Among the most prestigious of awards that recognize individual’s path breaking contributions in varied fields of life and sciences, the Nobel Prizes command awe and respect. Since their inception in 1985, the awards have been presented to numerous personalities of different nationalities and fields. Following is the list of all the Nobel Prize winners in India who have made our nation proud-
#1 Rudyard Kipling (1907)
The best-known of the late Victorian poets, Rudyard Kipling has been a terrific storyteller and with his status as one of the most famous author for children is perhaps also among the most celebrated of the literary world.
Though a resident of the United Kingdom, Kipling was born in Bombay under British India and his inclusion in the list of Nobel Prize winners in India is only apt, considering that the country has been the source of most of his literary creations and most prominently that work of his that is almost synonymous with Kipling- The Jungle Book.
Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907 “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author”.
Though Kipling’s life works were pretty much all remarkable, his claim to being the first among the Nobel Prize winners in India was based mainly on his most poignant works. The Jungle Book, Kim, Puck of Pook’s Hill were most likely the works of Kipling for children that were considered for his nomination as a Nobel Prize laureate, apart from Britain’s one of the most stirring poems ever penned- If.
#2 Rabindranath Tagore (1913)
The first native Asian to have been a Nobel Laureate, eminent Indian poet, musician, and painter, Rabindranath Tagore was the among the Nobel Prize winners (in India) in 1913.
( But whether we consider Rabindranath Tagore or Rudyard Kipling as the 1st Nobel Prize winner in India, the query as to what was the first Nobel Prize category won by an Indian would always yield Literature as the answer.)
Born in Calcutta in India, Rabindranath Tagore has been one of the most notable exponents of wisdom and was fondly called Gurudev by his followers.
The lyricist of India’s national anthem Jana Gana Mana however was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913 for his anthology of poems Gitanjali the same year it was compiled.
The Nobel committee acknowledged Tagore’s sheer brilliance while conferring the award on this immense genius of a talent which they bestowed on him “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”.
#3 C. V. Raman (1930)
The first among the Nobel Prize winners in India to have received one of the most prestigious awards in the world in the field of science was physicist C. V. Raman.
C. V. Raman or Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born at Thiruvanaikkaval near Tiruchirapalli in Tamilnadu and received the Nobel Prize in 1930.
Raman received the Nobel Prize in Physics “for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him”. In what had been a crucial breakthrough in optics research, the Raman effect was discovered, in 1928 that which stated that diffused light contained rays of varying wavelengths.
Raman’s path breaking theory led him to being one of the Nobel Prize winners in India two years after it was formulated. As Raman changed the very understanding of physics by explaining the change in the frequency of light passing through a transparent medium, he was awarded the Nobel Prize which he had been anticipatedly expecting ever since forwarding his theory.
#4 Har Gobind Khorana (1968)
India born Har Gobind Khorana has been the proud co recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1968 for his epoch making breakthrough in the field of medical sciences.
Born in Raipur, Punjab which is now a territory in Pakistan, the Indian- American bio chemist was the co winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize in medicine, an honour which he shared with two others- Robert W. Holley and Marshall W. Nirenberg.
The trio was awarded the Prize “for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis.”
Khorana made an important contribution to establishing the transfer of genetic information from DNA to RNA and then to protein. He discovered certain proteins, the amino acids sequences of which allowed information to be disseminated between the DNA and RNA.
Additionally, Khorana also discovered the specific combination of nucleotides that which produce specific amino acids and that the nucleotide code is always transmitted to the cell in groups of three, called codons.
Also the recipient of the National Medal of Science in 1987, Khorana’s name features prominently in the list of Nobel Prize winners in India.
#5 Mother Teresa (1979)
An epitome of humanity and a Roman catholic nun who made charity and selflessness her life motto, Yogoslavia born Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her humanitarian work.
Born to Albanian parents as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, Mother Teresa was stirred by misery and despair at a young age. Her missionary work brought her to India in 1929 and she was even more appalled by the sorry plight of the abandoned and destitutes here.
As the founding figure of The Missionaries of Charity which was aimed at serving the cause of the underprivileged, Mother Teresa rendered social service of an unprecedented magnitude. Another of her foundations was Nirmal Hriday which dedicatedly worked for the welfare of the dying destitutes, lepers and drug addicts.
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, years later after she attained Indian citizenship in 1951. For the woman whose life was spent serving the ‘poorest of the poor’, The Nobel Peace Prize was indeed a “recognition of [her] work in bringing help to suffering humanity” alongside her claim to a couple more prestigious awards including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971) and the Magsaysay Award among others.
