When the Nobel prizes stay in the family

The Nobel prizes are an entire institution that has existed for more than a century: being the winner of one of these prizes is synonymous with prestige.

As the rules that Alfred Nobel left in his will were very clear, there are only 5 different areas in which they are granted: Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Peace. With the addition of the prize in Economic Sciences that arose only in 1968 from an initiative of the Bank of Sweden.

With hundreds of awards given over the years, things have happened like a single person has been honored more than once, like Marie Curie, who won the Physics award (1903) and then the Chemistry award (1911).

Or that some people have declined to receive it, either of their own free will, as Jean Paul Sartre did with that of literature in 1964, or due to political pressure, such as Boris Pasternak in 1958.

But there is also another particular case that has occurred in the Nobel prizes: relatives who receive it, either at the same time or on different occasions. This is not the most common but it has happened several times.

Nobel Couples

The Curie spouses are undoubtedly the epitome of the idea of ​​a remarkable couple who shared their lives, but also science, but they are not the only ones.

Marie and Pierre Curie were the first couple to receive a joint Nobel Prize: that of Physics in 1903, which they shared with Henri Becquerel, for the discovery and understanding of radioactivity.

This Curie couple was followed by other Curies: Irène Joliot-Curie and Frédéric Joliot. That’s right: Marie and Pierre’s daughter received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935, also for a work closely linked to that of her parents: the discovery of new radioactive elements.

Of course the entire Curie family: Marie, Irène, Pierre and Frédéric are an exceptional case in which 4 members of the same family received a Nobel Prize.

But there are also other Nobel couples outside of that family who have also been joint laureates.

One of the most recent examples is that of the Moser spouses: May-Britt and Edvard, who along with John O’Keefe, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2014, for the discovery of brain cells that help us to locate ourselves spatially.

As well as the couple of Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, who together with Michael Kremer, received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2019.

There is also the case of a couple in which their members received a Nobel Prize in different years and areas: Alva Myrdal, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982, years after her husband Gunnar Myrdal received the Economics Degree in 1974.

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Fathers and sons

There are several examples of parents and children, who won Nobel prizes years apart: such as Niels Bohr, who received the Physics in 1922 for his studies on the structure of atoms and then his son Aage received the same in 1975, for the study of the structure of the nuclei of atoms.

But perhaps the most notable example is that of the Bragg. Father William and Lawrence won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 for the development of the X-ray diffraction technique for crystals.

At the time of receiving the award young Lawrence Bragg was 25 years old, making him the youngest winner for many years, until 2014 when Malala Yousafzai received the Peace Award at 17.

There is only one example of a mother and a daughter who have both won a Nobel Prize and they are the Curies: Marie and Irène, and the same happens with the example of a father and a daughter: Pierre and Irène. Without a doubt this makes it very clear to us that the Curie dynasty was a very Nobel one.

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When the Nobel prizes stay in the family