With the University’s tradition of excellence in research, many of its members and alumni have seen their achievements rewarded.

Nobel Prizes

Founded in 1901, the Nobel Prize is one of the world’s most prestigious awards. Each year, it is bestowed upon people who have ‘conferred the greatest benefit to humankind’ in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.

Denis Mukwege

2018 Nobel Peace Prize

Denis Mukwege, Prix Nobel de la Paix 2018 In 2018, Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict’ at the peril of their lives.

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This Nobel Peace Prize honours the incredible work and commitment of Dr Mukwege—a voluntary lecturer and doctor of medicine at ULB, where he defended his thesis in 2015—for women and children in the Congo. Each day, Denis Mukwege ‘repairs’ the injuries of women and children whose bodies were mutilated by rebel groups. His relentless work has drawn the international community’s attention to the seriousness of the situation.

François Englert

2013 Nobel Prize in Physics

François Englert, Prix Nobel de Physique 2013 In 2013, François Englert, Robert Brout, and Peter Higgs received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the Brout-Englert-Higgs boson, which contributed to ‘our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles’.

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The Brout-Englert-Higgs boson that their theories predicted was not discovered until 50 years later, as a result of a CMS/ATLAS partnership using CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva. Another reason for our University to be proud is that its experimental teams are very actively involved in the research carried out at CERN.

Ilya Prigogine

1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Ilya Prigogine, Prix Nobel de Chimie 1977 Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997, for his ‘contributions to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures’.

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Ilya Prigogine was born in Russia, but studied in Belgium; he is known for his work on dissipative structures and the self-organization of systems. A professor of chemistry in the Faculty of Sciences, he was also head of the international institutes of physics and chemistry, founded by E. Solvay, from 1970 to 2003. He made significant contributions to a better understanding of irreversible processes within non-equilibrium chemical, physical, and biological systems.

Albert Claude

1974 Nobel Prize in Medicine

Albert Claude, Prix Nobel de Médecine 1974 In 1974, Albert Claude, Christian de Duve, and George Emil Palade were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, ‘for their discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell’.

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Albert Claude (1899–1983) was a biochemist and a pioneer in molecular biology. Upon his return from the Rockefeller Institute in New York, Prof. Claude took the helm of the Jules Bordet Institute and helped it become a reference in Europe for the diagnosis and integrated treatment of cancer. A professor at ULB, biochemist Albert Claude was a pioneer in molecular virology.

Jules Bordet

1919 Nobel Prize in Medicine

Jules Bordet, Prix Nobel de Médecine 1919 Jules Bordet was the first Belgian scientist to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in 1919, ‘for his discoveries relating to immunity’.

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A professor of bacteriology at ULB and dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Jules Bordet was a pioneer of microbiology. He founded the ‘Institut Pasteur du Brabant’ and discovered, with Octave Gengou, the microorganism responsible for pertussis, then the microorganism responsible for avian diphtheria and the mycoplasm that causes bovine pleuropneumonia. 

A member of the scientific management team at the Brugmann hospital’s tumour centre, he gave his name to the national cancer centre inaugurated in 1939: the Jules Bordet Institute.

Henri Lafontaine

1913 Nobel Peace Prize

Henri-Marie La Fontaine, Prix Nobel de la Paix 1913 Henri La Fontaine was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1913 for his part in promoting international law to resolve conflicts between nations.

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A ULB graduate in law, Henri La Fontaine was politically active—he was one of the first socialist senators in Belgium—and has contributed, among other achievements, to the creation of the Permanent International Peace Bureau, which he presided from 1907 onwards. Together with Paul Otlet, he also founded what eventually became the Mundaneum, an institution whose purpose was to gather all of the world’s knowledge.

Fields Medal

The Fields Medal is the most prestigious award given to honour achievements in the field of mathematics. Its goal is to support young mathematicians who have already made significant contributions to the field. The medal is awarded every 4 years, to 4 mathematicians under 40

Pierre Deligne: 1978

Pierre Deligne, Médaille Fields 1978 Pierre Deligne, born in Brussels in 1944, is a ULB graduate in mathematics. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1978 for his proof of the Weil conjectures in algebraic geometry. He has also received the Crafoord Prize in 1988, the Balzan Prize in 2004, and the Wolf and Abel prizes in 2013.

