5 Famous Nobel Prize Winners From The University of Oxford


Date of Publication: 19 November 2019

The University of Oxford holds claim to many Nobel laureates. As of November 2020, 72 Nobel Prize winners, 3 Fields Medalists and 6 Turing Award winners have either, studied, worked or held visiting fellowship at the university.

We take a look at some of the 5 most famous Oxford Nobel Prize winners and the incredible work that they have carried out.


1.Professor John B Goodenough (2019)

 Goodenough, along with Oxford DPhil graduate, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino were awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their development of lithium-ion batteries. 

In 1980, during his time as Head of the Inorganic Chemistry Department at Oxford, Professor Goodenough identified the cathode material that enabled the development of the rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Through this work, the age of portable electronic devices was born, enabling for a wireless and fossil-free society he was given the award for having brought the greatest benefit to humankind. 


2. Dorothy Hodgkin (1964)

A graduate of both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, Hodgkin became the first British woman to win a Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1964 when she was awarded one ‘for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances.

Hodgkin read Chemistry at the University of Oxford for her BSc and then returned as a fellow later in life, where she taught Margaret Thatcher when she was an undergraduate. Her work focused mainly on the technique of X-ray crystallography, in which she was able to uncover the structure of different biomolecules. This included confirming the structure of penicillin, vitamin B12, and later, insulin. 


3. Sir Howard Florey (1945)

Born in 1898 in South Australia, Florey studied at Adelaide University before being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Magdalen College at the University of Oxford, which lead to him achieving his B.Sc. and M.A. degrees. 

Some of his most known work was in collaboration with Ernst Boris Chain, which began in 1938 when they conducted an investigation into the properties of naturally occurring antibacterial substances. They were first encapsulated by Lysozyme, an antibacterial substance which is found in saliva and human tears, but then moved to study substances which we now know as antibiotics. 

Shared between himself and Chain, Florey received the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for following up on Fleming’s 1928 discovery of penicillin and leading to the successful small-scale manufacture of the drug.


4. Malala Yousafazai (2014)

At the age of 17, Malala Yousafazai became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Whilst still a child herself and living in the deeply conservative Swat Valley, Malala became an advocate for young girls’ education which resulted in the attack in 2012. After surviving, Malala became an international icon, continuing to speak out on the importance of education, publish her first book and, in 2013, address the United Nations.

Today, Malala continues to advocate for girls and women and their education. She has completed a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall, and has also released another book about herself and other young refugee women around the world.


5. T. S.  Eliot (1948)

Originally from the United States, the famous modernist poet, TS Eliot, won a scholarship to Merton College in 1914. Despite feeling unsettled during his study time in Oxford, he spent a lot of time in the bustling city of London, which eventually led to him renouncing his US citizenship. Despite his lack of love for Oxford, the university still awarded him an honorary doctorate later in his life. 

After writing notable works such as ‘The Waste Land’ and ‘Ash Wednesday,’ he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948 for his outstanding contribution to present-day poetry, which was the same year that he received the Order of Merit.


Visit the city where it happened

Oxford summer school

This summer, students aged 13-24 years old can join us to study their favourite academic subject in Oxford. Visit the city where Oxford Nobel Prize winners changed the world, from T.S. Eliot to Malala Yousafazai, and experience all that this world-class city has to offer.

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