A look at the Nobel Prizes that have been awarded since 1901 shows how important teamwork is in the areas of research, development and science. In many cases, the joint work of two or three individuals is selected as the winner of the prestigious award.
A total of 609 Nobel Prizes have been awarded between 1901 and 2021 in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace and economics. According to the statutes, a maximum of three individuals can share one prize, with organizations being an exception. On as many as 26 occasions, the Nobel Peace Prize went to an organization, most recently, in 2021, to the World Food Program of the United Nations. That’s another example reflecting the effectiveness of teamwork.
Among the natural sciences, chemistry is the only category in which the largest number of Nobel Prizes have been awarded to a sole laureate: 63 times the prize went to one person, 24 times it was shared by two people and 25 times by three. However, since the nineteen-eighties, there has been a clear trend toward teamwork in this category as well. In physics (47 sole laureates versus 68 prizes shared by two or three winners) and even more clearly in physiology or medicine (39 vs. 73) the teams are already in front today.
The members of some of these teams were even related to each other, such as Lawrence Bragg: In 1915, at the age of 25, he was honored as then youngest Nobel laureate in physics – together with his father, William. The two scientists analyzed the structures of crystals by means of X-rays.
The youngest Nobel laureate in chemistry earned the award together with his spouse: Frédéric Joliot was 35 years old when he was awarded the prize together with his wife, Irène Joliot-Curie, for their joint radioactivity research in 1935. Family business had a tradition with the Curies: Irène’s parents, Pierre and Marie Curie, had jointly received the Nobel prize in physics in 1903, together with Antoine Henri Becquerel. Other married couples recognized with the prize as a team were Gerty and Carl Cori (1947, physiology and medicine), May-Britt and Edvard Moser (2014, physiology or medicine, together with John O’Keefe) as well as Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee (2009, economics, together with Michael Kremer).
The length of the collaboration between some of the Nobel Prize winning teams is another astonishing fact. The top spot has been held by Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein, who have been performing their research together for 40 years now. In 1985, they jointly received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discoveries concerning the regulation of cholesterol metabolism.
Teamwork is not always a Nobel success story, though. Here are three examples begging to be filmed in which a female team member came away empty-handed: