Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry from 1901 to the Present

Jacobus van't Hoff won the first Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1901.
Jacobus van't Hoff won the first Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1901.

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist and the inventor of dynamite. Nobel recognized the destructive power of dynamite, but hoped that such power would lead to an end to warfare. However, dynamite was quickly exploited to develop newer, more deadly weapons. Not wanting to be remembered as the "merchant of death", an epitaph given him by a French newspaper in a mistaken obituary, Nobel wrote his will such that it would establish prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace to "those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." A sixth category, economics, was added in 1969.

First Nobel Awarded in 1901

It took some time to implement Nobel's wishes. The first Nobel prize was awarded in 1901, which was five years after Alfred Nobel's death. Note that the Nobel prize can only be won by individuals, there can be no more than three winners in a given year, and money is split equally between multiple winners. Each winner gets a gold medal, a sum of money, and a diploma.

Nobel Prize Laureates in Chemistry
Year Laureate Country Research
1901 Jacobus H. van't Hoff Netherlands Discovered laws of chemical dynamics and osmotic pressure in solutions
1902 Emil Hermann Fischer Germany Synthetic studies of sugar and purine groups
1903 Svante A. Arrhenius Sweden Theory of electrolytic dissociation
1904 Sir William Ramsay Great Britain Discovered the noble gases
1905 Adolf von Baeyer Germany Organic dyes and hydroaromatic compounds
1906 Henri Moissan France Studied and isolated the element fluorine
1907 Eduard Buchner Germany Biochemical studies, discovered fermentation without cells
1908 Sir Ernest Rutherford Great Britain Decay of the elements, chemistry of radioactive substances
1909 Wilhelm Ostwald Germany Catalysis, chemical equilibria, and reaction rates
1910 Otto Wallach Germany Alicyclic compounds
1911 Marie Curie Poland-France Discovered radium and polonium
1912 Victor Grignard
Paul Sabatier
Grignard's reagent
Hydrogenation of organic compounds in the presence of finely divided metals
1913 Alfred Werner Switzerland Bonding relations of atoms in molecules (inorganic chemistry)
1914 Theodore W. Richards United States Determined atomic weights
1915 Richard M. Willstätter Germany Investigated plant pigments, particularly chlorophyll
1916 The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section
1917 The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section
1918 Fritz Haber Germany Synthesized ammonia from its elements
1919 The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section
1920 Walther H. Nernst Germany Studies on thermodynamics
1921 Frederick Soddy Great Britain Chemistry of radioactive substances, occurrence and nature of the isotopes
1922 Francis William Aston Great Britain Discovered several isotopes, mass spectrograph
1923 Fritz Pregl Austria Microanalysis of organic compounds
1924 The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section
1925 Richard A. Zsigmondy Germany, Austria Colloid chemistry (ultramicroscope)
1926 Theodor Svedberg Sweden Disperse systems (ultracentrifuge)
1927 Heinrich O. Wieland Germany Constitution of bile acids
1928 Adolf Otto Reinhold Windaus Germany Study of sterols and their relation with vitamins (vitamin D)
1929 Sir Arthur Harden
Hans von Euler-Chelpin
Great Britain
Sweden, Germany
Studied fermentation of sugars and enzymes
1930 Hans Fischer Germany Studied blood and plant pigments, synthesized hemin
1931 Friedrich Bergius
Karl Bosch
Developed chemical high-pressure processes
1932 Irving Langmuir United States Surface chemistry
1933 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1934 Harold Clayton Urey United States Discovery of heavy hydrogen (deuterium)
1935 Frederic Joliot-Curie
Iréne Joliot-Curie
Syntheses of new radioactive elements (artificial radioactivity)
1936 Peter J. W. Debye Netherlands, Germany Studied dipole moments and the diffraction of X rays and electron beams by gases
1937 Walter N. Haworth
Paul Karrer
Great Britain
Studied carbohydrates and vitamin C
Studied carotenoids and flavins and vitamins A and B2
1938 Richard Kuhn Germany Studied carotenoids and vitamins
1939 Adolf F. J. Butenandt
Lavoslav Stjepan Ružička
Studies on sexual hormones
Studied polymethylenes and higher terpenes
1940 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section
1941 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1942 The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.
1943 Georg de Hevesy Hungary Application of isotopes as indicators in the investigation of chemical processes
1944 Otto Hahn Germany Discovered nuclear fission of atoms
1945 Artturi Ilmari Virtanen Finland Discoveries in the area of agricultural and food chemistry, method of preservation of fodder
1946 James B. Sumner
John H. Northrop
Wendell M. Stanley
United States
United States
United States
Prepared enzymes and virus proteins in pure form
Crystallizability of enzymes
1947 Sir Robert Robinson Great Britain Studied alkaloids
1948 Arne W. K. Tiselius Sweden Analysis using electrophoresis and adsorption, discoveries concerning serum proteins
1949 William F. Giauque United States Contributions to chemical thermodynamics, properties at extremely low temperatures (adiabatic demagnetization)
1950 Kurt Alder
Otto P. H. Diels
Developed diene synthesis
1951 Edwin M. McMillan
Glenn T. Seaborg
United States
United States
Discoveries in the chemistry of transuranium elements
1952 Archer J. P. Martin
Richard L. M. Synge
Great Britain
Great Britain
Invented distribution chromatography
