Nobel laureates by country… U S A!

The 2009 Nobel Prize winners for the science categories were revealed this week, and the United States were well represented. I read a couple of articles praising the National Institutes for Health (NIH) on its enduring commitment to funding basic research, and I began to wonder how much of the research that has won Nobel Prize recognition in the past was actually supported by American funding agencies, like NIH and the National Science Foundation (NSF), a.k.a the US government? It would appear the answer is: The large majority!

With a desire for procrastination, and a nerdy love of statistics, I compiled the bar graph below, which shows the number of individual Nobel laureates by country, and you can see that the US blows everyone else out of the water.

NobelPrize

There are a few caveats to this figure. The data are from Wikipedia’s list of Nobel laureates by country, which was the most up to date listing I could find; therefore, I did not go through the list of winners myself. Additionally, the awardees are listed by the nation they are “associated with,” and many laureates are listed under more than one country. For instance, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, the 2009 c0-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is listed under India, the UK and the US. Born in India, Dr.Ramakrishnan obtained the majority of his degrees and training in the US, where he also gained citizenship. It sounds like the majority of the work he is being recognized for was also conducted in the US, although now Dr.Ramakrishnan is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, England. So the values represented in this figure are a little inflated because the definition of “nationality” is a bit broad. Without a doubt there has been a massive contribution by the American scientific community and science funding to our overall understanding of the natural world. U S A! U S A!

I leave you with a beautiful quote about the nature of modern scientific collaboration:

We stand on the shoulders of giants, publish our results, share our results, people pick them up, improve them, and shove them out into the larger body of knowledge.

Thomas Lane, president of the American Chemical Society.

And here is another statistical summary of Nobel laureates by country.

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4 comments to Nobel laureates by country… U S A!

  • Doron

    Per Capita island wins.

    Jews comprise about 23-25% of total prizes won, not bad for 0.02% in total world population.
    Also about 40% (cant remember, the exact figure) are winners of US medal of science are of Jewish decent.

    As a side note, modern Jews are the most likely minority to say they do not believe in a supreme being. So a belief in a god isn’t essential for a worthy global contribution, but a culture that praises learning and questions definitely does have an effect.

  • BJ Kramer

    Yeah, the per-capita question was my initial reaction as well. Now that you have some time on your hands (ehem), perhaps you’d consider getting some population data and posting a revised chart showing the prizes 1000 citizens, or something to that effect.

    Doron, did you mean to say Israel wins? That’s what I’d assume as well.

  • Argh, you guys are killing me…. to do this right we should consider each country’s population and award record for each year… Whatever, here are the countries who had >10 science Nobel laureates by their population estimates for 2008 (via google which usually linked to the nation’s census site). Numbers represent the number of laureates per 1 million people. Per capita, the US is in the middle of the pack for the top Nobel grossing nations.

    Switzerland 2.64 Nobel winners per 1,000,000 people
    Austria 1.95
    Sweden 1.55
    United Kingdom 1.34
    Germany 1.03
    Netherlands 0.90
    United States 0.85
    France 0.50
    Canada 0.36
    Italy 0.21
    Japan 0.10
    Russia 0.10

  • Kris

    Per capita schmapita…We still have by far the most!

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