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Rochester’s Nobel laureates

October 5, 2020
University of Rochester Nobel laureate Harvey AlterRochester graduate Harvey Alter, who was awarded a 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received the University's highest alumni award during commencement ceremonies in 2015 (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Rochester alumni and faculty have to date received a total of 13 Nobel Prizes, across a range of categories that includes physics, medicine or physiology, and economics.

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to National Institutes of Health scientist Harvey Alter for work that has led to diagnostic tests and treatments for a life-threatening form of hepatitis. He shared the prize with British scientist Michael Houghton and Rockefeller University scientist Charles Rice.

The Nobel committee cited the scientists “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.” “Thanks to their discovery, highly sensitive blood tests for the virus are now available and these have essentially eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in many parts of the world, greatly improving global health,” the committee noted.

Alter, who holds BA and MD degrees from Rochester, is the 13th Nobel laureate with ties to the University.

Here’s a look at all of Rochester’s Nobel Prize recipients:


2020 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Harvey Alter ’56, ’60M (MD), discovery of Hepatitis C virus

University of Rochester Nobel laureate Harvey Alter at commencement 20152020 Nobel Prize laureate Harvey Alter ’56, ’60M (MD) received the University’s highest alumni award in 2015 (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)


2018 Prize in Physics

Donna Strickland ’89 (PhD) and Gérard Mourou, developers of “chirped-pulse amplification” in lasers

two archival photos of Gérard Mourou and Donna StricklandGérard Mourou, left, photographed in Rochester in 1987, and Donna Strickland ’89 (PhD), seen aligning an optical fiber in her lab in Rochester in 1985. The pair shared half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics “for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.” (University photos)


2018 Prize in Economic Sciences

Paul Romer, developer of the endogenous growth theory

Nobel Prize Paul Romer (2018)Paul Romer, a former assistant professor of economics at Rochester, was recognized as a pioneer of the endogenous growth theory, which integrates technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis. (TT News Agency via AP photos)


2017 Prize in Economic Sciences

Richard Thaler ’74 (PhD), one of the founders of behavioral economics.

Nobel Prize Richard Thaler ’74 (PhD) (2017)Richard Thaler ’74 (PhD), a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and one of the founders of the discipline of behavioral economics, receives an honorary doctor of science degree from the University of Rochester in 2010. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)


2002 Nobel Prize in Physics

Masatoshi Koshiba ’55 (PhD), a physicist who led work to detect the subatomic particles known as neutrinos.

Nobel Prize Masatoshi Koshiba (2002)Masatoshi Koshiba, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, attends a press conference at in Tokyo after receiving the news Tuesday that he and two American researchers won the Nobel Prize in Physics for “pioneering contributions to astrophysics.” (AP Photo)


1997 Nobel Prize in Physics

Physicist Steven Chu ’70, former Secretary of Energy who developed methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

Nobel Prize Steven Chu ’70 (1997)Steven Chu, then at Stanford University, receives the Nobel Prize in Physics from Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf in Stockholm in 1997. (AP Photo)


1993 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

Robert Fogel, an economist who pioneered quantitative analyses of social history.

Nobel Prize Robert Fogel (1993)Robert Fogel, a member of the Rochester economics faculty in the 1960s and 1970s, speaks to reporters in his University of Chicago office in 1993, as wife, Enid, looks on after learning that he had shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. (Eugene Garcia/AFP/Getty Images)


1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Carleton Gajdusek ’43, who is credited with discovering the infectious disease mechanism of prions.

Nobel Prize Carleton Gajdusek (1976)The Nobel Prize winners for 1976 gather at the United States ambassador’s residence in Stockholm in 1976. From left: Burton Richter, corecipient in physics; Carleton Gajdusek, corecipient in medicine; William Lipscomb, chemistry; Saul Bellow, literature; Samuel Ting, corecipient in physics; Milton Friedman, economics; and Baruch Blumberg, corecipient in medicine. (AP Photo)


1959 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Arthur Kornberg ’41M (MD), who first discovered a way to synthesize DNA.

Nobel Prize: Arthur Kornberg ’41M (MD)Arthur Kornberg receives his Nobel Prize for medicine from King Gustav Adolf of Sweden in 1959 for his pioneering research of a basic mechanism of heredity. (AP Photo)


1955 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Vincent du Vigneaud ’27 (PhD), a biochemist, for research on sulfur-containing compounds

Nobel Prize Vincent du Vigneaud (1955)Vincent du Vigneaud, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, went on to a faculty position at Cornell University Medical School. (Getty Images)


1943 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Biochemist Henrik Dam for his discovery of vitamin K.

Nobel Prize Henrik DamA member of the faculty in the 1940s, Henrik Dam was a corecipient of the 1944 Nobel Prize for work on vitamin K. (AP Photo)


1934 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

George Whipple, founding dean of School of Medicine and Dentistry for his work to develop a therapy for anemia.

In an April 1935 photo, George Whipple (far right) is joined by other 1934 laureates H.C. Urey (chemistry) and George Minot and William Murphy, who shared the prize in medicine or physiology with Whipple. (AP Photo)

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