Immigrants, Nobel Prizes And The American Dream – Forbes

Immigrants, Nobel Prizes And The American Dream – Forbes


The significant number of immigrant Nobel Prize winners is a sign of America’s openness to new ideas and people. A new study shows recent immigrants have played an outsized role in bringing honor and recognition to America in scientific fields.

“Immigrants have been awarded 37%, or 37 of 100, of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in chemistry, medicine and physics since 2000,” according to a new analysis from the National Foundation for American Policy. “In 2020, one of the five U.S. recipients of Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry and physics was an immigrant to the United States.”

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The study found:

–        Overall, between 1901 and 2020, immigrants have been awarded 35%, or 106 of 307, of the Nobel Prizes won by Americans in chemistry, medicine and physics.

–        Since 1901, immigrants have been awarded 36% of the U.S. Nobel Prizes in physics, 35% in chemistry and 33% in medicine.

–        Greater openness to immigration helped America take and maintain a leading role in science, particularly the end of national origins quotas in the Immigration and Nationality of 1965 and the increase in employment-based numbers in the Immigration Act of 1990.

–        Between 1901 and 1959, only one immigrant to the United States (William Francis Giauque) won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, but between 1960 and 2020, 27 immigrants received the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

–        From 1901 to 1959, 9 immigrants to the United States won the Nobel Prize for medicine, but 29 immigrants received the Nobel Prize for medicine from 1960 to 2020.

–        In physics, 11 immigrants received the Nobel Prize from 1901 to 1959, while 29 immigrants won the Nobel Prize for physics between 1960 and 2020.

“A number of the earliest U.S. winners of the Nobel Prize in physics were Jewish scientists who fled Europe after the rise of Hitler and Mussolini,” according to the report. “These scientists were crucial in America becoming the first nation to develop the atomic bomb. Four of the nuclear scientists who came to the United States from Europe in the 1930s and later received a Nobel Prize for physics were Felix Bloch (1952), born in Switzerland, Emilio Segre (1959), born in Italy, Maria Mayer (1963), born in Poland, and Eugene Wigner (1963), born in Hungary.”

Reinhard Genzel was born in Germany and came to America to conduct research in physics. He later became a professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. He was awarded the Nobel Prize this year in physics with U.S.-born UCLA professor Andrea Ghez for research on black holes. Genzel and Ghez shared the other half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics with Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford.

“In 1969, Donald Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees suggested that the Milky Way galaxy might contain a supermassive black hole at its center, but evidence was lacking because the galactic core is obscured by interstellar dust and could only be detected as a relatively faint radio source, called Sagittarius A*,” according to the Berkeley News. “At the time, Genzel was a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley working with the late Nobel laureate Charles Townes. The two presented the first observations hinting that the center of our galaxy harbored a massive black hole, though the evidence was weak. Genzel worked steadfastly over the ensuing decades to prove his case. He developed a ‘remarkable technique, in which he can measure very accurately and determine quite precisely the mass and behavior of stars circulating around the galactic center,’ Townes said in 2008.”

“Using the world’s largest telescopes, Genzel and Ghez developed methods to see through the huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the centre of the Milky Way,” said the Nobel Prize Committee said in a statement. “Stretching the limits of technology, they refined new techniques to compensate for distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, building unique instruments and committing themselves to long-term research. Their pioneering work has given us the most convincing evidence yet of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.”

“The discoveries of this year’s Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects,” according to David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

Every year brings more examples of the benefits of welcoming talented people who reach new heights in America. In 2019, immigrant James Peebles won the Nobel Prize in physics and immigrant M. Stanley Whittingham was one of two American winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Two of the three U.S. winners of the Nobel Prize in economics in 2019 were MIT professors and immigrants – Abhijit Banerjee, born in India, and Esther Duflo, born in France.

“When one asks successful entrepreneurs and scientists conducting groundbreaking research whether they favor liberalized policies on immigration, the answer they invariably give is that more immigration and greater openness to international students, researchers and immigrants across the skill spectrum will help America to grow and prosper,” concludes the National Foundation for American Policy report. “The achievements of immigrants in the form of Nobel Prizes, successful businesses and contributions in other fields are a testament to the American Dream.”

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