1953 Hermann Staudinger Germany Discoveries in the area of macromolecular chemistry
1954 Linus C. Pauling United States Studied the nature of the chemical bond (molecular structure of proteins)
1955 Vincent du Vigneaud United States Synthesized a polypeptide hormone
1956 Sir Cyril Norman Hinshelwood
Nikolai N. Semenov
Great Britain
Soviet Union
Mechanisms of chemical reactions
1957 Sir Alexander R. Todd Great Britain Studied nucleotides and their coenzymes
1958 Frederick Sanger Great Britain Structure of proteins, especially insulin
1959 Jaroslav Heyrovský Czech Republic Polarography
1960 Willard F. Libby United States Application of carbon 14 for age determinations (radiocarbon dating)
1961 Melvin Calvin United States Studied the assimilation of carbonic acid by plants (photosynthesis)
1962 John C. Kendrew
Max F. Perutz
Great Britain
Great Britain, Austria
Studied the structures of globulin proteins
1963 Giulio Natta
Karl Ziegler
Chemistry and technology of high polymers
1964 Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin Great Britain Structure determination of biologically important substances by means of X rays
1965 Robert B. Woodward United States Syntheses of natural products
1966 Robert S. Mulliken United States Studied chemical bonds and the electron structure of molecules using the orbital method
1967 Manfred Eigen
Ronald G. W. Norrish
George Porter
Great Britain
Great Britain
Investigated extremely fast chemical reactions
1968 Lars Onsager United States, Norway Studied the thermodynamics of irreversible processes
1969 Derek H. R. Barton
Odd Hassel
Great Britain
Development of the concept of conformation
1970 Luis F. Leloir Argentina Discovery of sugar nucleotides and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates
1971 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Electron structure and geometry of molecules, particularly of free radicals (molecular spectroscopy)
1972 Christian B. Anfinsen
Stanford Moore
William H. Stein
United States
United States
United States
Studied ribonuclease (Anfinsen)
Studied the active center of ribonuclease (Moore & Stein)
1973 Ernst Otto Fischer
Geoffrey Wilkinson
Great Britain
Chemistry of metal-organic sandwich compounds
1974 Paul J. Flory United States Physical chemistry of macromolecules
1975 John Cornforth
Vladimir Prelog
Australia - Great Britain
Yugoslavia - Switzerland
Stereochemistry of enzyme catalysis reactions
Studied the stereochemistry of organic molecules and reactions
1976 William N. Lipscomb United States Structure of boranes
1977 Ilya Prigogine Belgium Contributions to the thermodynamics of irreversible processes, particularly to the theory of dissipative structures
1978 Peter Mitchell Great Britain Studied biological energy transfer, development of the chemiosmotic theory
1979 Herbert C. Brown
Georg Wittig
United States
Development of (organic) boron and phosphorous compounds
1980 Paul Berg
Walter Gilbert
Frederick Sanger
United States
United States
Great Britain
Studied the biochemistry of nucleic acids, particularly hybrid DNA (technology of gene surgery) (Berg)
Determined base sequences in nucleic acids (Gilbert & Sanger)
1981 Kenichi Fukui
Roald Hoffmann
United States
Theories on the progress of chemical reactions (frontier orbital theory)
1982 Aaron Klug South Africa Developed crystallographic methods for the elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid protein complexes
1983 Henry Taube Canada Reaction mechanisms of electron transfer, especially with metal complexes
1984 Robert Bruce Merrifield United States Method for the preparation of peptides and proteins
1985 Herbert A. Hauptman
Jerome Karle
United States
United States
Developed direct methods for the determination of crystal structures
1986 Dudley R. Herschbach
Yuan T. Lee
John C. Polanyi
United States
United States
Dynamics of chemical elementary processes
1987 Donald James Cram
Charles J. Pedersen
Jean-Marie Lehn
United States
United States
Development of molecules with structurally specific interaction of high selectivity
1988 Johann Deisenhofer
Robert Huber
Hartmut Michel
Determined the three-dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction center
1989 Thomas Robert Cech
Sidney Altman
United States
United States
Discovered the catalytic properties of ribonucleic acid (RNA)
1990 Elias James Corey United States Developed novel methods for the synthesis of complex natural compounds (retrosynthetic analysis)
1991 Richard R. Ernst Switzerland Developed high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR)
1992 Rudolph A. Marcus Canada - United States Theories of electron transfer
1993 Kary B. Mullis
Michael Smith
United States
Great Britain - Canada
Invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
Development of site specific mutagenesis
1994 George A. Olah United States Carbocations
1995 Paul Crutzen
Mario Molina
F. Sherwood Rowland
Mexico - United States
United States
Work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone
1996 Harold W. Kroto
Robert F. Curl, Jr.
Richard E. Smalley
Great Britain
United States
United States
Discovered fullerenes
1997 Paul Delos Boyer
John E. Walker
Jens C. Skou
United States
Great Britain
Elucidated the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
first discovery of an ion-transporting enzyme, Na+, K+-ATPase
1998 Walter Kohn
John A. Pople
United States
Great Britain
Development of the density-functional theory (Kohn)
Development of computational methods in quantum chemistry (GAUSSIAN computer programs) (Pope)
1999 Ahmed H. Zewail Egypt - United States Studied the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy
2000 Alan J. Heeger
Alan G. MacDiarmid
Hideki Shirakawa
United States
United States
Discovered and developed conductive polymers
2001 William S. Knowles
Ryoji Noyori
Karl Barry Sharpless
United States
United States

