The U.S. outspends all other countries, as well as the entire European Union combined, in total dollar amount put toward research and development. The U.S. also produces the most scientific publications of any country and is home to many of the top-ranked universities for the study of science and engineering. This reputation has been and continues to be due in large part to the contributions of immigrant and refugee scientists.
For example, in 2016, there were six scientists from the U.S. who won a Nobel Prize and all six were immigrants. Sir Fraser Stoddart, originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines”. David Thouless and Michael Kosterlitz, both from Scotland, along with Duncan Haldane of England, earned the Nobel Prize in Physics “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Oliver Hart of England and Bengt Holmstrom of Finland “for their contributions to contract theory.”
According to the National Science Foundation, 49% of mid-career scientists and engineers in postdoctoral research positions who obtained their doctorates in the U.S. immigrated from other countries. In a separate report, NSF determined that, as of 2013, 18% of the STEM researchers and engineers in the US are immigrants. This total includes nearly 3 million scientists from Asia, over 800,000 from Europe, over 300,000 from Africa, and over 1 million from Canada, the Caribbean, and Central or South America. Immigrant scientists and engineers are also more likely to have earned an advanced degree than their U.S.-native counterparts.
Let’s look at five immigrants and refugees who have left their mark on the study of science in the U.S..