For a study, I want to analyse the writing style of (contemporary) world-famous academics who were not educated in the West, yet I can find few examples. My focus is on Eastern Europe, but I will be happy to consider any non-Western academic (regardless of the discipline). Due to the nature of my study, I am only considering scholars who published at least one well-read text in English after the year 2000.

Upon some research, I found that most famous scholars of non-Western origin were in fact educated in the West. Few were not (e.g. Slavoj Zizek). Do you know any world-famous (or really famous) academic who was not educated in the West?

Edit: to be more precise, with "educated" I meant receiving their pre-doctoral education (including PhD) at a non-Western institution. With "world-famous" I meant that such a scholar is known also outside specialist academic circles (e.g. was interviewed in popular media, received prices, their work is read trans-disciplinary, their work is translated in other languages etc.). Slavoj Zizek is perhaps a good example, but one of few I know.

Second edit: thank you, everyone, for your answers. I have spent the day reading the work of some scholars you proposed above, which was an interesting endeavour. What I realised is that none of the papers I read would be comprehensible or received trans-disciplinary (or at least this is my guess). This was a very useful insight which told me that perhaps I should ask not for a world-famous scholars, but rather a world-famous text that was written by a non-western-educated scholar.

Moreover, no one has suggested anyone from social sciences or humanities. In both fields, this is my feeling, we can find more texts that are at the same time scholarly text and read widely across disciplines or by lay audience. But are there any such well-known works written by scholars educated at a non-Western insitution?

  • 7
    What is a "scholar"? "Academic" seems to include scientist? What means "educated" (predoc only or postdoc as well?) There are gazillions of leading scientists that received their education in the "not West" (Eastern Europe, Israel, Russia, Japan, China, ...)
    – Jakob
    Sep 26 at 8:36
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    Your definition of “world famous” is rather random. Being translated is a pretty law bar or a pretty high bar, depending how we see it (most Academic communication is in English), same for having a prize or two. On the other hand most scientist outside certain social sciences are not widely known even after getting a Nobel prize, with few exceptions.
    – Greg
    Sep 26 at 16:19
  • 3
    Not contemporary, but Ramanujan has to be up there.
    – astronat
    Sep 26 at 17:12
  • 5
    I guess Grigori Perelman might be somehow famous for the resolution of the Poincaré conjecture and his nonacceptance of various prices.
    – ungerade
    Sep 26 at 18:07
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    Since you're asking for post 2000 papers, your division into "West" and "East Europe" sounds a bit anachronistic, if not dodgy. I'm pretty sure post 2000 PL, CZ, SL, HU & the Baltics consider themselves part of the cultural West (with EU & NATO membership) or geographically "Central Europe". This "East Europe" paints them into a historical corner they didn't go willingly into. Also, I can't fathom how how all these disparate "non-Western academics" from all sorts of cultures would have some common "writing style" (besides possibly weaker English skills if you go further in time)
    – MrSparkly
    Sep 26 at 23:41

There are plenty. The Soviet Union was a scientific powerhouse, after all.

Some quick names are Andre Geim, Andrei Linde, and Alexei Starobinsky.

  • 2
    Zamolodchikov, Fadeev, the list is indeed very long… Sep 26 at 12:41

Not many academics are really well known outside academia, but of Nobel laureates who are Japanese citizens, it looks like the most recent eight were all educated in Japan up to doctoral level. It might be more than eight but I stopped checking. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Japanese_Nobel_laureates


Yuri Oganessian appears to be educated solely in Moscow. He has been among the lead physicists in superheavy elements for half a century. The discoveries of six heaviest elements is credited to him. He is also one of only two people after whom a chemical element has been named during their lifetime and the only one still living.

Unfourtunately, he might not be great for your cause as he is in the field where a bunch of co-authors is a common practice. It's hard to know who did the writing.

Grigori Perelman appears to be educated solely in Leningrad. He is widely credited for proving the Poincare conjecture, the only of the Millenium Prize Problems that has been solved as of today. Although this would make him a math celebrity aleady, he is most widely known for declining the millenium prize money. He was also awarded a Fields medal for this work which he also declined (the only person to have done so).

You can inspect Perelman's most famous articles on arxiv: https://arxiv.org/search/math?query=Perelman%2C+Grisha&searchtype=author&abstracts=show&order=-announced_date_first&size=50


Aleksander Wolszczan

Polish astronomer, co-discoverer of the first confirmed extrasolar planets.

I am only considering scholars who published at least one well-read text in English after the year 2000

His key publication in Nature was in 1994 but he published afterwards as well (notably in 2007). Not sure how this fits your constraints.

