Nobel Prizes at Trinity College

On 3 October 2018 it was announced that Sir Gregory Winter, Master of Trinity College, has been jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with Professors Frances Arnold and George Smith, for his pioneering work in using phage display for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals. The Nobel Assembly said:

‘The 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind. Enzymes produced through directed evolution are used to manufacture everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals. Antibodies evolved using a method called phage display can combat autoimmune diseases and in some cases cure metastatic cancer.’

Sir Gregory becomes the 33rd Nobel Laureate to be a Member of Trinity College since Lord Rayleigh was awarded the prize in Physics in 1904, and is the 107th affiliated with Cambridge. A list of members of Trinity College who are or were Nobel Laureates can be viewed here. Trinity members have received the award in every Nobel category.

E. D. Adrian’s Nobel Diploma

Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian, was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physiology, jointly with Sir Charles Sherrington, for their work on the function of neurons. He was a Fellow of Trinity College from 1913, and served as Master from 1951 to 1965. Each Nobel diploma is an original work of art. The diploma, awarded to Lord Adrian, displayed above depicts the Great Gate of Trinity.

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The only father and son to be jointly awarded a Nobel prize were Sir William Henry Bragg and his son Sir Lawrence Bragg, awarded the 1915 prize in Physics for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.  Sir Lawrence was only 25 years old at the time of the award.

Joseph John Thomson, 1856-1940

Sir J. J. Thomson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906, for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases, leading to his discovery of the electron. His son Sir George Paget Thomson was awarded the same prize in 1937 for his work in discovering the wave-like properties of the electron.

Sir James Mirlees receiving his award from the King of Sweden

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was established in 1968 through a donation from the Swedish Royal Bank, and is administered by the Nobel Foundation alongside the prizes established by Alfred Nobel. In 1996 the prize was awarded to Sir James Mirrlees, who died on 29 August 2018. He shared the prize with Professor William Vickrey of Columbia University, for their research on the economic theory of incentives when information is incomplete or asymmetric.

Piero Sraffa receiving his award

Before the existence of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, an equivalent status was afforded to the Söderström medal, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This medal was awarded in 1961 to Piero Sraffa, the leading Italian economist who was a Fellow of Trinity College from 1939 until his death in 1983.

The Fields Medal

The Fields Medal is often regarded as equivalent to a Nobel Prize in the mathematical sciences. It is awarded every four years to up to four mathematicians under 40 years of age at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union. Four medal-holders have so far been associated with Trinity College, including two present Fellows of Trinity, Sir Michael Atiyah and Sir Timothy Gowers. The Fields Medal was awarded in 1970 to the late Professor Alan Baker for his work on transcendental numbers.


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  1. Pingback: Our Master, Sir Gregory "Greg" Winter, awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry - Trinity in Japan Society

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