both physics and chemistry, deepening our understanding of atomic systems – from single molecules to crystalline solids.

William N. Lipscomb

Chemistry, 1976
Research on the structure of boranes, which has increased the understanding of chemical bonding

Lipscomb had had quite a bit of experience by the time he elucidated the unusual chemical make-up of boron – off to college in 1937, he donated his elaborate chemistry set to his high school, doubling the school’s chemistry inventory. The scientist, known for his clarinet playing and Western-style bow ties, describes his mode of reasoning: “I am inclined to make large intuitive jumps and then set about to test the conclusions.” Lipscomb is the Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Chemistry Emeritus.

Wassily W. Leontief

Economics, 1973
Developed the input-output analysis used in forecasting and planning the economy

Leontief’s pioneering formulas allowed economists to determine with unprecedented precision how changes in one sector of the economy impact on the performance of others. The third Harvard professor to win the Nobel in Economics in three straight years, the activist-economist joked, “Do you think there should be an anti-trust investigation?”

Kenneth J. Arrow

Economics, 1972
Contributed to the general economic equilibrium theory and welfare theory

Arrow’s work, incorporating advanced mathematical methods into economics and political science, has helped shape state economic policies around the world. A humanist as well as a “technical superscientist,” Arrow has always tried to apply his complex, abstract theory to concrete social realities, such as education, racial discrimination, medical care, and the environment. He is professor emeritus at Stanford University.

Simon S. Kuznets

Economics, 1971
Developed the concept of using GNP as a measure of change in the nation’s economic growth

Kuznets was a major figure in the development of quantitative economic research. During World War II, his ideas were pivotal in the country’s successful transition to war production. An understated, modest man devoted to work, family, and friends, Kuznets, even in his last weeks, always greeted visitors with two questions: First, “What are you working on?” Then, “Tell me about your family.”

George Wald

Medicine or Physiology, 1967
Research on the biochemistry of vision

Wald contributed greatly to our knowledge of the human eye, particularly the visual pigments and how light affects them. He was on the forefront of the revolution that changed biology from a cellular to a molecular science. An early and outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Wald was always a lively, engaged, and formidable figure in the political arena.

Robert Burns Woodward

Chemistry, 1965
Laboratory synthesis of complex molecules

Building a large, complicated molecule like chlorophyll is analogous to the construction of a great work of architecture. The Frank Lloyd Wright of organic chemistry, Woodward dominated the field for nearly half a century. His intense devotion to his work is vividly illustrated by the fact that he named a synthetic steroid Christmasterol because it was first crystallized in his laboratory on Christmas day.

Julian S. Schwinger

Physics 1965
Contributed to the study of quantum electrodynamics

The son of a dress designer and manufacturer, Schwinger found his calling by reading scientific pulp magazines. In the ensuing years he, along with other physicists, restructured the equations of quantum mechanics to make them fully consistent with Einstein’s special relativity theory. Robert Oppenheimer noted that Schwinger’s “greatest work has been to give us a new understanding of that old and deep problem of the interaction of light and matter.”

Konrad E. Bloch

Medicine or Physiology, 1964
Studied the pattern of reactions involved in the biosynthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids

Bloch’s painstaking research helped cap the half-century dubbed the “Golden Age of Biochemistry.” Determined to communicate with the intelligent layperson outside of the scientific community, the emeritus professor in (1994) published a book of lively pieces titled Blondes in Venetian Paintings, The Nine-Banded Armadillo, and other Essays in Biochemistry, which demonstrates (among other things) that many Renaissance portraits featured “bottle blondes.”

James D. Watson

Medicine or Physiology, 1962
Described the structure of DNA

In 1953, at the tender age of 25, the enfant terrible Watson, with British scientist Francis Crick, presented a model for DNA, beating Linus Pauling in a neck-and-neck race to one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century. His controversial book, The Double Helix, “has been called,” says The New York Times, “the most honest book ever written about scientific research.” Watson is currently president of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y.

Georg von Bekesy

Medicine or Physiology, 1961
Demonstrated the physical principles involved in the mechanism of hearing

This engineer, who in his youth was intrigued by the high-pitched Gypsy music of his native Hungary, has been lauded for “fathoming the enigmas and disclosing the elegance of the auditory system.” His delicate engineering feats included the design of special scissors, whose blades were a few thousandths of an inch long, to manipulate the cochlea, a minute structure in the inner ear.

Thomas H. Weller

Medicine or Physiology, 1954
Application of tissue-culture methods to the study of viral diseases (with J.F. Enders and F.C. Robbins)

In addition to his work on the polio virus, Weller made significant contributions to the study of human parasites and the viruses that cause rubella (German measles) and chicken pox. Later in his career, Weller distinguished himself as an administrator, serving as director of the Center for Prevention of Infectious Diseases at Harvard’s School of Public Health, where he significantly advanced the School’s international reputation. Weller is the Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Tropical Public Health Emeritus.

