List of nonreligious Nobel laureates

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Distribution of atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers in Nobel Prizes between 1901-2000. Distribution of Atheists, agnostics, and Freethinkers in Nobel Prizes between 1901-2000.png
Distribution of atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers in Nobel Prizes between 1901-2000.

This list comprises laureates of the Nobel Prize who self-identified as atheist, agnostic, freethinker or otherwise nonreligious at some point in their lives. [2] Many of these laureates were identified with a religion earlier in life.

Nobel Prize Set of annual international awards, primarily 5 established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances.

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist"



Harry Kroto, joint recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Harry Kroto.jpg
Harry Kroto, joint recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Svante Arrhenius Swedish chemist

Svante August Arrhenius was a Swedish scientist. Originally a physicist, but often referred to as a chemist, Arrhenius was one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1903, becoming the first Swedish Nobel laureate, and in 1905 became director of the Nobel Institute where he remained until his death.

Paul D. Boyer American biochemist

Paul Delos Boyer was an American biochemist, analytical chemist, and a professor of chemistry at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research on the "enzymatic mechanism underlying the biosynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)" with John E. Walker, making Boyer the first Utah-born Nobel laureate; the remainder of the Prize in that year was awarded to Danish chemist Jens Christian Skou for his discovery of the Na+/K+-ATPase.

John Cornforth Australian-British chemist

Sir John Warcup Cornforth Jr., AC, CBE, FRS, FAA was an Australian–British chemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1975 for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalysed reactions, becoming the only Nobel laureate born in New South Wales.


Milton Friedman American economist, statistician, and writer

Milton Friedman was an American economist who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and the complexity of stabilization policy. With George Stigler and others, Friedman was among the intellectual leaders of the second generation of Chicago price theory, a methodological movement at the University of Chicago's Department of Economics, Law School and Graduate School of Business from the 1940s onward. Several students and young professors who were recruited or mentored by Friedman at Chicago went on to become leading economists, including Gary Becker, Robert Fogel, Thomas Sowell and Robert Lucas Jr.

Friedrich Hayek Austrian and British economist

Friedrich August von Hayek, often referred to by his initials F.A. Hayek, was an Anglo-Austrian economist and philosopher best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal for his "pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and [...] penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena". Hayek was also a major social theorist and political philosopher of the 20th century and his account of how changing prices communicate information that helps individuals co-ordinate their plans is widely regarded as an important achievement in economics, leading to his Nobel Prize.

Reinhard Selten German economist

Reinhard Justus Reginald Selten was a German economist, who won the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He is also well known for his work in bounded rationality and can be considered as one of the founding fathers of experimental economics.


Jean-Paul Sartre, recipient of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature. Sartre 1967 crop.jpg
Jean-Paul Sartre, recipient of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Samuel Beckett Nobel-winning modernist Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, translator and poet

Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator who lived in Paris for most of his adult life. He wrote in both English and French.

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson Norwegian writer

Bjørnstjerne Martinius Bjørnson was a Norwegian writer who received the 1903 Nobel Prize in Literature "as a tribute to his noble, magnificent and versatile poetry, which has always been distinguished by both the freshness of its inspiration and the rare purity of its spirit", becoming the first Norwegian Nobel laureate. Bjørnson is considered to be one of The Four Greats among Norwegian writers, the others being Henrik Ibsen, Jonas Lie, and Alexander Kielland. Bjørnson is also celebrated for his lyrics to the Norwegian National Anthem, "Ja, vi elsker dette landet".

Pearl S. Buck American writer

Pearl Sydenstricker Buck was an American writer and novelist. As the daughter of missionaries, Buck spent most of her life before 1934 in Zhenjiang, China. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. In 1938, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces". She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Norman Angell British politician and Nobel Laureate

Sir Ralph Norman Angell was an English Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was a lecturer, journalist, author and Member of Parliament for the Labour Party.

Klas Pontus Arnoldson Swedish politician

Klas Pontus Arnoldson was a Swedish author, journalist, politician, and committed pacifist who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1908 with Fredrik Bajer. He was a founding member of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society and a Member of Parliament in the second Chamber of 1882-1887.

Mikhail Gorbachev 20th-century General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a Russian and formerly Soviet politician. The eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union, he was General Secretary of its governing Communist Party from 1985 until 1991. He was the country's head of state from 1988 until 1991, serving as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1988 to 1989, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 1989 to 1990, and President of the Soviet Union from 1990 to 1991. Ideologically, he initially adhered to Marxism-Leninism although by the early 1990s had moved toward social democracy.


Pierre and Marie Curie. Pierre and Marie Curie.jpg
Pierre and Marie Curie.
Albert Einstein. Einstein 1921 by F Schmutzer - restoration.jpg
Albert Einstein.
Peter Higgs. Nobel Prize 24 2013.jpg
Peter Higgs.
Zhores Alferov Soviet and Russian physicist and academic

Zhores Ivanovich Alferov was a Soviet and Russian physicist and academic who contributed significantly to the creation of modern heterostructure physics and electronics. He was the inventor of the heterotransistor and shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics. He also became a politician in his later life, serving in the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, as a member of the communist party since 1995.

Philip Warren Anderson American physicist

Philip Warren Anderson is an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate. Anderson has made contributions to the theories of localization, antiferromagnetism, symmetry breaking, and high-temperature superconductivity, and to the philosophy of science through his writings on emergent phenomena.

