Nobel Prizes for radiology

The Nobel Prizes have been awarded since 1901, and several have been won for scientific discoveries with a direct or indirect importance for the development of radiology.


The Nobel Prizes were originally established in the will of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896), a very wealthy Swedish weapons manufacturer. Nobel was predeceased by his older brother Ludwig. When Ludwig died, several of the newspapers erroneously published obituaries for Alfred instead. Nobel was displeased to find himself described as a man who made his fortune by coming up with innovative methods to injure and kill people . Nobel died in 1896, and his will stipulated for the foundation of prizes to be awarded annually for important discoveries in science.

Nobel Prizes for contributions to radiology

Approximately 25 individuals have been awarded the Nobel Prize for scientific discoveries that directly or indirectly advanced medical imaging :

  • Wilhelm C Roentgen (1901)
    • discovery of x-rays (Physics)
  • Henri Becquerel, Marie Curie, Pierre Curie (1903) 
  • Marie Skłodowska Curie (1911)
    • radium and polonium (Chemistry)
  • Frederick Joliot and Irene Joliot-Curie (1935)
    • artificial radioactivity (Chemistry)
  • Ernest O Lawrence (1939) 
    • developed the cyclotron (Physics)
  • George De Hevesy (1943)
    • radioisotope tracers (Chemistry)
  • Otto Stern (1943)
    • magnetic moment of the proton (Physics)
  • Isidor I Rabi (1944)
  • Hermann J Muller (1946)
    • x-ray-induced genetic mutagenesis (Medicine or Physiology)
  • Edwin Purcell and Felix Bloch (1952)
    • NMR in condensed matter (Physics)
  • Andre F Cournand, Werner Forssmann, Dickinson W Richards (1956) 
    • cardiac catheterization (Medicine or Physiology)
  • Allan M Cormack and Godfrey N Hounsfield (1979)
  • Nicolaas Bloembergen (1981)
    • NMR relaxation mechanisms (Physics)
  • Norman Ramsey (1989)
    • chemical shift theory (Physics)
  • Richard R Ernst (1991)
    • NMR Fourier spectroscopy (Chemistry)
  • Paul C Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield (2003)
    • MRI (Medicine or Physiology)

Egas Moniz, a neurologist and one of the pioneers of interventional radiology, is now remembered primarily for his development of cerebral angiography. Ironically, however, he won the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1949 for his invention of the - now very controversial and obsolete - prefrontal leucotomy.

The British physicist Sir Joseph Rotblat (1908-2005) , who performed important research on the biological effects of radiation, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for his work on nuclear disarmament with the Pugwash conferences.

It is interesting to note that no radiologists have ever won a Nobel prize. Indeed only two physicians appear in the above list: Werner Forssmann and Dickinson W Richards, for their co-development of cardiac catheterization.