There have been eight Australians who have won science Nobel Prizes.
The Nobel Prize is an annual international award given for achievements in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. These prizes have been awarded since 1901, and are based on an idea laid down in the will of Alfred Nobel.
There is also a prize for economics: the Central Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Science in memory of Alfred Nobel. It was first awarded in 1969. The Prize for economics, is often regarded as the sixth Nobel Prize awarded each year, although it was not one of the originally specified Prizes.
Alfred Nobel was a man of ideas who once stated “If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied”. He was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1833. Alfred Nobel travelled widely, was fluent in five languages and wrote novels, poetry and plays in his spare time.
- Sir William Lawrence Bragg (with his father Sir William Henry Bragg)
- 1915 Prize in Physics for work on analysing crystals using X-rays.
- Sir Howard Florey
- 1945 Prize in Medicine for work on the development of penicillin.
- Sir Frank MacFarlane Burnet
- 1960 Prize in Medicine for work on immunology, the basis for organ transplants.
- Sir John Carew Eccles
- 1963 Prize in Medicine for work on how nerves and the brain work.
- Sir John Warcup Cornforth
- 1975 Prize in Chemistry for work on the structure of living matter.
- Professor Peter Doherty AC
- 1996 Prize in Medicine for work on immunology.
- Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren
- 2005 Prize in Medicine for work in discovering a bacterium and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcers.
- Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak
- 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that helps duplicate the DNA found at the end of chromosomes.
And depending on your definition of ‘Australian Nobel Prize winner’, there may be a few more:
- Professor Sir Robert Robinson
- 1947 Prize for Chemistry for work with natural products, including alkaloids. He was born and educated in England, but for three years he was Professor of Organic Chemistry at Sydney University.
- Professor Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov
- 1964 Prize for Physics for work in quantum mechanics that led to lasers. Aleksandr was born in Atherton, Queensland in 1916 but moved to the Soviet Union when he was seven. He studied and worked (and still lives) in Russia.
- Sir Bernard Katz
- 1970 Prize in Medicine for work in nerve cell transmissions. He was born in Germany and worked mostly in England, but he was also a naturalised Australian, served in the RAAF in World War II and worked in Sir John Eccles' laboratory at Sydney Hospital.
A literary Nobel
The Nobel Prize for literature has once been awarded to an Australian. In 1973, Patrick White was awarded the prize “for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature”.
Other innovative Australians
- Sir Charles Kingsford Smith 1897 - 1935
- On 31 May 1928, Kingsford Smith and his crew completed the world's first air–crossing of the Pacific. They took off from the west coast of the USA and arrived in Brisbane eight days later. Kingsford Smith went on to achieve a number of other world–first flights.
- Dr Andrew Thomas 1951 -
- Dr Andrew Thomas was born in Adelaide in 1951. His first NASA space flight was a 10 day mission aboard the Endeavour in May 1996. Two years later he spent 130 days aboard the Russian Space Station Mir. In March 2001 Dr Thomas flew to the International Space Station and while there become the first Australian to walk in space.
- David Unaipon 1872 - 1967
- A Ngarrindjeri man from Point McLeay in SA, David Unaipon was a talented inventor, writer and speaker. His inventions include improved sheep shears. He also foresaw the helicopter, by applying some of the principles of the boomerang.