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10 Engineers Who Won Nobel Prize In Physics

Dec 5, 2021 2 comments
top 10 engineers who won nobel prize in physics

It is not surprising that there are many engineers whose first passion is physics (or mathematics). However, under unavoidable circumstances, they end up doing engineering instead. For example: did you know that Paul Dirac's father wanted him to become an electrical engineer?

After graduating, Dirac was without job. He decided to shift his attention to his first love-physics and the rest is history. Today we know Dirac as one of the founders of quantum mechanics. So, even if you might be clueless in life right now, your passion will find you in the end.

John Bardeen

Bardeen is the only person in history to have won two Nobel Prizes in physics. He received his bachelor and master degrees in electrical engineering in 1928 and 1929 respectively from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At first, John was employed by Gulf Oil corporation where he worked for four years. But he switched career by enrolling at Princeton University in 1933 to obtain a degree in mathematical physics. John went on to win Nobel Prizes in 1956 and 1972.

Henri Becquerel

top 10 engineers who won nobel prize in physics

Henri Becquerel was born into a family which produced four generations of physicists. He specialized in civil engineering at one of the most prestigious institutions in France. Becquerel was appointed as chief engineer at the Department of Bridges and Highways in 1894.
Around the same time he was investigating the properties of chemical elements. In 1896, he stumbled upon a new phenomenon that was named radioactivity by Madame Curie. The 1903 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Becquerel and the Curies.

Wilhelm Röntgen

Röntgen was a student of mechanical engineering at ETH Zurich. He was a contemporary of Becquerel... in fact, their ground-breaking discoveries were apart by only a few months. In 1895, Wilhelm produced very high energy waves called the x-rays, an achievement that earned him the inaugural Nobel Prize in 1901.

Eugene Wigner

Eugene Wigner was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1963 for contributions he made to nuclear physics, including the formulation of the law of conservation of parity.

Wigner enrolled at the Budapest University of Technical Sciences in 1920 but he was unhappy there and decided to drop out. In 1921, as guided by his parents, he joined the Technical University of Berlin where he studied chemical engineering.
Wigner accepted this offer because he was able to attend weekly conferences of the German Physical Society that hosted leading physicists of the time including Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg and Albert Einstein.

Paul Dirac

As mentioned before, Dirac studied electrical engineering at the University of Bristol. He graduated in 1921 but despite having a first class honors in engineering, he was unable to find work as an engineer in the post-war Britain.

top 10 engineers who won nobel prize in physics

Dirac again enrolled for a bachelor degree, this time in mathematics at the University of Bristol. He was allowed to skip a year as well as study free of charge because he was an exceptional student during his engineering years.
In 1923, Dirac once again graduated with a first class honors. Many years later, he became part of the quantum revolution that engulfed European scientists. Dirac also predicted the antimatter which was discovered within few years by Carl Anderson in America.

Dennis Gabor

Dennis Gabor was a Hungarian-British electrical engineer and physicist who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1971 for the invention of Holography, a technique he created in 1948 to create photographic recording of a light field.

Jack Kilby

Kilby was an American electrical engineer who was one of the inventors of the integrated circuit, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 2000. Jack also invented hand-held calculator and thermal printer. He had completed bachelor and master degrees in engineering in 1947 and 1950 respectively.

Simon van der Meer

Dutch scientist Van der Meer was born in a family of teachers. He received an engineer's degree in 1952 from Delft University of Technology, which is the largest public university in the Netherlands. Simon joined CERN in 1956 and remained there until his retirement in 1990.

top 10 engineers who won nobel prize in physics

In 1984, he shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Italian physicist Carlo Rubbia for contributions to various projects at CERN that led to the discovery of the W and Z particles, which play a role in the weak nuclear force.

Shuji Nakamura

Nakamura was a Japanese-American electronics engineer who holds over 100 patents. He won the Nobel Prize in 2014 for the creation of blue laser diodes in the early 1990s that were later on used in the HD-DVD and blue-ray technologies.
Shuji Nakamura obtained his bachelor and master degrees in electronics engineering from the University of Tokushima in 1977 and 1979 respectively. Nakamura was also awarded a D.Eng. degree from the University of Tokushima in 1994.

Ivar Giaever

Ivar Giaever is a Norwegian-American engineer who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in physics with Esaki and Josephson for their discoveries regarding electron tunneling. Giaever had earned a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering from the Norwegian Institute of Technology in 1952.


  1. Dirac went to study in Cambridge and immediately became a very important contributor to Quantum Mechanics. It didn't take him many years as stated above. His great contributions came in the mid 1920s.

  2. Professor Prem raj Pushpakaran writes -- 2022 marks the birth centenary year of Leon M. Lederman!!!


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