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AAPI Key Facts 2018

Asian American Pacific Islander Key Facts. A keyboard, 2 notepads, a pen, a pencil, and headphones on a desk.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recognizes May as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are a diverse group comprised of numerous ethnicities.

This month offers a perfect opportunity to pay tribute to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have made significant contributions to the NIH and our nation. We encourage you to take time this month to learn more about the achievements and sacrifices AAPIs make and gain a deeper understanding of the community’s uniqueness.

Take a look at this timeline of Asian American events and list of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) trailblazers and Nobel Laureates to learn more about important historical dates and individuals in the AAPI community who have made remarkable contributions in the world. In addition, check out these profiles of other AAPI individuals who have served the NIH.


  • 1763 - First recorded settlement of Asians in the United States: Filipinos in Louisiana
  • 1790 - First recorded immigrant from India in U.S.
  • 1820 - First recorded immigrant from China in U.S.
  • 1847 - Yung Wing becomes first Chinese to graduate from U.S. college (Yale)
  • 1869 - First Japanese settlers arrive on the U.S. mainland, in California
  • 1885 - First recorded Korean immigrants
  • 1946 - Wing Ong is first Asian American elected to state office (Arizona)
  • 1956 - Dalip Singh Saund of California becomes first Indian American in Congress
  • 1959 - Hiram Fong of Hawaii becomes first Chinese American in Senate
  • 1959 - Danial K. Inouye of Hawaii becomes first Japanese American in Congress
  • 1985 - Ellison Onizuka becomes first Asian American astronaut in space
  • 1986 - Gerald Tsai of American Can becomes first Asian American CEO of a Fortune 500 company
  • 1992 - Jay Kim of California becomes first Korean American in Congress
  • 2000 - Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta becomes first Asian American Cabinet member
  • 2001 - Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao becomes first woman Asian American Cabinet member
  • 2007 - Bobby Jindal of Louisiana becomes first Indian American governor
  • 2016 - California Attorney General Kamala Harris is elected to be the first Indian American to serve in the Senate
  • 2010 - Nikki Haley of South Carolina becomes first woman Indian American governor
  • 2017 - For the first time, three Asian American women sit on the Senate: Mazie Hirono, Tammy Duckworth, and Kamala Harris


Dr. Ting Kai (T. K.) Li

Dr. Ting Kai (T. K.) Li is a former Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health, appointed in November 2002.

Dr. Richard Nakamura

Dr. Richard Nakamura was appointed to the position of the Director of Center for Scientific Review (CSR), National Institutes of Health in December 2012.

Dr. Belinda Seto

Dr. Belinda Seto is a former Deputy Director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health, appointed in April 2014.

Asian Nobel Laureates

The Nobel Prize is a yearly, international prize for accomplishments in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Economics, Literature, and Peace and has been awarded to over 800 individuals since 1901.

Asians have been the recipients in all Nobel award categories. The first Asian recipient, Rabindranath Tagore, was awarded the Literature Prize in 1913.

To date, there have been 69 Asian winners of the Nobel Prize, 11 within the Physics, Chemistry and Physiology/Medicine categories. They are listed below.


  • 1930 - Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, First Asian and Indian Nobel laureate in science
  • 1949 - Hideki Yukawa, First Japanese Nobel laureate
  • 1957 - Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee, First Chinese Nobel laureates
  • 1979 - Abdus Salam, First Pakistani Nobel laureate
  • 2009 - Charles K. Kao, First Hong Kong citizenship Nobel laureate


  • 1981 - Kenichi Fukui, First Asian and Japanese Nobel laureate in Chemistry
  • 1986 - Yaun T Lee, First Taiwanese Nobel laureate
  • 2015 - Aziz Sancar, First Turkish Nobel laureate in science

Physiology or Medicine

  • 1968 - Har Gobind Khorana, First Asian born and Indian born Nobel laureate
  • 1987 - Susumu Tonegawa, First Asian and Japanese Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine
  • 2015 - Tu Youyou, First Chinese woman Nobel laureate

Source: DiversityInc, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Source: List of Asian Nobel laureates - Wikipedia

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