John Bardeen American physicist and engineer

John Bardeen was an American physicist and electrical engineer. He is the only person to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics twice: first in 1956 with William Shockley and Walter Brattain for the invention of the transistor; and again in 1972 with Leon N Cooper and John Robert Schrieffer for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity known as the BCS theory.

Physiology or Medicine

Francis Crick. Francis Crick crop.jpg
Francis Crick.

See also

Related Research Articles

Theism belief in the existence of at least one deity

Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with deism, the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism – or gods found in polytheistic religions—a belief in God or in gods without the rejection of revelation as is characteristic of deism.

The existence of God is a subject of debate in the philosophy of religion and popular culture.

Russells teapot analogy coined by Bertrand Russell

Russell's teapot is an analogy, formulated by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making unfalsifiable claims, rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others.

Criticism of atheism is criticism of the concepts, validity, or impact of atheism, including associated political and social implications. Criticisms include positions based on the history of science, findings in the natural sciences, theistic apologetic arguments, arguments pertaining to ethics and morality, the effects of atheism on the individual, or the assumptions that underpin atheism.

God Divine entity, supreme being and principal object of faith

In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, and principal object of faith. The conceptions of God, as described by theologians, commonly include the attributes of omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-present), and as having an eternal and necessary existence. Depending on one's kind of theism, these attributes are used either in way of analogy, or in a literal sense as distinct properties. God is most often held to be incorporeal (immaterial). Incorporeality and corporeality of God are related to conceptions of transcendence and immanence of God, with positions of synthesis such as the "immanent transcendence". Psychoanalyst Carl Jung equated religious ideas of God with transcendental aspects of consciousness in his interpretation.

Some movements or sects within traditionally monotheistic or polytheistic religions recognize that it is possible to practice religious faith, spirituality and adherence to tenets without a belief in deities. People with what would be considered religious or spiritual belief in a supernatural controlling power are defined by some as adherents to a religion; the argument that atheism is a religion has been described as a contradiction in terms.

Accurate demographics of atheism are difficult to obtain since conceptions of atheism vary across different cultures and languages from being an active concept to being unimportant or not developed. In global studies, the number of people without a religion is usually higher than the number of people without a belief in a deity and the number of people who agree with statements on lacking a belief in a deity is usually higher than the number of people who self-identify as "atheists". According to sociologist Phil Zuckerman, broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a deity range from 50 to 75 million people worldwide. Other estimates state that there are 200 million to 240 million self-identified atheists worldwide, with China and Russia being major contributors to those figures. According to sociologists Ariela Keysar and Juhem Navarro-Rivera's review of numerous global studies on atheism, there are 450 to 500 million positive atheists and agnostics worldwide, with China having the most atheists in the world.

Discrimination against atheists persecution and discrimination faced by atheists and those labeled as atheists

Discrimination against atheists, both at present and historically, includes persecution of and discrimination against people identified as atheists. Discrimination against atheists may also comprise negative attitudes, prejudice, hostility, hatred, fear, or intolerance towards atheists and atheism. Because atheism can be defined in various ways, those discriminated against or persecuted on the grounds of being atheists might not have been considered atheists in a different time or place. 13 Muslim countries officially punish atheism or apostasy by death, while "the overwhelming majority" of the 192 United Nation member countries "at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy".

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to atheism:

Atheism and agnosticism have a long history in India and flourished within the Sramana movement. Indian religions like Jainism, Buddhism and certain schools of Hinduism, though not all, consider atheism to be acceptable. India has produced some notable atheist politicians and social reformers. According to 2011 Census of India, 99.76% of Indians identified with a religion while 0.24% did not state their religious identity. According to the 2012 WIN-Gallup Global Index of Religion and Atheism report, 81% of Indians were religious, 13% were non-religious, 3% were convinced atheists, and 3% were unsure or did not respond.

Agnostic atheism is a philosophical position that encompasses both atheism and agnosticism. Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not hold a belief in the existence of any deity and agnostic because they claim that the existence of a deity is either unknowable in principle or currently unknown in fact.

New Atheism is a term coined in 2006 by the agnostic journalist Gary Wolf to describe the positions promoted by some atheists of the twenty-first century. This modern-day atheism is advanced by a group of thinkers and writers who advocate the view that superstition, religion and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever their influence arises in government, education, and politics. According to Richard Ostling, Bertrand Russell, in his 1927 essay Why I Am Not a Christian, put forward similar positions as those espoused by the New Atheists, suggesting that there are no substantive differences between traditional atheism and New Atheism.


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  58. Ray Monk (2013). Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center. Random House LLC. ISBN   978-0-385-50413-3. In many ways they were opposites; Kemble, the theorist, was a devout Christian, while Bridgman, the experimentalist, was a strident atheist.
  59. Brown, Andrew (1997). The neutron and the bomb : a biography of Sir James Chadwick (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 362. ISBN   978-0-19-853992-6. He was a lifelong atheist and felt no need to develop religious faith as he approached the end...
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  65. Feynman, Richard P. (2011). Leighton, Ralph, ed. "What Do You Care What Other People Think?": Further Adventures of a Curious Character. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 25. ISBN   978-0-393-07981-4. The elders began getting nervous, because I was an avowed atheist by that time
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