A few days ago, we looked at the top ten youngest Nobel Prize winners in the world. That list was topped by Malala Yousafzai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she was just 17 years old. Now we are going to check out the top 10 oldest Nobel Prize winners on the planet. Each Nobel Prize recipient gets a diploma, a gold medal, and a sum of money determined by the Nobel Foundation.
These are the oldest Nobel Prize winners
Since 1901, 904 individuals and 24 organizations have been awarded Nobel Prizes in the fields of physics, chemistry, literature, physiology or medicine, and peace. In 1968, the central bank of Sweden began awarding Nobel Prize in economic sciences in the memory of Alfred Nobel, who had given away a large portion of his fortune to a series of prizes that are now one of the world’s most prestigious awards.
The Nobel Prizes are awarded on December 10th of every year at an annual ceremony in Stockholm. Remember that the list below is based on the age of Nobel laureates when they were awarded the Nobel Prize, not when they did the work that led them to the prestigious award.
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10- Karl von Frisch, 87
Born on November 20, 1886, Karl von Frisch was 87 years old when he won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1973. He shared the Prize with Nikolaas Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz “for their discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behavior patterns.” Karl von Frisch’s research focused on the “language” of bees. He conducted a series of experiments to demonstrate how bees communicate information with one another.
9- Joseph Rotblat, 87
Rotblat was also 87 years old when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. He was born on November 4th, 1908. Rotblat and Pugwash Conferences were jointly awarded the Prize “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics.” Joseph Rotblat was one of the eleven scientists behind the Russel-Einstein Manifesto, which laid the groundwork for the Pugwash Conferences.
8- Peyton Rous, 87
Francis Payton Rous was born in Woodlawn, Maryland on October 5th, 1879. The American virologist was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1966, when he was 87 years old. He shared the Prize with Charles Brenton Huggins. Rous was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery of tumor-inducing viruses. He discovered that cancer could be transmitted by a virus (now called the Rous sarcoma virus), but his finding was widely discredited by the scientific community. It was several years after his discovery that other scientists managed to replicate his results. Rous was nominated to the Nobel Committee many times before finally winning it in 1966.
7- Vitaly L. Ginzburg, 87
Vitaly Ginzburg was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 2003 for his “pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids.” He shared the award with two other scientists Anthony Leggett and Alexei Abrikosov. The Russian theoretical physicist was born on October 4th, 1916.
6- Yoichiro Nambu, 87
Yoichiro Nambu was born on January 18th, 1921 in Tokyo, Japan, though he took the US Citizenship in 1970. He won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2008 “for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics,” making him one of the oldest Nobel Prize winners in the world. Nambu had formulated his mathematical description of spontaneous broken symmetry in elementary particle physics as early as 1960.
5- Doris Lessing, 88
The British novelist won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2007. At 88, she was the oldest person ever to win the Nobel Prize in literature. The Swedish Academy described her as “that epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.” Some of her best literary works are The Grass is Singing, Children of Violence, The Good Terrorist, and The Golden Notebook.
4- Raymond Davis Jr, 88
Born on October 14th, 1914, Raymond Davis Jr won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2002. Davis Jr won the Nobel for “pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic neutrinos.” Cosmic neutrinos were nearly impossible to detect because they don’t interact with matter. Raymond Davis Jr built a detector that captured about 2,000 neutrinos from the sun over 30 years.
3- Lloyd Shapley, 89
Noted mathematician and economist Lloyd Shapley was born on June 2nd, 1923. He won the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 2012 “for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.” Shapley and his colleagues derived the Gale-Shapley algorithm that always ensures a stable matching. He has made significant contributions to the game theory.
2- Leonid Hurwicz, 90
The second oldest Nobel Prize winner was also an economist. Leonid Hurwicz was born on August 21st, 1917 in Moscow, Russia. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 2007 “for having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory.” He came up with the concept of incentive compatibility and demonstrated how desired outcomes could be achieved by using incentive compatible mechanism design.
1- Arthur Ashkin, 96
Arthur Ashkin is by far the oldest Nobel Prize winner in the world. He was 96 when he won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2018. Born on September 2nd, 1922 in New York, Ashkin was awarded the Nobel “for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems.” His optical tweezers help scientists study particles, molecules, atoms, and even living cells. His optical tweezers are widely used to investigate biological systems. Currently, he is working on methods to produce “cheap electricity” and save the world. He has set his eyes on a second Nobel Prize for the same. Will he break his own record? Only time will tell.