Please note that if you ask for scientific "well-read text in English" you are likely to get zero answers from laymen, and obscure references from specialists. "Well-read" is really difficult to qualify (is something published in Nature or Science well-read? If so, it is "well-read" by 0.0001% of the population (a made-up number). I think that any article from a mainstream celebrities magazine is way more "well-read")

  • I have a feeling OP is asking for the latter - not many academics appear in mainstream media, even fewer accomplished academics do, then fewer still are known in that manner for their writing as opposed for other educational work such as public speeches and on top of that it also highly depends on the area...
    – Lodinn
    Sep 26 at 17:52
  • @Lodinn: when I was typing my answer I tried to think of a contemporary scientist that is mainstream in France. The only one I could think of is an MD that got famous for his position on COVID. He was completely unknown before that. This does not meet OP's requirement to have a well-known text, though. If you ask a random person about a scientist, they will say Einstein (without probably knowing what he did, maybe $E=mc^2$), or Newton (because of the apple).
    – WoJ
    Sep 26 at 18:00
  • Pretty much. One can argue people like Jordan Peterson fit the description of being contemporary, well-known and academics, but that would narrow the field to being prominent in the western media. OTOH, Zizek given as an example is not someone who a layman would list among the academics they know (or even heard about!) so the bar is lower than that I suppose. Anyroad, I believe we can agree that the requirements are quite confusing here and the problem is ill-defined as it stands.
    – Lodinn
    Sep 26 at 18:40
  • @Lodinn: Thanks for your comments. Absolutely, the problem is not (yet) well defined, so thanks to everyone for your suggestions. As for Zizek, he is very well known outside his discipline (philosophy), regularly contributes to newspapers, is a guest at various political talk shows, etc. So he is undoubtedly well known outside his field and outside academia. This is why he is a good example and someone whose writing I would include in my study.
    – mihalu
    Sep 26 at 20:58
  • Thanks @WoJ. That was a very useful answer. I think that a paper published in Nature and Science would perhaps qualify, especially if it would be a famous paper. So thanks for the hint. The question here is not so much about the lay audience though. I am simply looking for texts that made an impact on academia more generally (not just specific discipline) so that we can consider them an example of a good and important academic text.
    – mihalu
    Sep 26 at 21:13

A list for the winners of the Abel Prize (A), the Clay Research Award (C) and the Fields Medal (F).

Received PhD (or equivalent) in Hungary: Lovász (A).

Received PhD (or equivalent) in India: Agrawal (C).

Received PhD (or equivalent) in Israel: Lindenstrauss (F).

Received PhD (or equivalent) in Japan: Kodaira (F), Mori (F).

Received PhD (or equivalent) in what nowadays is Russia: Novikov (F), Margulis (F), Drinfeld (F), Zelmanov (F), Okounkov (F), Szemerédi (A), Sinai (A), Malinnikova (C), Logunov (C).

Received PhD (or equivalent) in what nowadays is Serbia: Marković (C).

P.S. The definition of a Western country is somewhat ambiguous. Apparently the criteria can include being a democracy, having a GDP per capita over 20,000 USD and having Christianity as the predominant religion.

Apologies if the above selection of countries offended anyone.

  • 2
    Now I see that the title of the question changed while I was typing. This is an answer to the revision 4 of the question.
    – listie
    Sep 27 at 7:58

Academics from the 30s/40s, ranging from philosophers to physicists and chemists were educated in a Central/Eastern European world.

On top of them, there were notable scientist, like the man that brought the first human to the Moon, after giving birth to the first drone strikes, called V-2s bombing of London.

If you require then to be famous in the sense of "known to the larger public", that is reserved to the few that are innocuous to the western establishment, such as the above mentioned Zizek.

  • Your first sentence says academics but they are specifically philosophers. It could be more useful to state that explicitly instead of generalizing and obscuring the narrowness of the fact. Sep 27 at 7:27
  • @RichardHardy My answer explicitly mentions other knowledge branches now. It is a fact as narrow as the gap between the slits of Young's interference experiment, thank you for pointing out that even such a small fact can be integrated in the Lebesgue meaning and have a large impact.
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 27 at 7:35
  • Thanks @EarlGrey. Agreed, a lot of scholars in the past were educated in Central Europe. Even more, before WW2 a lot of academics got their education at various institutions all over the world. Some came to the West (primarily to the US, because they fled the war). But what about today?
    – mihalu
    Sep 27 at 7:44
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    @mihalu "primarily to the US, because they fled the war". Not true, many of them lost the war. I missed your requirment about "having published a well-read text after 2000", sorry. In general, this is a fallacious argument, but you may have a look at the fields interfacing ethics and informatics and politics, like Eugeny Morozov (I am not sure if his Belarus education reached the Master or the PhD).
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 27 at 8:03
  • @EarlGrey: Thank you, this is an excellent suggestion. Even though he obtained his PhD at Harvard, he was writing influential books before he had a PhD - and is hence a perfect example of what I am looking for.
    – mihalu
    Sep 27 at 13:23

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