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Nobel Prize winners | Astronauts | Trailblazers

Nobel Prize winners

  • Willard Boyle BSc'47, MSc'48 and PhD'50 received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics, an honour that he shared with his Bell Laboratories collaborators George E. Smith and Charles K. Kao. The Prize was awarded for the 1969 invention of the charged-couple device (CCD), a semiconductor circuit capable of sensing light and images and the core technology behind the digital photography revolution. 
  • Val Fitch, BEng'48, DSc'87, an American nuclear physicist, was co-recipient of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics for a 1964 experiment that disproved the long-held theory that particle interaction should be indifferent to the direction of time.  
  • David Hubel, BSc'47, MDCM'51, was co-recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his groundbreaking work on visual perception.
  • Rudolph Marcus, BSc'43, PhD'46, received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his theory of electron transfer.
  • Endocrinologist Andrew Victor Schally, BSc'55, PhD'59, DSc'79, was the co-recipient of the 1977 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his research on hormones.
  • Ralph Steinman, BSc'63, co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work in immunology and discovery of the key role dendritic cells play in immune processes 
  • Jack W. Szostak, BSc'72, was co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering how the body protects the chromosomes housing vital genetic code.
  • John O’Keefe, PhD'67, was named co-winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in medicine. Cell research by O’Keefe and a pair of Norwegian scientists has led to the discovery of the brain’s positioning system, answering the centuries-old question of how we navigate the space around us.


  • Chief Astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency from 2000 to 2007, Julie Payette, BEng'86, DSc’03, is the second Canadian woman to have flown in space and the first to board the International Space Station.
  • David Saint-Jacques, MedResident’07, will be the next Canadian astronaut to take part in a space mission. He is scheduled to begin a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station in November, 2018.
  • Engineer and physician Robert Thirsk, MDCM'82, is a former Canadian Space Agency astronaut who holds the Canadian records for the longest space flight and the most time spent in space. On May 9, 2014, it was announced that he was elected the University of Calgary’s 13th Chancellor.
  • A specialist in emergency medicine, Dave Williams, BSc'76, MSc'83, MDCM'83, DSc’07, was the seventh Canadian to go into space and set the Canadian record for total number of spacewalks. He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013.


  • Bernard Belleau, PhD'50, contributed to the development of Lamivudine, a drug used in the treatment of HIV and Hepatitis B infection. Belleau was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981.
  • Tim Bliss, BSc’62, PhD’67, is a British neuroscientist whose research has explored the life-long plasticity of the brain. He was a co-recipient of the 2016 Brain Prize, the world’s most valuable award for brain research.
  • In 1957, while still an undergraduate at McGill, Thomas Chang, BSc'57, MDCM'61, PhD'65, invented the world's first artificial cell. Currently the Director of the Artificial Cells and Organs Research Centre at McGill, Chang was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991.
  • Charles R. Drew, MDCM'33, was an American medical pioneer who acted as an advisor for the Blood for Britain program of World War II. He researched blood transfusions extensively and aided in the development of large-scale blood banks.
  • Philip Gold, BSc'57, MSc'57, PhD'65, helped discover and define the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), which is used in the diagnosis and management of cancer patients. He has received the Companion of the Order of Canada and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2010.
  • Colin MacLeod, MDCM'32, was part of the scientific team that first identified DNA as the hereditary material in genes.
  • Brenda Milner, PhD’52, DSc’91, is the Dorothy Killam Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute. A pioneer in the field of cognitive neuroscience, her research demonstrated that the human brain has multiple memory systems that govern different functions.
  • A renowned physician and medical historian, Sir William Osler, MDCM1872, LLD1895, was one of the first in the profession to emphasize the role of bedside teaching in the instruction of medical students. In 1889 he was appointed as the first physician-in-chief of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, becoming one of the school's first professors in medicine.
  • Renowned author and experimental psychologist Steven Pinker, BA'76, DSc'99, has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2006, he was awarded the American Humanist Association's Humanist of the Year award for his contributions to public understanding of human evolution.
  • Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves, MSc'55, is a leading expert on the Big Bang theory and a well-known popularizer of science. He received the Companion of the Order of Canada in 2003.
  • Octavia Grace Ritchie, BA1888, was the first female valedictorian at McGill and the first woman to practice medicine in Quebec.
  • Chemistry professor and entrepreneur Richard Tomlinson, PhD'48, DSc’01, was the founding director of Gennum Corporation—one of the world's largest producers of microchips for the hearing aid and video broadcast industries. He was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003.