He Blinded Me With Science!
President-elect Obama's announcement today of his nomination of Nobel-laureate physicist Stephen Chu as Secretary of Energy raised the question (at least in my trivia-seeking mind) if any other so-awarded persons had held a cabinet level position. Although I know several cabinet members received laurels after office (usually winning the Peace Prize) and a number of winners of the economics prize have held sub-cabinet positions (the Council of Economic Advisers is lousy with 'em), Chu is unusual for joining the cabinet having already won the prize (1997) and for winning a hard science award.
Well, apparently I wasn't the only one with the question: ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper had the same question and he did the research for his Political Punch blog. Tapper has more details, but shows that Chu is indeed the first Nobel-winner to nominated to a cabinet . However, he will be the second Nobelist to sit in a cabinet meeting, because Henry Kissinger won the peace prize (1973) while still serving as secretary of state. Four other secretaries of state won post-cabinet peace prizes (Root, Kellogg, Hull and Marshall), as did two vice-presidents (Dawes & Gore). Two sitting presidents won the prize (TR & Wilson).