#6 Subramanyam Chandrashekhar (1983)
The list of Nobel Prize winners in India is also graced by an Indian born astrophysicist Subramanyan Chandrashekhar, the nephew of another Indian nobel laureate Sir C. V. Raman.
Chandrashekhar was born in Lahore under British India and received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1983 “for his theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars.” Chandrashekhar shared the prestigious prize with American nuclear physicist turned astrophysicist, William Alfred Fowler.
Subramanyam Chandrashekhar is credited with the development of a theory that explained the upper limit of a white dwarf star’s mass. Known as the Chandrashekhar limit, the theory also explains the final stages of the evolution of stars, particularly bigger stars.
Also a Padma Vibushan awardee, Chandrashekhar had also been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards that which included the National Medal of Science and the Royal Medal among others.
#7 Amartya Sen (1998)
The only among the Nobel Prize winners in India to have claimed the recognition in the field of social sciences, Amartya Sen is an acclaimed Indian economist with a difference.
Born in Manikganj under British India, Prof Sen was awarded the Prize in 1998 “for his contributions to welfare economics“. The first Asian recipient of the Nobel Prize in the field of economics, Amartya Sen directed his faculties extensively to concentrate in the fields of social justice and welfare economics.
Amartya Sen’s nullification of the Impossible Theorem was crucial to him being awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in 1998. The theorem forwarded by Kenneth Arrow deemed it impossible to arrive at social satisfaction by deriving from individual’s satisfaction from their own choices. Sen took resort to mathematical means to establish that society could work on ways devised to arrive at a satisfactory aggregate from individual satisfaction.
Amartya Sen is most known for his outstanding critiques of existing theories of social justice, writings on famine, poverty, democracy, gender and social issues including political freedom. For his extensive interest in issues that directly impacted welfare of the people, Sen was called the “conscience of the profession.”
#8 V. S. Naipaul (2001)
Another Indian origin litterateur who is among the Nobel Prize winners in India is V. S. Naipaul. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, V. S. Naipaul or Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul held a British nationality apart from the one of his country of birth.
Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001 “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”.
A British novelist of Hindu heritage and East Indian ethnicity, Naipaul has a number of critically acclaimed and acknowledged works to his credit- the most prominent being A House for Mr Biswas, In A Free State and The Mimic Man. However, drawing upon his lineage of being born to a family whose roots go back to a colonial society, Naipaul’s works concentrated mostly on the ills of colonialism.
#9 Venkataraman Ramakrishnan (2009)
The 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009 was also awarded to an Indian born American- British structural biologist. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, the man born in Chidambaram in India gifted the nation its first ever Nobel Prize in the field of chemistry.
The current President of the Royal Society of London, Venkataraman Ramakrishnan had determined the atomic structure of a ribsomal subunit before going on to deciphering the ribosomal structure across diverse states and complexes. His other works include the description of DNA organisation in cells as well as the use of electron microscopy to visualise the action of higher order ribosomes.
#10 Kailash Satyarthi (2014)
One of the most prominent human rights activist from India is Kailash Satyarthi, winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. As the founder of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood movement), Kailash Satyarthi is credited with rescuing more than 80,000 children from child and bonded labour since the 1980s. The International Labour Organisation’s attempt to abolish child labour in all its forms was an initiative that was the outcome of Satyarthi’s relentless efforts towards child rights activism.
Also the architect of the Global March against Child Labor and an integral part of the United Nations’ Education for All initiative, Satyarthi has time and again put his own life in danger while on rescue missions to save children from the clutches of exploitation and torture.
Satyarthi has also been a vocal advocate of labor rights and human rights in general but his major focus has been the cause of troubled children. Kailash Satyarthi is also the founder of the International Center on Child Labor and Education (ICCLE) and the architect and leader of Global Campaign for Education (GCE) a civil society movement working to end the global education crisis and ensuring that States deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality public education.
The December 2012 brutal gang rape incident in Delhi made Satyarthi also emerge as a crusader of changes in the civil society. His active attempts at modifying the Indian Criminal Law to counter Rape and Gender Based Violence eventually led to the promulgation of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2013.
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Satyarthi along with global iconMalala Yousufzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” Notably, as of 2019, Satyarthi is also the last Nobel Prize winner in India.
Interesting Nobel Prize trivia
Among other prominent Indians, philosopher Sri Aurobindo and Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi were also nominated for the prestigious awards. The former for literature in 1943 and for peace in 1950, while the latter was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize thrice in 1937- 39, 1947 and 1948. However, they lost out on the recognition in spite of being very notable persons in their respective fields.