Frederick C. Robbins

Medicine or Physiology, 1954
Application of tissue-culture methods to the study of viral diseases (with J.F. Enders and T.H. Weller)

At Harvard Medical School in the late 1930s, Robbins studied with John Enders and roomed with Thomas Weller. After earning his M.D., he served in North Africa and Italy during the war, investigating bacterial diseases. He was awarded a Bronze Star. By 1950, he was back with his old college colleagues, Enders and Weller, doing the experiments which led to their Nobel Prize — and a vaccine for polio.

John F. Enders

Medicine or Physiology, 1954
Application of tissue-culture methods in developing a polio virus, the ingredient of the polio vaccine (with F.C. Robbins and T.H. Weller)

Without Enders’ subtle triumph of learning how to grow a virus, the more celebrated Jonas Salk would have been unable to bring his own work to its powerful conclusion. In addition to his many achievements in human biology, “The Chief,” as Enders was called, was esteemed for his impeccable standards of personal and scientific honesty.

Fritz A. Lipmann

Medicine or Physiology, 1953
Identified “coenzyme A” and discovered basic principles in the understanding of proteins

A slow starter and a self-admitted failure at academic politics, Lipmann wandered early in his career from laboratory to laboratory as a researcher. His wife remembers that he “had no position, no prospects, and it did not seem to trouble him.” This lack of obsessive focus is, perhaps, related to his famed ability to see the wider picture, a trait which eventually led to pivotal discoveries about how living organisms function.

Edward M. Purcell

Physics, 1952
Discovered the nuclear resonance method that measures magnetic fields in atomic nuclei

Purcell’s work resulted in applications ranging from the making of more accurate medical diagnoses to the mapping of our galaxy by radioastronomers. During World War II, he helped develop advanced microwave radar. Purcell was as devoted to teaching as he was to research, debunking the myth that research scientists make poor teachers. He once called the overhead projector “the greatest invention since chalk.”

Ralph J. Bunche

Peace, 1950
Negotiated an armistice in the Middle East

Bunche, the first African-American to be appointed to Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, dedicated his life to issues of race and colonialism, and was a prominent figure in the early civil rights movement. His studies on race relations in the United States and colonialism in Africa brought him to the United Nations, where he was appointed to negotiate a cease-fire in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. Upon hearing that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the Middle East, he respectfully declined the honor, claiming that he did not work in the UN Secretariat to win prizes; he was only doing his job. The Nobel committee gave it to him anyway, however, stating it was “for the good of the United Nations.”

Henry J. Cadbury

Peace, 1947
Chairman, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Philadelphia

Cadbury, AM ’04, Ph.D. ’14, was the Hollis Professor of Divinity and director of the Andover-Harvard Theological Library. A humanitarian, pacifist, biblical scholar, and prolific writer, Cadbury proposed the formation of the American Friends Service Committee – a Quaker relief organization – in order to spearhead relief activities in Europe after World War I. Under Cadbury’s leadership, the AFSC became involved with black schools in the South, in settlement houses, and in depressed areas of Appalachia. In 1931, at the request of President Herbert Hoover, the Service Committee fed children of coal miners. A pacifist organization, the AFSC was organized to offer Quakers and young conscientious objectors “a service of love in wartime.”

Percy W. Bridgman

Physics, 1946
Investigations in changes that occur when various materials are subjected to extremely high pressure

The quintessential Harvard man, Bridgman, born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1882, received three degrees from the University and remained to teach with brilliance, intensity, and dedication. His discoveries made possible the artificial production of diamonds and other mineral forms, and his The Physics of High Pressure (1931) remains the outstanding work in the field.

William P. Murphy

Medicine or Physiology, 1934
Research on liver treatment of the anemias (with George Minot)

The cure for pernicious anemia, George Minot suspected, was – simply – a diet of liver. He enlisted Murphy, then a resident at Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, to conduct a survey of anemia patients. Murphy was hard-pressed at first to persuade his subjects to eat the potential remedy. The seemingly miraculous recovery of those who did, however, convinced the more squeamish. Soon, a palatable extract was developed, based on the team’s work.

George Minot

Medicine or Physiology, 1934
Research on liver treatment of the anemias (with William P. Murphy)

The scion of a Boston Brahmin family, the at-first unambitious Minot eventually became a pioneer in the field of hematology, the study of blood. While researching the deadly blood disease known as pernicious anemia, Minot himself was stricken by diabetes. It was the discovery of insulin in 1921 that allowed him to continue his research, which ultimately led to his own discovery of the cure for pernicious anemia.

T.W. Richards

Chemistry, 1914
Research on fixing the atomic weights of chemical elements

Educated at home by his mother, a poet unimpressed by the local public schools, Richards started attending lectures at the University of Pennsylvania when he was 13. At 17 he graduated from college at the head of his class. He became interested in atomic weights (weights of the elements) as a graduate student at Harvard, and eventually discovered and corrected crucial and misleading errors in earlier calculations.