Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nobel Prizes by Country

The number of Nobel Laureates in each country is often a matter of some pride. More importantly, it is often used to bolster arguments about the quality of science in different countries. Recently, I saw a creationist use these numbers to support the claim that acceptance of evolution was irrelevant. According to this IDiot, the USA has the most Nobel Laureates in spite of the fact that 50% of the population don't believe in evolution. He was thinking that scientists who are Christians can be better than scientists who are not.

Here's the data in case anyone is interested. The total number of Nobel Laureates in the sciences is given in column two for each country. Only the top ten countires are listed. The third column gives the population in millions [List of countries by population]1. The last column is the number of Nobel Laureates per million people.

As you can see, a couple of countries are punching way above their weight (Sweden and Switzerland). Several countries are way further down the list than they should be (Canada, Russia, Japan, China, India). The USA is not getting any more Nobel Prizes than its population warrants.

United States1543030.51
United Kingdom48610.79

1. The population numbers are from the last few years. Since the Nobel Laureates are from the past 100 years, you could argue that the ratios for Canada and the USA should be higher since their populations have grown a lot more than the populations of the European countries and Japan. This would be obvious if we normalized on the 1950 populations.


  1. He also makes the idiotic point that the US has won proportionally less Nobels in the years after 1968 when the last law outlawing the teaching of evolution was repealed. I highly doubt that that is true - there were plenty of medicine and physiology nobels won by US based researchers since then, I suspect far more proportionally than won before that point (part of the reason being funding issues - a lot of the best european scientists actually go to the US where there has been better funding in the past few decades).

  2. Being from Sweden I have to admit that some of the earlier Nobels to Swedes may have been just slightly biased (esp. in literature). But wouldn't it be interesting to see how many of the American laureates were creationists? Or even Christians?

  3. Actually, the claim was nothing like the strawman Larry seems to have made.

    The claim was as follows:

    During the years evolution was not dogmatically taught (or was even forbidden to be taught) in the USA, the scintific achievements of the American scientific community were not hamstrung. They went on getting their Nobel prizes nicely without having been brainwashed into darwinism in K-12.

    This strikes at the heart of the darwinian claim that if we don't teach/brainwash students to accept evolutionary magic, the future of the world is in danger.

    Re said:´

    But wouldn't it be interesting to see how many of the American laureates were creationists? Or even Christians?

    I predict, based on the darwinian totalitarian mentality, and based on the self-serving "rules of science", no YEC has been was awarded. However, it would be interesting to know what would the situation be if we had Nobel prizes during the time of creationist Mendel, or christian Isaac Newton, or christians Faraday, Maxell, Linnaeus, Boyle, Pascal, Galileo, Copernicus and all other scientists who have pretty much started many of the modern science branches.

    None of them believed that the living world was the result of unguided, impersonal, undirected magical forces, yet that didn't seem to affect their science one bit.

  4. Very interesting post. I'm not quite sure what it all means. Something to think about....

  5. Isn't atheism more likely for people who do science? Isn't that what they said at Beyond Belief? What was it? 83% atheists at some prestigious scientific organization?

  6. A quick check showed 9 Aussie Nobel winners and the population is about 20 million.

  7. retrog says,

    A quick check showed 9 Aussie Nobel winners and the population is about 20 million.

    My apologies to Australia. I copied the top ten list from 2003 and updated it by adding in all recent winners. Since two Australians won in 2005 I should have checked to see if that moved them into the top ten.

    Clearly it does. Australia is now in the range where it's supposed to be and Canada drops out of the top ten. Boo.

  8. Mats, you are delusional. The day a Nobel Prize is awarded for a high school science fair project, we can all say that the watered down treatment of evolution in our school system has no influence. The fact is that Nobel Prize winning research is done in research universities where Evolution is the reigning paradigm. Get creationism into the institutions of higher learning in America for any period of time and then see what happens.

  9. What a pity, that Hungary is not mentioned with its 10mill of population and 13 Nobel prizes. ;)

  10. Why did you omit Austria? Hey I know we are maybe not the best soccer players, but according to Wikipedia, we have 19 nobel prices and only 8 mio inhabitants... makes me proud a little :-)))

  11. Wrong.

    St. Lucia -- 2 Nobel Prize Winners, less than 180,000 in population.

  12. Above (St. Lucia) works out to be more than 11 in ratio.

  13. Oops, disregard above, didn't realize it was for Science only.

    Was trying to find out myself on a bunch of pages and was posting this as I thought it was in error, my mistake :)