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1901- 2022: Asians who have won the Nobel Prize

The pinnacle of excellence, perseverance and timeless innovation that set global standards and records, the Nobel Prize is the embodiment of the tireless work of individuals and groups who have set unprecedented examples that have completely changed the way we see the world. Among them are several Asian Nobel Prize winners who have made significant contributions across all six award categories of medicine, literature, peace, physics, chemistry and economic sciences.

But how did it all begin? Let’s have a look.

Who was Alfred Nobel and how was the award established?

Born in Stockholm, on 21 October 1833, Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel belonged to a family that descended from Olof Rudbeck, a well-known Swedish technical genius in the 17th century, a period during which Sweden was a European superpower. He grew up in Russia and France and visited Sweden, Germany and the United States to study Chemistry and gain technical knowledge. He soon developed an interest for Chemistry and began experimenting to help in the construction business.

Along with his ardent interest in science and medicine, Nobel was also passionate about art and literature. Years later in 1895, he drafted his Will, which dictated that major chunks of his estate would go towards awarding scientific discoveries, peace and humanitarian works and unparalleled literary creations.

Thus was established the highest mark of honour for excellence in these six fields — the Nobel Prize. As per the Nobel Prize website, the Will states, “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.”

However, when the Will was opened and read after Nobel’s death, it stirred some controversies both within the family as well as internationally. His family was displeased at learning that the fortune is being used elsewhere and resisted giving the award.

The award presenters appointed by Nobel also refused to carry out their duties. It was only later in 1901 that the first Nobel Prize was handed out.

While the Nobel Prize is announced in autumn, the award ceremony and other lectures take place on 10 December to mark the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel. The festivities run over a week, which is named Nobel Week.

What happens during Nobel Week?

Previous Nobel laureates, members of the Nobel Committee and other intellectuals from their respective fields nominate awardees for the coming year, and the winners are announced in October-November. The award ceremony is then held in Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway.

The entire week is marked with musical concerts and lectures and conferences by the winners who share details about their works and vision. In 2022, Nobel Week will be held between 6 and 12 December.

Some of the major highlights of Nobel Week also include peace exhibitions, other exhibits chronicling details about the Nobel Prize banquet, winners’ talks at these banquets and the Nobel Week Lights.

The Nobel Week Lights is held between 3 and 11 December when the streets of Stockholm come alive with wonderful art installations that are an ode to the awarded discoveries. The event is free and welcomes everyone to see the urban space of the city from a whole new dimension.

Nobel Prize stats

To date, 615 Nobel Prizes have been handed to 989 individuals and organisations. And, since there are a few illustrious names who have received the award more than once, it brings the total number to 954 persons and 27 organisations. Japan holds the record of winning the most Nobel Prizes across all fields.

While India holds the position of being the first Asian country to win a Nobel Prize when bard Rabindranath Tagore received the accolade in 1913, neighbouring country Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel laureate who received it at the age of 17 in 2014.

Here are all the Asian Nobel laureates, from 1901 to 2022, that you must know about

Rabindranath Tagore

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Rabindranath Tagore
Image credit: Unknown author- https://www.oldindianphotos.in/2009/01/rabindranath-tagore-portraits.html/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 1913
Nationality: India
Field: Literature

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore is the first Asian and Indian Nobel laureate.

Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman

Year of winning: 1930
Nationality: India
Field: Physics

CV Raman is the first Asian recipient of the Nobel Prize for science.

Hideki Yukawa

Year of winning: 1949
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee

Year of winning: 1957
Nationality: China/ USA
Field: Physics

Sin-Itiro Tomonaga

Year of winning: 1965
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Leo Esaki

Year of winning: 1973
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Le Duc Tho

Year of winning: 1973
Nationality: Vietnam
Field: Peace

The first Vietnamese Nobel laureate, Le Duc Tho was awarded the Nobel peace prize along with the US Secretary of state Henry Kissinger for their relentless service in forming the Paris Peace Accord. However, he declined the award on grounds of continued unrest in Vietnam.

