• Immigrants and ex-pats have a history of winning physics, chemistry, medicine and economics Nobel prizes.
  • Of the 281 Nobel laureates representing U.S. institutions in these categories, 87 have been born abroad.
  • The high percentage is mainly due to research institutions attracting scientists from across the world
  • These statistics date from 1969, when the economics prize was added.

This year's awarding of the Nobel Prize in chemistry to two female scientists was outstanding because it was the first time two women are sharing the prize. It was quite a regular affair in another regard: One of the two laureates, Emmanuelle Charpentier, is working as an French expat at the German Max Planck Institute in Berlin. Expats and immigrants winning Nobel Prices in the sciences for institutions in their host countries is a common scenario, as our graphic shows.

Since 1969 (the year the economics prize was added), a majority share of Nobel Prizes in the science categories have gone to U.S. institutions. But the scientists carrying out the cutting-edge research there have for a long time come from all over the world. Out of the 281 laureates that were exclusively affiliated with U.S. institutions, 87 had been born abroad, according to the Nobel Prize Foundation website.

science migration nobel prize chemistry physics economics medicine immigration foreign born prize award
The number of foreign-born Nobel prize winners per country.
Image: Statista

The trend is the same for other countries. Top UK institutions host just as many immigrants and foreign scientists, with 15 out of 45 laureates since 1969 having been born abroad. The biggest share of foreign laureates can be found in Switzerland (Eight foreign-born laureates opposite seven Swiss-born laureates). Here, top scientific research institutions like the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich attracted many foreign researchers.

Countries whose institutions made the top 10 without the help of any immigrant scientists are Japan, with 15 homegrown laureates, as well as Sweden (8 laureates).