areppim X-Y scatter chart and statistics of the number of science Nobel prize winners (chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine) per capita, 1901 to 2017, the per capita index calculated as the number of prizes divided by the population in millions and multiplied by 100. Swiss people must be doing something right to rise to the very top of the Nobel ranking in terms of number of Nobel prizes for "hard science" — chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine — per capita. Swiss nationals collected 17 awards, thus positioning the nation in the seventh rank in absolute terms. With an index of 204, or 6 times the median (the average value is given by the red line), Switzerland outperforms by a wide margin in per capita terms such absolute heavy weights as US, UK, Germany or France. In fact, small nations perform astoundingly well, compared with the giants: Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Israel, New Zealand and Norway are conspicuously placed  in the top tier of the ranking.

Swiss people must be doing something right to rise to the very top of the Nobel ranking in terms of number of Nobel prizes for "hard science" — chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine — per capita. Swiss nationals collected 18 awards, thus positioning the nation in the sixth rank in absolute terms. With an index of 214, or almost 7 times the median (the average value is given by the red line in the chart), Switzerland outperforms by a wide margin in per capita terms such absolute heavy weights as US, UK, Germany or France. In fact, small nations perform astoundingly well, compared with the giants: Sweden, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Israel, New Zealand and Norway are conspicuously placed in the top tier of the ranking.

The very nature of the three disciplines under consideration, requiring an exacting specification of both output and processes, makes easier the application of more objective, at least more easily measurable criteria for evaluating performance, than those that can be used in other Nobel prize domains such as peace, literature or even the allegedly "soft" science of economics. Furthermore, the scientists' core tradition of submitting research results to peers to be scrutinized, debated and assessed in open forums, enhances the probability of a fairer grading of scientific achievement. In spite of the fact that today's science is a costly endeavor, nourished by syndicates of public and private financiers who can, and often do dictate what research should focus on, what is and what is not good science, and what should or sould not be brought to the public's attention, performance in these three categories still remains the most reliable available indicator to appreciate the real scientific standings of the various nations.

 

Nobel Prize Awards per Million Nationals
1901 – 2017

Nobels for Chemistry, Physics and Physiology or Medicine

Nation

Number of Nobel awards ¹

Population in 2017
(million)

Nobel Index
(per million x 100)

Argentina342.87.0
Australia824.532.6
Austria108.6116.0
Belgium611.353.3
Canada1236.632.8
China51,415.80.4
Czech Republic110.89.2
Denmark95.7157.7
Egypt187.31.1
Finland15.518.2
France3365.650.3
Germany7182.386.2
Hungary29.920.3
India11,311.50.1
Ireland24.841.5
Israel68.173.7
Italy761.311.4
Japan19126.315.0
Netherlands1416.982.7
New Zealand34.764.0
Norway35.257.1
Pakistan1194.20.5
Portugal110.69.4
Russia15141.310.6
South Africa154.21.8
Spain147.52.1
Sweden179.8173.0
Switzerland188.4214.3
Turkey178.21.3
United Kingdom8464.6130.1
United States264330.379.9
Median  32.6
Average  50.1
Total620  
¹ Double nationals counted twice, once for each nationality.
  National of former Czechoslovakia appears under Czech Republic.
  Nationals of former Soviet Union appear under Russia.

 

Sources: see Nobelprize and UN Population Division

 

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