Honoring the 2016 Nobel laureates with free access to selections of their research

Download the most cited papers the laureates published with Elsevier

Editor's note: This article is being continually updated with information about the newly-announced Nobel laureates and access to their research.

A scientist lives with all reality. There is nothing better. To know reality is to accept it, and eventually to love it.

Those were the words of Prof. George Wald in accepting the 1967 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He was part of a long line of laureates whose work has “conferred the greatest benefit to mankind,” as Alfred Nobel specified in his last will and testament.

The tradition that began in 1901 continues with the announcement of the 2016 Nobel laureates.

In recent decades, almost all the laureates have had connections with Elsevier. A recent Scopus analysis showed that since 2000, 154 out of 155 Nobel Prize laureates in science have published their work in Elsevier's journals and books, and many of them have served as editors, editorial board members or reviewers.

To celebrate their discoveries, we have prepared a collection of the most cited work this year's winners have published with Elsevier. It is freely available.

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Prof. Yoshinori Ohsumi, PhD (Credit: ANC)Prof. Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.”

Dr. Ohsumi discovered genes that regulate autophagy – the process of destroying (or “eating”) unhelpful cell components. These findings may provide opportunities to prevent diseases because when these genes do not function properly and autophagy fails, diseases typical of old age are more likely to occur. Prof. Juleen Zierath, Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, explains:

The lysosome (a membrane-bounded organelle found in most animal cells) was seen as a waste dump. Before Ohsumi came on the scene, people understood that that waste dump was in the cell. What he showed was that this was not a waste dump, but a recycling plant. This was a really sophisticated machinery that recycled damaged or long lived proteins, and they could be reused.

The Nobel Assembly said his discoveries “led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content. His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection.”

About Yoshinori Ohsumi

Dr. Ohsumi, born on February 9, 1945, is a Japanese cell biologist specializing in autophagy. After completing his graduate studies at the University of Tokyo, he took on various research fellow positions, and in 1974 enrolled at Rockefeller University where his research interests became focused upon yeast, which furthered upon his return to the University of Tokyo in 1977, where he specialized in the study of the yeast vacuolar membrane. In 1988, Dr. Ohsumi set up his own lab and made the discovery of yeast autophagy by light and electron microscopy. Since then he has dedicated his studies to autophagy. He currently is a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Dr. Ohsumi  has published in journals including Gene, Cell, Developmental Cell, Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, Trends in Cell Biology, International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. More information on autophagy can be found in Elsevier’s special Autophagy Virtual Collection.

Read a selection of his research papers.

Nobel Prize in Physics

Prof. David Thouless, PhD (Photo © Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge)Half of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Prof. David Thouless, the other half jointly to Prof. Duncan Haldane and Prof. Michael Kosterlitz, “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.”

Their research has brought us a better theoretical understanding of matter and has been instrumental for the creation of innovative materials.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Thouless and Dr. Kosterlitz challenged existing theory by proving that superconductivity (the property of zero electrical resistance in some substances) could occur at low temperatures, and also in thin layers. In the 1980s, Dr. Thouless further explained his previous experiments by measuring conductance precisely as integer steps. By showing that these integers were topological, Dr. Thouless demonstrated how matter can change into strange phases and states and, perhaps more importantly, how to measure these changes.

Prof. Duncan Haldane and Prof. Michael Kosterlitz (Photo: ANP)At around the same time, Dr. Haldane made a similar discovery while analyzing chains of small magnets that can be found in some materials.

Prof. Nils Mårtensson, Acting Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics, said that the laureates “have in their theoretical work discovered a set of totally unexpected regularities in the behavior of matter which can be described in terms of an established mathematical concept, namely that of topology. This has paved the way for designing new materials with novel properties, and there is great hope that this will be important for many future technologies.”

About David Thouless

Born on 21 September 1934, David Thouless completed his undergraduate studies at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1955, and went on to receive a PHD from Cornell in 1958. During his time at Cornell, Dr. Thouless was supervised by Hans Bethe, who also became a Nobel laureate in 1967. Prof. Thouless held professorship positions at the University of Birmingham (where he began collaborating with fellow winner Michael Kosterlitz) and the University of Washington in Seattle, where he is now an emeritus professor.

Dr. Thouless has published in the following Elsevier journals: Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Physics Reports, Nuclear Physics, Annals of Physics, and Solid State Communications.

About Duncan Haldane

Duncan Haldane (14 September 1951) obtained a BA and PhD at the University of Cambridge. After some years working at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California in 1981. In 1986, he was named a of the American Physical Society, and in 1990, he became a professor at the University of Princeton, where he is currently working.

