photograph of a Nobel prize

Berkeley’s Nobel Laureates

UC Berkeley’s Nobel prize-winning legacy began in the 1930s and continues to the modern day, with faculty and alumni laureates in almost every field.

Relationship
Prize
Decade
photo of David Card

David Card

Economics, 2021 | Faculty

Card shared his prize for work that challenged orthodoxy and dramatically shifted understanding of inequality and the social and economic forces that impact low-wage workers.

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photo of David Julius

David Julius Ph.D. ’84

Physiology or Medicine, 2021 Alum

Julius shared the prize with Ardem Patapoutian “for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.”

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photo of Reinhard Genzel

Reinhard Genzel

Physics, 2020 | Faculty

Genzel won the physics prize for the discovery of, at the center of our galaxy, a black hole four million times the mass of our sun.

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photo of Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna

Chemistry, 2020 | Faculty

Doudna shares her Nobel with colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier for the co-development of the genome editing breakthrough CRISPR-Cas9.

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photo of Frances Arnold

Frances Arnold Ph.D. ’85

Chemistry, 2018 | Alum

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018 was divided, one half awarded to Arnold for the directed evolution of enzymes, the other half to George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter.

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photo of Barry Barish

Barry Barish ’57, Ph.D. ’62

Physics, 2017 | Alum

For decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves, Barish shared his prize with Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne.

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photo of Eric Betzig

Eric Betzig

Chemistry, 2014 | Faculty

Betzig’s development of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy allows scientists to look inside cells and visualize the pathways of individual molecules.

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photo of Randy Schekman

Randy Schekman

Physiology or Medicine, 2013 Faculty

Schekman discovered how cells export proteins, allowing the production and secretion of drugs by yeast cells and sparking a biotech revolution.

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photo of David J. Wineland

David J. Wineland B.A. ’65

Physics, 2012 | Alum

Wineland and Serge Haroche jointly received the physics prize for groundbreaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.

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photo of Thomas Sargent

Thomas Sargent ’64

Economics, 2011 | Alum

The 2011 prize was awarded jointly to Sargent and Christopher Sims for their empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy.

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photo of Adam Guy Riess

Adam Guy Riess Miller Fellow ’96–99

Physics, 2011 | Alum

Berkeley professor Saul Perlmutter (a fellow Cal alum) led a team that discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe; the prize was awarded jointly to Riess and Brian Schmidt.

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photo of Saul Perlmutter

Saul Perlmutter Ph.D. ’86

Physics, 2011 | Faculty

Perlmutter led a team that discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe; the prize was awarded jointly to Adam Riess — a fellow Cal alum — and Brian Schmidt.

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photo of Carol Greider

Carol Greider Ph.D. ’87

Physiology or Medicine, 2009 Alum

With Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak, Greider received a Nobel for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.

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photo of Oliver Williamson

Oliver Williamson

Economics, 2009 | Faculty

Williamson’s research on economic governance opened an analytic window into the “make or buy” decisions that all businesses face.

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photo of Andrew Z. Fire

Andrew Z. Fire ’78

Physiology or Medicine, 2006 Alum

Fire shared his prize with Craig Mello for their discovery of RNA interference — gene silencing by double-stranded RNA.

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photo of John C. Mather

John C. Mather Ph.D. ’74

Physics, 2006 | Alum

Mather and Berkeley professor George Smoot were recognized for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

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photo of George Smoot

George Smoot

Physics, 2006 | Faculty

Astrophysicist Smoot shared this prize with Cal alum John Mather for imaging the infant universe.

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photo of Thomas C. Schelling

Thomas C. Schelling ’44

Economics, 2005 | Alum

Schelling shared his prize with Robert Aumann; they were recognized for enhancing understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis.

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photo of David Gross

David Gross Ph.D. ’66

Physics, 2004 | Alum

Gross, H. David Politzer, and Frank Wilczek received the physics prize for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction.

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photo of Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman Ph.D. ’61

Economics, 2002 | Alum

Kahneman, who shared the prize with Vernon Smith, contributed an integrated economic analysis with fundamental insights from cognitive psychology that laid the foundation for a new field of research.

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photo of George Akerlof

George Akerlof

Economics, 2001 | Faculty

Macroeconomist Akerlof broke with established economic theory in illustrating how markets malfunction when buyers and sellers have access to different information.

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photo of Daniel McFadden

Daniel McFadden

Economics, 2000 | Faculty

McFadden’s econometric methods for studying behavioral patterns in individual decision-making earned him the Nobel Prize.

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photo of Alan Heeger

Alan Heeger Ph.D. ’61

Chemistry, 2000 | Alum

For the discovery and development of conductive polymers, Heeger shared his prize with Alan MacDiarmid and Hideki Shirakawa.

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photo of Robert Laughlin

Robert Laughlin ’72

Physics, 1998 | Alum

Laughlin shared his prize with Horst L. Störmer and Daniel C. Tsui for their discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations.

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photo of Steven Chu

Steven Chu Ph.D. ’76

Physics, 1997 | Alum

The 1997 prize was awarded jointly to Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, and William D. Phillips for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

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photo of Robert Curl

Robert Curl Ph.D. ’57

Chemistry, 1996 | Alum

Curl, Sir Harold W. Kroto, and Richard E. Smalley were jointly awarded in chemistry for their discovery of fullerenes.

