2021 Nobel Prize Winners

Who they are and why they won?

And just like that, the season of Nobel Prize has dawned upon us.

As exciting and more promising than its precedent years, this October, committees in Sweden and Norway have come together to decide the laureates to honor this prestigious recognition within the 6 fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace and economic sciences. Here are the prize winners we know of yet.

The Capeless Crusaders of Science


1. David Julius & Ardem Patapoutian



Meet the “touch specialists”.

American physiologist David Julius and American molecular biologist Ardem Patapoutian kicked off this year’s Nobel Prize when they won the award for Medicine on Monday the 4th October 2021 with their groundbreaking findings on temperature receptors and their link to the brain. 


What’s so exciting about temperature receptors and why is "it was a very important and profound discovery"?

Put it this way. It’s easy to enjoy the warmth of a mug of coffee on a cold winter night and just as easy to feel the burns when it spills over. The extensive study of these common but enigmatic sensations brings considerable promise for scientists to better understand how nerve cells detect these sensations and transmit them to the brain which can ultimately help combat pain. 


These findings are already of concrete interest because they pave the way to treatment of certain pathologies, for example rare diseases in which the patient is not aware of his own limbs. "This knowledge is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of disease conditions, including chronic pain", commented the Prize Committee. 

2. Klaus Hasselmann, Giorgio Parisi & Syukuro Manabe,



"In 30 to 100 years, depending on how much fossil fuel we consume, we will face a very significant climate change. Climate zones will shift, precipitation will be distributed differently. Then we will no longer be able to talk about random results," says Klaus Hasselmann. "We should realise that we are entering a situation where there is no turning back."


This award couldn’t be more timely! 

Italian scientist Giorgio Parisi, German scientist Klaus Hasselmann and American-Japanese scientist Syukuro Manabe won the 2021 Nobel prize in physics for their groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems, including how people influence the Earth’s climate.


Let’s talk about the first half of the Prize recognising the climate works of scientists Klaus Hasselmann and Syukuro Manabe. It is thanks to the works of Syukuro Manabe, as early as in the 1960, we now know that the more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the more the temperature on Earth increases and is the basis of climate models, which allowed the IPCC to raise awareness of the climate emergency.


Some 10 years later, Klaus Hasselmann created a model. This one forges the link between weather and climate allowing us to answer a classic climatosceptique criticism: if we can't even predict the weather over a few weeks, how can we believe that we can predict the evolution of the climate over decades? The German researcher found very specific signals showing that the climate is influenced by both natural events and human activities. This then allowed other researchers to show, with calculations and models, that the rise in temperatures in recent decades is indeed due to man and not to a natural phenomenon. Thanks to Klaus Hasselmann’s publications, the IPCC report was able to conclude in 2013 that "it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the warming observed since the middle of the 20th century", says the Nobel committee.


And then there was the other half of the Prize. 

Italian researcher Giorgio Paris "discovered hidden patterns in disordered complex materials", says the Nobel committee. "His discoveries are among the most important contributions to the theory of complex systems. They allow us to understand and describe many different and apparently totally random complex materials and phenomena, not only in physics but also in other very different fields, such as mathematics, biology, neuroscience and machine learning."


Giorgio Parisi’s works on complex systems that as the name suggests is complex to summarize, but simply put, he worked on metal alloys called "spin glasses" with very surprising magnetic properties. As Shakespearean as it sounds, these elements demonstrate complex relationships of love and hate and Giorgio Parisi discovered a structure, a hidden pattern to better understand these alloys. So where does his discovery leave us? For starters, it makes it possible to understand and describe many different and apparently entirely random materials and phenomena. Not only limited to physics but also in other, very different areas, such as mathematics, biology, neuroscience and machine learning, this will be a game changer in analysis of elements.


3. Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan


German scientist Benjamin List and Scotland-born scientist David W.C. MacMillan took home the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the contribution “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”. For the non chemists out there, this is a “precise, cheap, fast and environmentally friendly” way to develop new molecules, making Chemistry greener.

But why is this big enough to win a Nobel Prize?

Catalysis, which is essentially making reactions chemically faster, contributes to 35% of the world’s GDP. Up until the early 21st century, these catalysts were either enzymes or metal compounds making them either not fully functional in all conditions of synthetic chemistry, or in the case of metal compounds, toxic to people and the environment.


The organic chemists showed that simple chiral compounds can catalyse complex reactions that is not only more performant than metals and enzymes, but is also cheaper and easier to produce with incredible potential to make synthetic routes greener. At times of immediate climate change action, this discovery cannot be more well-timed. 


