The Nobel Prize has been given to well over 900 individuals since it was first awarded in 1901. While the actual number is unknown, there are only a handful of known individuals who have won the award that also identified with the LGBTQ+ community.
Here are some of greatest minds in science who also happen to be LGBTQ+:
A Swedish geneticist, Svante Pääbo was recognized for his work in genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution. Through his pioneering research, Pääbo accomplished something seemingly impossible: sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, an extinct relative of present-day humans. He also made the sensational discovery of a previously unknown hominin, Denisova. Importantly, Pääbo found that gene transfer had occurred from these now-extinct hominins to Homo sapiens following the migration out of Africa around 70,000 years ago. This ancient flow of genes to present-day humans has physiological relevance today — for example, affecting how our immune system reacts to infections. This research gave rise to an entirely new scientific discipline: paleogenomics. By revealing genetic differences that distinguish all living humans from extinct hominins, his discoveries provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human. Pääbo, who identifies as bisexual, was awarded the prize in 2022.
Sources: Nobel Prize, Wikipedia
A chemist known for her wide-ranging work in chemistry and biology, Carolyn Bertozzi won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Morten P. Meldal and Karl Barry Sharpless for their work in click chemistry. Around the year 2000, Sharpless coined the concept of click chemistry — a form of simple and reliable chemistry where reactions occur quickly and unwanted by-products are avoided. Bertozzi took click chemistry to brand new heights by mapping out important but elusive biomolecules on the surface of cells. In doing so, she developed click reactions that work inside living organisms. Her bioorthogonal reactions take place without disrupting the normal chemistry of the cell. These reactions are now used globally to explore cells and track biological processes. Using bioorthogonal reactions, researchers have improved the targeting of cancer pharmaceuticals, which are now being tested in clinical trials. Bertozzi identifies as a lesbian and was awarded this honor in 2022.
Sources: Nobel Prize, Wikipedia
Otto Heinrich Warburg
A veteran of World War I and close friend to Albert Einstein, Otto Henrich Warburg won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research with tumors and cancerous respiration cells. In particular, he discovered that animal tumors produce large quantities of lactic acid and hypothesized the cause of tumor cells. This was especially impressive as Warburg did his studies in Germany as a Jewish, gay man during Adolf Hitler’s regime. Though he wasn’t allowed to teach given his Jewish heritage, Warburg was allowed to continue his studies given Hitler’s obsession with the workings of cancer, having lost his mother to breast cancer at an early age. Though Warburg never married, he lived with his assistant and secretary, Jacob Heiss for 50 years, leaving his estate to him after his passing. From this relationship, researchers speculate that Warburg would have identified as gay and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1931.
A sociologist and public administrator, Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as one of the most influential voices for women’s rights, spending her time traveling and speaking with diplomats and civic leaders. She is considered to be the United States’ first public woman philosopher and the country’s founder of the social work profession. Through her essay, “Utilization of Women in City Government,” Addams helped America address and focus on issues that were concerning to mothers, such as the needs of children, local public health and world peace. She was also an advocate for and the founder of the first Settlement house in the country, the Chicago House, that focused on bringing people of different social classes and cultural backgrounds together to promote equality. Addams was also the co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the individual rights of Americans. By today’s standards, Addams would have likely identified as a lesbian, having several intimate and romantic relationships with women. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1931.