Dr. Haldane has published the following Elsevier journals: Nuclear Physics B and Physics Letters A.

About Michael Kosterlitz

Michael Kosterlitz was born in 1942 in Aberdeen and, like his fellow winners, completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Cambridge. In 1969, he obtained a PhD in high energy physics at Oxford University. Dr. Kosterlitz has been a researcher at the Instituto di Fisica Teorica, Torino, Italy, and the U.S. at Cornell University, Princeton University, Bell Telephone Laboratories and Harvard University. He has also served as a faculty member at the University of Birmingham. Since 1982, Dr. Kosterlitz has been a professor at Brown University.

Dr. Kosterlitz has published in various Elsevier journals, including Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Physica B: Physics of Condensed Matter, Physica C: Superconductivity and its Applications and Nuclear Physics, Section B.

Read a selection of their research papers.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Prof. Jean-Pierre Sauvage, PhD, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, PhD, and Prof. Bernard L. Feringa, PhD (Credit: ANC)

Prof. Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir Fraser Stoddart and Prof. Bernard Feringa share the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.”

The laureates have been awarded the prize for their development of molecular machines on the nanometer scale. In the future, these machines could be used in the field of nanotechnology to create smart materials with a wide range of applications such as delivering pharmaceuticals to cancer cells, or even tiny robots that can interfere with our physiological system by grasping and transporting compounds around the body.

In 1989, Dr. Sauvage synthesized the first molecular (trefoil) knot using two copper template irons. Five years later, Dr. Sauvage and his research group successfully made one molecule rotate around another via the input of energy. In the same year, Sir  Fraser successfully constructed the first molecular lift, muscle and a miniscule computer chip.

Dr. Feringa built the first molecular motor in 1999 by manipulating the movement of a molecule to spin in a particular direction, as opposed to typically random molecular motion. More recently, Dr. Feringa and his research group have constructed a four-wheel drive nanocar with a molecular chassis and rotating motor.

Professor Göran K. Hansson, Permanent Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, commented:

What these three Laureates have done is that they have opened this entire field of molecular machinery. They have shown it is indeed possible to make a molecular machine function, and they have mastered motion control at the molecular scale.

About Jean-Pierre Sauvage

Dr. Jean-Pierre Sauvage was born in 1944 and attained his PhD from the Université Louis-Pasteur. Following his postdoctoral research, Dr. Sauvage returned to Strasbourg, the place of his birth, and is currently an emeritus professor at Strasbourg University.

Dr. Sauvage is a former Editorial Board Member of Inorganic Chemistry Communications (2003-2008) and has published in various Elsevier journals, including: Tetrahedron, Tetrahedron Letters, Coordination Chemistry Reviews, Chemical Physics Letters and Inorganic Chemistry Communications.

About Sir Fraser Stoddart

Sir James Fraser Stoddart was born in Edinburgh 1942, where he completed his undergraduate studies and obtained his PHD. He then held Postdoctoral Fellow positions at Queen’s University in Canada and the University of Sheffield in England, where he became a teaching professor. In 1990, Dr. Stoddart  acted as the Chair of Organic Chemistry at Birmingham University, before moving to the University of California, Los Angeles for the second time, where he succeeded Nobel Laureate Donald Cram as the Saul Winstein Professor of Chemistry in 1997. Currently, he is a Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University in Chicago. He won Elsevier's Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry in 2007.

Dr. Stoddart is on the Advisory Board of Chem. He served on the Editorial Board of Crystal Engineering and has published in several Elsevier journals’ including Tetrahedron, Tetrahedron Letters, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, Chemical Physics and Thin Solid Films.

About Bernard Feringa

Born in the Dutch village of Barger-Compascuum in 1951, Dr. Bernard Feringa obtained a PhD at the University of Groningen. After a few years spent working for Shell, he moved back to the academic world, and in 1988 Dr. Feringa became a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Groningen, where he is still working today. He is a member of the Dutch Academy of Sciences and an honorary member of the American Acadmy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Feringa is the fourth Dutch person to receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Dr. Feringa has published extensively in Elsevier journals, most notably Tetrahedron and Tetrahedron Letters. Just a few weeks ago, he was awarded the 2016 Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry. He is currently working on a special issue of Tetrahedron dedicated to the award (to be published in the summer of 2017) and will speak at the 18th Tetrahedron Symposium in Budapest June 27-30, 2017. Dr. Feringa has also published in  Coordination Chemistry Reviews, Progress in Surface Science, Tetrahedron: Asymmetry and Journal of Controlled Release, among others.

