Geographies in Depth

Immigrants have a history of winning Nobel science awards

science migration nobel prize chemistry physics economics medicine immigration foreign born prize award  Scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier, director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin holds a swedish themed puppet after winning the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a method for genome editing, in Berlin, Germany, October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch - RC2ODJ94MTKH

One of this year's chemistry winners, Emmanuelle Charpentier, is a French national, working at the German Max Planck Institute in Berlin. Image: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Katharina Buchholz
Data Journalist, Statista
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Migration is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


  • 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.

Have you read?

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).

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How MENA’s biggest actors can help the region’s suppliers and SMEs to decarbonize

Akram Alami and Kelsey Goodman

May 27, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum