Round up of the 2016 Nobel Prizes

The Nobel Prize was established in 1895 by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The first five were awarded in 1901 in the categories of Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics and Physiology or Medicine. We take a look at the winners for the science categories and their achievements.


This year’s physics award was shared between three physicists for their “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” David J Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz share the prize for their work in topology, the mathematical branch that studies what happens when matter is stretched, twisted and deformed.

Arguably the most esteemed of the awards, the list of Nobel Laureates in Physics reads like a who’s who of science. Recipients include Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Richard Feynman, and many more.


The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa for their work in the field of molecular machines. Beginning with Sauvage’s chain linking breakthrough in 1983, the work was further developed by Stoddart’s 1991 advances in creating a molecular axis, and in 1999 Feringa created a molecular motor. These miniaturised machines have pushed chemistry into a new dimension and opened up endless possibilities for nanotechnology.

Recipients of Nobel’s chemistry award have lit up the field with breakthroughs and discoveries that have shaped the world for the last 100 years. Award winners include Marie Curie (who was also awarded a prize in the field of physics) and Ernest Rutherford.

Physiology or Medicine

The 2016 award was presented to Yoshinori Ohsumi “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.” His work has the potential to lead to better understandings of diseases such as Parkinson’s, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Autophagy is essentially the process of cells eating and recycling themselves and Yoshinori Ohsumi’s work has opened the door to helping explain what goes wrong and leads to a number of diseases.

This award has been presented to some of medicine’s most famous names for important discoveries. These include Frederick Banting and John Macleod for insulin, Karl Landsteiner for the discovery of human blood groups, Alexander Fleming, Ernst Chain and Howard Florey for penicillin, and Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of HPV.


The award for literature has yet to be announced and no date has been set. This prestigious award is awarded for services to literature, rather than for a single book or work. Past recipients have included novelists Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, philosophy writers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Satre (though he refused to accept it), as well as poets, essayists, non-fiction authors and screenwriters. The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded 112 times since 1901, with France having the highest number of recipients. 

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