4. Abdulrazak Gurnah



"Millions of Europeans over centuries left their homes for precisely that reason and invaded the world for precisely for that reason," says Abdulrazak Gurnah.


What is considered as the pinnacle of achievement for creative writers, the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021 was awarded to Zanzibar born Abdulrazak Gurnah. The first Tanzanian writer to win this honor, Abdulrazak's work began as a 21 year old refugee in England questioning belonging, displacement, migration, colonialism and memory. He was awarded the Nobel “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fates of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”


5. Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov

       Nobel Peace Prize

"I hope today's Nobel Peace Prize 2021 award will remind the authorities in the Philippines, Russia and around the world of the need to respect journalists and journalism," said Ressa"I hope today's Nobel Peace Prize 2021 award will remind the authorities in the Philippines, Russia and around the world of the need to respect journalists and journalism," said Maria Ressa


Simultaneously as free speech crumbles worldwide, it still prevails, as the highest degree of recognition, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the daredevils Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for taking on the leaders of the Philippines and Russia. The two were awarded "for their courageous fight for freedom of expression" in their countries, Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen of the Norwegian Nobel Committee told a news conference. "At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions," she added. "Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda."


A first for journalists in 86 years since Carl von Ossietzky from Germany won it in 1935, Maria Ressa exposed the abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her country, the Philippines. The fearless defender of freedom of expression revealed the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign and their abuse of social media to circulate fake news, persecute anyone in their way and manipulate public speech. Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov is no stranger to defending the freedom of speech. For decades he has represented the right of public discourse and covered all interests of the Russian regime ranging from electoral fraud and corruption to police violence and the unlawful arrests, to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia.


“Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time. This year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize is therefore firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will.” - Oslo, 8 October 2021


Who were the Nobel Prize 2020 winners?

2020 was a celebratory year for the women in science. With Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna joining the big names of Marie Curie and her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie in the short list of women to have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, here is the list of 2020 Nobel Prize Winners.


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020

Jennifer A. Doudna 

Professor Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier are not only the sixth and seventh women to win in this category but also the first two women to jointly win the chemistry prize with their revolutionary work on Crispr-Cas9.


Emmanuelle Charpentier 

Biochemist, geneticist and microbiologist, currently director of the Department of Pathogen Science at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin (Germany), Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier was named co-winner of this year's 2020 edition along with Jennifer Doudna. The prize rewards their development of the Crispr/Cas9 technology in 2012 capable of modifying human genes.  


The Nobel Prize in Literature 2020

Louise Glück 

The American poet Louise Glück, 77, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2020 "for her characteristic poetic voice, which with its austere beauty makes individual existence universal," announced the Swedish Academy in awarding the prize. Louise Glück won the Pullitzer Prize for Poetry in 1993 for her collection The Wild Iris.


The Nobel Prize in Physics 2020

Andrea Ghez & Roger Penrose

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 was awarded to Professor Andrea Ghez along with British researcher Roger Penrose and the German Reinhard Genzel and the American for their work on the universe’s notorious mystery objects: black holes. Andrea Ghez was honored for "the discovery of a supermassive compact object in the center of our galaxy and Roger Penrose “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity”.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020 was awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice "for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus." The virus causes 400,000 deaths each year on the planet. In addition, 71 million people are chronic carriers of this viral infection. Together, their work led to the emergence of sofosbuvir, a revolutionary new treatment in the early 2010s,

The Nobel Peace Prize in 2020

World Food Programme

The United Nations was rewarded on Friday, October 9 2020, for its World Food Program (WFP); for "its efforts to fight hunger, for its contribution to the improvement of the conditions of peace; in areas affected by conflict. As "the world's largest humanitarian organization,” that has helped feed tens of millions of people around the world, the WFP funded entirely by voluntary contributions, distributed 15 billion rations and assisted 97 million people in 88 countries last year.


The Sveriges Riksbank (Nobel) Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2020

Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson

The two American economists were awarded the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel on Monday 12 October 2020. Specialists in the theory of auctions, they contributed to its improvement, as well as to its direct application in certain economic situations.



MLA style: The Nobel Prize in Literature 2021. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Sun. 10 Oct 2021. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/2021/summary/>

MLA style: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Sun. 10 Oct 2021. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/2021/summary/>

MLA style: The Nobel Prize in Physics 2021. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Sun. 10 Oct 2021. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2021/summary/>

MLA style: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Sun. 10 Oct 2021. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2021/summary/>

MLA style: The Nobel Peace Prize 2021. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Sun. 10 Oct 2021. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2021/summary/>