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photo of Mario Molina

Mario Molina Ph.D. ’72

Chemistry, 1995 | Alum

Mexican-born Molina shared his prize with Paul Crutzen and F. Sherwood Rowland for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone.

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photo of John Harsanyi

John Harsanyi

Economics, 1994 | Faculty

Harsanyi expanded the application of game theory, eventually addressing the prediction of outcomes in games or circumstances in which players lack complete information.

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photo of Douglass North

Douglass North ’42, Ph.D. 1952

Economics, 1993 | Alum

For shedding new light on economic development in Europe and the United States before and in connection with the Industrial Revolution, North shared his prize with Robert Fogel.

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photo of Kary Mullis

Kary Mullis Ph.D. ’73

Chemistry, 1993 | Alum

This prize recognized contributions to developments of methods within DNA-based chemistry, with one half to Mullis for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, the other to Michael Smith.

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photo of Thomas Cech

Thomas Cech Ph.D. ’75

Chemistry, 1989 | Alum

Cech shared his prize with Sidney Altman for their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA.

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photo of Yuan T. Lee

Yuan T. Lee Ph.D. ’62

Chemistry, 1986 | Faculty

Lee designed experiments that sent streams of intensely packed molecules into each other at supersonic speeds, contributing to today’s powerful lasers.

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photo of Gerard Debreu

Gerard Debreu

Economics, 1983 | Faculty

Economist Debreu’s mathematical models provided the theoretical structure to explain the law of supply and demand.

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photo of Henry Taube

Henry Taube Ph.D. ’40

Chemistry, 1983 | Alum

Canadian Taube was honored for his work on the mechanisms of electron transfer reactions, especially in metal complexes.

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photo of Czeslow Milosz

Czeslow Milosz

Literature, 1980 | Faculty

Milosz’s poetry was prohibited by the Communist government of his native Poland; this ban ended when he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

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photo of Lawrence Klein

Lawrence Klein ’42

Economics, 1980 | Alum

Klein was recognized for the creation of econometric models and the application to the analysis of economic fluctuations and economic policies.

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photo of Hamilton Smith

Hamilton Smith ’52

Physiology or Medicine, 1978 Alum

Smith, Werner Arberm, and Daniel Nathans earned their shared Nobel for the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics.

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photo of Luis Alvarez

Luis Alvarez

Physics, 1968 | Faculty

Substituting hydrogen for ether in Donald Glaser’s bubble chamber, Alvarez produced a clearer track of speeding particles.

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photo of Charles Townes

Charles Townes

Physics, 1964 | Faculty

Townes’s research into the properties of light while designing radar systems during World War II led to the development of the laser.

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photo of Melvin Calvin

Melvin Calvin

Chemistry, 1961 | Faculty

Calvin revealed the complete path of carbon in photosynthesis to explain how plants convert sunlight to food.

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photo of Donald Glaser

Donald Glaser

Physics, 1960 | Faculty

Glaser’s invention of the bubble chamber allowed scientists to track the movement of atomic particles.

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photo of Emilio Segrè

Emilio Segrè

Physics, 1959 | Faculty

Segrè and Owen Chamberlain discovered the anti-proton, signaling a major leap in the study of matter and antimatter.

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photo of Owen Chamberlain

Owen Chamberlain

Physics, 1959 | Faculty

Chamberlain and Emilio Segrè discovered the anti-proton, signaling a major leap in the study of matter and antimatter.

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photo of Willis Lamb

Willis Lamb ’34, Ph.D. ’38

Physics, 1955 | Alum

Lamb, who shared the prize with Polykarp Kusch, was recognized for his discoveries concerning the fine structure of the hydrogen spectrum.

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photo of Selman Waksman

Selman Waksman Ph.D. 1918

Physiology or Medicine, 1952 Alum

Waksman was recognized for his discovery of streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis.

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photo of Glenn Seaborg

Glenn Seaborg Ph.D. ’37

Chemistry, 1951 | Faculty

Seaborg continued Edwin McMillan’s studies on the transuranium elements, and in 1942, he discovered plutonium.

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photo of Edwin McMillan

Edwin McMillan

Chemistry, 1951 | Faculty

McMillan discovered the element neptunium in 1940; he shared his Nobel with Glenn Seaborg.

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photo of William Giauque

William Giauque B.S. 1920, Ph.D. 1922

Chemistry, 1949 | Faculty

By reaching below Absolute Zero for the first time in history, Giauque’s work proved one of the most basic laws of nature.

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photo of Wendell Stanley

Wendell Stanley

Chemistry, 1946 | Faculty

Stanley and John Howard Northrop share a chemistry prize; one for isolating a pure enzyme for the first time and the other for isolating a virus, respectively.

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photo of John Howard Northrop

John Howard Northrop

Chemistry, 1946 | Faculty

Northrop and Wendell Stanley share a chemistry prize; one for isolating a pure enzyme for the first time and the other for isolating a virus, respectively.

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photo of Joseph Erlanger

Joseph Erlanger 1895

Physiology or Medicine, 1944 Alum

Erlanger shared his prize with Herbert S. Gasser for their discoveries relating to the highly differentiated functions of single nerve fibers.

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photo of Ernest Lawrence

Ernest Lawrence

Physics, 1939 | Faculty

Lawrence, awarded for his work on the cyclotron, was the first Nobelist at a public university.

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photo of Harold Urey

Harold Urey Ph.D. 1923

Chemistry, 1934 | Alum

Urey was recognized for his discovery of heavy hydrogen.

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