Work on chirally catalysed hydrogenation reactions (Knowles & Noyori)
Work on chirally catalysed oxidation reactions (Sharpless)
2002 John Bennett Fenn
Jokichi Takamine
Kurt Wüthrich
United States
Developed soft desorption ionisation methods for mass spectrometric analyses of biological macromolecules (Fenn & Tanaka)
Developed nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for determining the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules in solution (Wüthrich)
2003 Peter Agre
Roderick MacKinnon
United States
United States
Discovered water channels for transport of water in cell membranes
Performed structural and mechanistic studies of ion channels in cells
2004 Aaron Ciechanover
Avaram Hershko
Irwin Rose
United States
Discovered and elucidated the process of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation
2005 Yves Chauvin
Robert H. Grubbs
Richard R. Schrock
United States
United States
Developed the metathesis method of organic synthesis, allowing for advances in 'green' chemistry
2006 Roger D. Kornberg United States "for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription"
2007 Gerhard Ertl Germany "for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces"
2008 Shimomura Osamu
Martin Chalfie
Roger Y. Tsien
United States "for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP"
2009 Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
Thomas A. Steitz
Ada E. Yonath
United Kingdom
United States
"for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome"
2010 Ei-ichi Negishi
Akira Suzuki
Richard Heck
United States
"for the development of palladium-catalyzed cross coupling"
2011 Daniel Shechtman Israel "for the discovery of quasi-crystals"
2012 Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka United States "for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors"
2013 Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt, Arieh Warshel United States "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems"
2014 Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell, William E. Moerner (USA) United States, Germany, United States “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”
2016 Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, Bernard L. Feringa France, United States, Netherlands “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines”
2017 Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank, Richard Henderson Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”
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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Nobel Prize in Chemistry." ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2021, July 29). Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Nobel Prize in Chemistry." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).