Watch an interview with Dr. Feringa after he won the Tetrahedron Prize:

Read a selection of their research papers.

Nobel Prize in Economics

Prof. Bengt Holmström, PhD, and Prof. Oliver Hart, PhD (Credit: ANP)The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has been awarded to Prof. Oliver Hart of Harvard University and Prof. Bengt Holmström of MIT “for their contributions to contract theory.”

Contract theory has enabled us to analyze and understand how a contract takes many different forms, and how contracts can be improved to improve social institutions.  

In 1979, Dr. Holmström derived the informativeness principle, which states that in an optimal contract, performance-based incentives should remain closely tied to matters that are in control of the employee so that performance related pay is more accurately approximated.

Three years later, Dr. Holmström developed the career-concerns model. This theory demonstrated how young employees may work excessively because of concerns they have about their future career in the long term, whereas older employees may have the tendency to be more negligent toward their work, knowing that their career is well established and not under risk.

In the mid-1980s, Dr. Hart developed the theory of incomplete contracts, which states that when eventualities in the future cannot be specified, decision-making rights should be attributed to one of the parties for when a prospective agreement cannot be made. The theory has since been used by Dr. Hart and others in the fields of property rights and finance and in the privatization of public services.

Dr. Per Strömberg  of the Nobel economics prize committee explained:

Contract theory has had a deep and lasting impact on many fields in economics and other social sciences, from corporate governance to constitutional law and politics. Thanks to the laureates’ research, we now have theoretical tools to analyze both financial terms as well as allocation of control rights, property rights, and decision rights in contracts.

About Oliver Hart

Dr. Oliver Hart was born in London in 1948. After earning his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Cambridge in 1969, he attained an MA in economics from the University of Warwick and a PhD at Princeton University. Since then, Dr. Hart has held professorship positions at the London School of Economics, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently Harvard University.

Dr. Hart was an Associate Editor for the Elsevier’s Games and Economic Behavior (1988-1993)and the Journal of Economic Theory (1967-79). He has published in various Elsevier journals, including the Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Mathematical Economics, European Economic Theory and Journal of Economic Theory.

About Bengt Holmström

Dr. Bengt Holmström was born in Helsinki in 1949. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and science from the University of Helsinki, he attained an MSc and PhD from Stanford University. Since then, Dr. Holmström has held professorship positions at Northwestern and Yale universities and currently teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Dr. Holmström was an Associate Editor for the Journal of Financial Intermediation and the Journal of Economic Theory. He has also published in various Elsevier journals including the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Journal of Economic Theory, and the European Economic Review.

Read a selection of their research papers.

Research by Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

Elsevier has made these articles freely available through 2022:

Yoshinori Ohsumi – selection of top-cited papers published by Elsevier

Research by Nobel Laureates in Physics

Elsevier has made these articles freely available through 2022:

David Thouless – selection of top cited papers published by Elsevier

Duncan Haldane – selection of top cited papers published by Elsevier

Michael Kosterlitz – selection of top cited papers published by Elsevier

Research by Nobel Laureates in Chemistry

Elsevier has made these articles freely available through 2022:

Jean-Pierre Sauvage– selection of top cited papers published by Elsevier

Sir Fraser Stoddart – selection of top cited papers published by Elsevier

Bernard Feringa – selection of top cited papers published by Elsevier

Research by Nobel Laureates in Economics

Elsevier has made these articles freely available through 2022:

Oliver Hart– selection of top-cited papers published by Elsevier

Bengt Holmström – selection top cited papers published by Elsevier


The following Elsevier colleagues also contributed to this report Samuel Credgington (Amsterdam), Nilesh Shah (Chennai, India), Jan Willem Wijnen (Amsterdam), Gracia Edwards (Amsterdam), Jorinde Dirkmaat (Amsterdam), Darren Sugrue (Amsterdam), Lyndsay Duncum (Oxford), Michaela Kane (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Sacha Boucherie (Amsterdam) and Annis De Bruyn Moreira (Amsterdam).

Also, much of this information came from the Nobel Prize website.



Written by

Elisa Nelissen

Written by

Elisa Nelissen

A keen interest in knowledge drove Elisa Nelissen to study the carriers of information in a Book and Digital Media Studies degree at Leiden University in the Netherlands. That program brought her straight to Elsevier, where she spent a few years on the Global Communications team, making sure the world knew about Elsevier and its journals. Today, Elisa works as a freelance writer.


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