Nobel Prize Winners

John Felder ’74

How many Nobel Prize winners currently teach/radiate/diva it up at UW-Madison?

Abe

I’m afraid that, at present, there are no Nobel laureates on UW-Madison’s faculty, unless you count Nelson Institute faculty Jonathan Patz and John Magnuson, who contributed research to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared a Nobel (for peace) with Al Gore in 2007. If you do count them, there are two. But their names aren’t on the medal.

Still, our university has collected a few pieces of Stockholm bling over the years. Some 17 alumni, faculty or former faculty have won 18 Nobel prizes throughout the UW’s history. The break-down, if you’re interested, is 11 alumni, four professors who won while on the faculty, and two people who had been on the faculty but left before winning their Nobel. Nine of those awards were in physiology or medicine, five in physics, three in chemistry and one in economics.

The most recent Badger-related Nobel laureate was Oliver Smithies, who received the 2007 honor for physiology or medicine for work that he’d done largely while on the UW faculty (from 1960 to 1988). According to his citation, he landed his Nobel “for discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells.”

The last faculty member to win one while still working at the UW was Howard Temin (of Lakeshore Path fame) in 1975, also for physiology or medicine. He did work on retroviruses and cancer research. The last alumni to win Nobels were Alan MacDiarmid MS’52, PhD’53, for chemistry (discovery of polymers that conduct electricity) and Jack St. Clair Kilby MS’50, for physics (invention of the integrated circuit). Both of those awards came in 2000. If you do the math above, you’ll realize that one of our alumni won two Nobels. That was John Bardeen ’28, MS’29. They were both in physics, the first (in 1956) for the discovery of the transistor effect, and the second (in 1972) for research in superconductivity.