Eisaku Sato

Year of winning: 1974
Nationality: Japan
Field: Peace

Samuel C.C. Ting

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Samuel C.C, Ting
Image credit: ENERGY.GOVHD.3F.121/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 1976
Nationality: China/ USA
Field: Physics

Menachem Begin

Year of winning: 1978
Nationality: Israel
Field: Peace

Mother Teresa

Year of winning: 1979
Nationality: India
Field: Peace

The first Asian woman to receive the Nobel Prize, Mother Teresa was declared a saint in 2016 by Pope Francis.

Abdus Salam

Year of winning: 1979
Nationality: Pakistan
Field: Physics

Abdus Salam is the first Pakistani Nobel laureate.

Kenichi Fukui

Year of winning: 1981
Nationality: Japan
Field: Chemistry

Yuan T. Lee

Year of winning: 1986
Nationality: Taiwan
Field: Chemistry

Yuan T. Lee is the first Taiwanese Nobel laureate.

Charles J. Pedersen

Year of winning: 1987
Nationality: South Korea/ USA
Field: Chemistry

Susumu Tonegawa

Year of winning: 1987
Nationality: Japanese
Field: Physiology or medicine

Tonegawa is the first Japanese Nobel laureate in the field of medicine.

The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)

Year of winning: 1989
Nationality: Tibet (now China)
Field: Peace

Aung San Suu Kyi

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Aung San Suu Kyi
Image credit: East Asia and Pacific Media Hub U.S. Department of StateAung San Suu Kyi at the Suu Foundation Launch/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 1991
Nationality: Myanmar
Field: Peace

Kenzaburo Oe

Year of winning: 1994
Nationality: Japan
Field: Literature

Yasser Arafat

Year of winning: 1994
Nationality: Palestine
Field: Peace

First Palestinian Arab to win a Nobel Prize.

Shimon Peres

Year of winning: 1994
Nationality: Israel
Field: Peace

Yitzhak Rabin

Year of winning: 1994
Nationality: Israel
Field: Peace

Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and José Ramos-Horta

Year of winning: 1996
Nationality: Timor-Leste
Field: Peace

They are the first Timorese Nobel laureates

Daniel C. Tsui

Year of winning: 1998
Nationality: China
Field: Physics

Amartya Sen

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Amartya Sen
Image credit: Fronteiras do Pensamento, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 1998
Nationality: India
Field: Economics

Amartya Sen is the first Asian recipient of the award for economics.

Hideki Shirakawa

Year of winning: 2000
Nationality: Japan
Field: Chemistry

Gao Xingjian

Year of winning: 2000
Nationality: Japan
Field: Chemistry

Gao Xingjian

Year of winning: 2000
Nationality: China
Field: Literature

Kim Dae-jung

Year of winning: 2000
Nationality: South Korea
Field: Peace

The first Korean Nobel laureate, Kim Dae-jung was the former President of South Korea.

Ryoji Noyori

Year of winning: 2001
Nationality: Japan
Field: Chemistry

VS Naipaul

Year of winning: 2001
Nationality: Trinidad and Tobago
Field: Literature

Masatoshi Koshiba

Year of winning: 2002
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Koichi Tanaka

Year of winning: 2002
Nationality: Japan
Field: Chemistry

Daniel Kahneman

Year of winning: 2002
Nationality: Israel/ US
Field: Economics

Shirin Ebadi

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Shirin Ebadi
Fronteiras do Pensamento, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 2003
Nationality: Iran
Field: Peace

Shirin Ebadi is the first Muslim and Iranian woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko

Year of winning: 2004
Nationality: Israel
Field: Chemistry

Robert J. Aumann

Year of winning: 2005
Nationality: Israel
Field: Economics

Orhan Pamuk

Year of winning: 2006
Nationality: Turkey
Field: Literature

Orhan Pamuk is the first Turkish Nobel laureate.

Muhammad Yunus

Year of winning: 2006
Nationality: Bangladesh
Field: Peace

The first Bangladeshi Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunus won the prize along with Grameen Bank.

Osamu Shimomura

Year of winning: 2008
Nationality: Japan
Field: Chemistry

Roger Y. Tsien

Year of winning: 2008
Nationality: USA
Field: Chemistry

Yoichiro Nambu

Year of winning: 2008
Nationality: USA/ Japan
Field: Physics

Makoto Kobayashi

Year of winning: 2008
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Toshihide Maskawa

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Toshihide Maskawa
Image credit: OIST from Onna Village, Japan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 2008
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Charles Kuen Kao

Year of winning: 2009
Nationality: Hong Kong, China/ UK
Field: Physics

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

Year of winning: 2009
Nationality: India
Field: Chemistry

Ada E. Yonath

Year of winning: 2009
Nationality: Israel
Field: Chemistry

Ei-ichi Negishi

Year of winning: 2010
Nationality: China
Field: Chemistry

Akira Suzuki

Year of winning: 2010
Nationality: Japan
Field: Chemistry

Liu Xiaobo

Year of winning: 2010
Nationality: China
Field: Peace

Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison.

Tawakkol Karman

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Tawakkol Karman
Image credit: Warwick Economics Summit, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 2011
Nationality: Yemen
Field: Peace

Tawakkol Karman is the first Yemeni and Arab woman Nobel Prize recipient.

Dan Shechtman

Year of winning: 2011
Nationality: Israel
Field: Chemistry

Shinya Yamanaka

Year of winning: 2012
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physiology or medicine

Mo Yan

Year of winning: 2012
Nationality: China
Field: Literature

Arieh Warshel

Year of winning: 2013
Nationality: British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel)
Field: Chemistry

Kailash Satyarthi

Year of winning: 2014
Nationality: India
Field: Peace

Malala Yousafzai

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Malala Yousafzai
Image credit: Southbank Centre, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 2014
Nationality: Pakistan
Field: Peace

Malala Yousafzai is the first Pakistani woman Nobel laureate and the youngest person to receive the award.

Isamu Akasaki

Year of winning: 2014
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura

Year of winning: 2014
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Takaaki Kajita

Year of winning: 2015
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Aziz Sancar

Year of winning: 2015
Nationality: Turkey
Field: Chemistry

Satoshi Ōmura

Year of winning: 2015
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physiology or medicine

Tu Youyou

Year of winning: 2015
Nationality: China
Field: Physiology or medicine

Yoshinori Ohsumi

Year of winning: 2016
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physiology or medicine

Kazuo Ishiguro

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Kazuo Ishiguro
Image credit: Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 2017
Nationality: Japan
Field: Literature

Tasuku Honjo

Year of winning: 2018
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physiology or medicine

Nadia Murad Basee Taha

Year of winning: 2018
Nationality: Iran
Field: Peace

Nadia Murad Basee Taha is the first Iraqi to win the Nobel Prize.

Akira Yoshino

Year of winning: 2019
Nationality: Japan
Field: Chemistry

Abhijit Banerjee

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Abhijit Banerjee
Image credit: Financial Times, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 2019
Nationality: India
Field: Economics

Syukuro Manabe

Year of winning: 2021
Nationality: Japan
Field: Physics

Maria Ressa

Asians who won the Nobel Prize- Maria Ressa
Image credit: Rappler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Year of winning: 2021
Nationality: Philippines
Field: Peace

Maria Ressa is a Filipino journalist and the first Nobel Prize recipient of the country.

(Main image credit: Frankie Fouganthin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; DFID – UK Department for International Development, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; feature image credit: DFID – UK Department for International Development, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons )

1901- 2022: Asians who have won the Nobel Prize

Trinetra Paul

Trinetra is an ardent foodie and bibliophile who writes about films, travel, food and lifestyle. As a writer and literature student, slam poetry and storytelling are her go to jam. When not working, Trinetra is busy looking for her next place to visit or binge-watching Instagram videos for travel inspiration.

   

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