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Pierre Deligne used a new theory or cohomology known as ‘étale cohomology’—based on hypotheses formulated by Alexander Grothendieck—, which he successfully applied to the Weil conjectures. His work also dealt with Hodge theory, modular functions, the Langlands conjectures, and representation theory, giving new insight into the relationship between algebraic geometry and algebraic number theory.

Abel Prize

The Abel Prize is awarded annually to mathematicians by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. It was inspired by the Nobel Prize—which is not awarded for mathematics—and recognizes the laureates’ overall contributions to the field.

Jacques Tits: 2008

Jacques Tits, prix Abel 2008 Jacques Tits received the Abel Prize in 2008, along with John Griggs Thompson, for ‘shaping modern group theory’. Jacques Tits also received the Wolf Prize in 1993.

Pierre Deligne: 2013

Pierre Deligne, Prix Abel 2013 Pierre Deligne was awarded the 2013 Abel Prize for ‘seminal contributions to algebraic geometry and for their transformative impact on number theory, representation theory, and related fields’.

Wolf Prize

Each year, the Wolf Prize is awarded to artists and scientists in the fields of agriculture, art, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics. Prizes have been given each year since 1978, by the Wolf Foundation in Israel.

Wolf Prize in Mathematics

Jacques Tits: 1993

Jacques Tits, prix Abel 2008 Jacques Tits—alongside Mikhael Gromov—received the 1993 Wolf Prize in Mathematics for ‘his pioneering and fundamental contributions to the theory of the structure of algebraic and other classes of groups and in particular for the theory of buildings’. Jacques Tits was also awarded the Cantor Medal from the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung (German Mathematical Society) in 1996, and the Abel Prize in 2008. He is a member of the French Academy of Science.

Pierre Deligne: 2013

Pierre Deligne, Prix Abel 2013 In 2013, Pierre Deligne received the Wolf Prize in Mathematics ‘for his work on mixed Hodge theory; the Weil conjectures; the Riemann-Hilbert correspondence; and for his contributions to arithmetic’. He is also a laureate of the Fields Medal (1978), the Crafoord Prize (1988), the Balzan Prize (2004) and the Abel Prize (2013).

Wolf Prize in Physics

François Englert et Robert Brout: 2004

François Englert et Robert Brout, Prix Wolf en 2004 Brilliant physicists and professors emeritus at ULB François Englert and Robert Brout jointly headed the Research Group in Theoretical Physics at the University’s Faculty of Sciences starting in 1979. Their fundamental work in elementary particle physics was recognized by a Wolf Prize in Physics in 2004, a J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics in 2010, and the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013. The two ULB professors explained the difference between fundamental interactions using a mechanism known as symmetry breaking, which led to the unified model of weak and electromagnetic interactions. Their fascinating theory presupposes the existence of a particle, the scalar boson, which the CERN’s LHC later discovered.

Balzan Prize

Since 1961, the Balzan Prize has been awarded annually in recognition of scientific or cultural achievements, or initiatives in favour of peace and brotherhood among peoples.

Pierre Deligne: 2004

Pierre Deligne, prix Balzan Pierre Deligne was awarded the Balzan Prize for ‘major contributions to several important domains of mathematics (incl. algebraic geometry, algebraic and analytic number theory, group theory, topology, and Grothendieck theory of motives), enriching them with new and powerful tools’.

Francqui Prize

Since 1933, the Francqui Prize has been awarded each year to a young Belgian scientist for their significant contribution to science.

Mathematics, chemistry, physics

  • Pierre Gaspard (statistical mechanics, 2006)
  • Marc Henneaux (theoretical physics, 2000)
  • François Englert (theoretical physics, 1982)

Human sciences

  • Bram De Rock (economics, 2019)
  • François de Callataÿ (ancient history, 2007)
  • Mathias Dewatripont (economics, 1998)

Natural and medical sciences

  • Cédric Blanpain (medical genetics, 2020)
  • Pierre Vanderhaeghen (medical genetics, 2011)
  • Marc Parmentier (medical genetics, 1999)
  • Etienne Pays (parasitology, 1996)
  • Gilbert Vassart (medical genetics, 1993)

Extraordinary prize in interdisciplinary European studies

Eric Remacle and Paul Magnette, on behalf of the Institute for European Studies (2000)

European Research Council (ERC)

The European Research Council’s main activity is supporting the careers of great independent researchers across all fields of science. It awards prestigious grants: Starting, Consolldator, Advanced, Synergy and Proof of Concept Grants.

Learn more about the ERC grants in our ‘Research’ pages

Updated on March 1, 2023