10 of the Wealthiest Academics in the World

When you think of academia, the first thing that comes to mind usually isn’t money. Tweed, musty books, ivy covered walls, sure, but anything fiscal is usually pretty far down the list — and for good reason. Jobs in academia aren’t generally known for letting professors and researchers rake in the big bucks — most get into higher education because they have a passion for the subject matter rather than an aspiration to become millionaires.

There are some professors, however, who have made some pretty sizeable fortunes off of their research and know-how, though this very often comes about through books, patents and business deals outside of their universities. We’ve listed a few of them here, but there are many more millionaire (and a few billionare) academics out there who’ve turned their love of learning into a truly profitable endeavor.

  1. Adi Shamir

    After getting his PhD in 1977, Shamir worked as a researcher at MIT and eventually returned to a his alma mater, Israel’s Weizmann Institute, for a professorship. He also taught courses at the Ecole Normale Supeieure in Paris. While Shamir plays a major role in computer science academia, he also helped develop some major cryptography algorithms that made him quite wealthy. Patents on the RSA algorithm, Feige-Fiat-Shamir identification scheme and a variety of digital signatures and voting systems have netted him hundreds of millions (if not over a billion) over the past few decades. It also earned millions more in royalties for the Weizmann Institute.

  2. Henry Samueli

    Today, Henry Samueli is the co-founder, senior vice president and CTO at the Broadcom Corporation — but he didn’t always work in the business world. After receiving his PhD in electrical engineering from UCLA, Samueli began working as a professor there. It was not until a decade later, in 1991, that he decided to found Broadcom Corporation with a former student, each putting in a modest investment $5,000 invest. This paid off for the professor, and by 1998 he retired from his academic position and focused on the business full time. Today, Samueli has a net worth estimated at $2.3 billion — a big step up from his UCLA salary.

  3. David Cheriton

    Professor David Cheriton has taught computer science at Stanford since 1981 and taken part in some amazing research into operating systems. He’s also won numerous accolades for his work. Yet he is best known for his investments in budding technology companies. In 1995, he put money towards a nascent Google, a smart move that has earned him just over a billion to date. The professor also invested in a number of other technology companies, and is now worth around $1.8 billion total. While notoriously frugal with his money, Cheriton has been quite generous with giving back to the academic community, donating $25 million to the University of Waterloo and another $2 million to the University of British Columbia.

  4. Robert S. Langer

    An engineer and David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT (one of the highest honors the school offers), Langer is one of the leading academics working in the fields of biomedical and chemical engineering today. Known for his biotech research on drug delivery systems and tissue engineering, Langer holds over 760 patents in the medical and engineering worlds. It is these patents, as well as his work as a director at multiple medical research and pharmaceutical companies, that have helped make him one of the wealthiest academics today. Langer not only has a generous net worth of his own, but directs over $10 million in grants for his MIT research lab – the largest biomedical example in the world.

  5. Stephen Hawking

    One of the best-known names on this list, Stephen Hawking is a legend in cosmology and theoretical physics — not to mention of the most renowned academics of all time. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years, retiring in 2009. Throughout his career, he received numerous awards and made major breakthroughs in our understanding of black holes, general relativity and quantum gravity. An academic celebrity, much of Hawking’s wealth comes from the popularity of his books, including the runaway best seller A Brief History of Time. Today, the retired Hawking is estimated to be worth about $20 million.

  6. James Stewart

    A McMaster University mathematics professor for many years, James Stewart is now retired. While his research focused on harmonic and functional analysis, Stewart receives the most attention for his textbook series — which were sold both at the high school and university levels. Chances are good that if you took a class in calculus, you used one of his books. They are the standard in many countries around the world, and actually outsell all others on the subject combined! Their sales turned this humble mathematics professor into a multi-millionaire – a fact evident in the $24 million, ultra-modern mansion (complete with a 150 seat concert hall!) Stewart built in the mid-2000s.

  7. Reza Satchu

    Millionaire businessman Reza Satchu returned to academia after making millions in the tech market, teaching about the entrepreneurial arts at the University of Toronto. He takes no salary for this post, and even funds scholarships for deserving students out of his own pocket. Notoriously difficult, Satchu has nonetheless proven one of the school’s most popular professors, with enrollees vying for seats in his small courses. Perhaps they simply want to know just how he netted more than $1 billion from the 2003 sale of his B2B website.

  8. Zev Rosenwaks

    A professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Cornell and the director of The Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, Dr. Rosenwaks is a busy man. Internationally renowned for his research into assisted reproduction, he has won numerous awards and been featured in a wide range of news shows and publications. He receives incredible compensation. In 2008, he made $3.3 million through his professorship and medical work alone. This is only a fraction of his net worth, and with revenues from teaching, writing and providing medical care coming in, Dr. Rosenwaks stands as one of the wealthiest professors in the U.S.

  9. David Silvers

    Professor of Dermatology at Columbia University, Silvers is undoubtedly a great researcher and teacher — especially when it comes to pioneering treatments for skin cancer and running the school’s dermatology lab. He also tops the list when it comes to highest-paid employees at non-profits. How much does the good doctor make each year? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million, though with perks from his positions included, that total could be higher. Silvers owns two million-dollar homes and earns five times what the president of Columbia University makes (a paltry $809,000).

  10. Cyril Taylor

    Along with a few partners, Taylor formed the American Institute for Foreign Study in 1964, an organization which sets up exchange programs for students across the world. He is also the Chancellor and founder of the American International University in London, former chairman of the City Technology Colleges Trust and former education advisor to the British government. To say Taylor has a hand in the higher education world is a bit of an understatement. His career in academia has netted him a pretty handsome profit. Today, Taylor is a multi-millionaire, with a home in London worth over $6.3 million, and a cushy little knighthood.

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