Nobel Prize Worlds

It’s Nobel Week yet again…
On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace – the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden’s central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” (quoted from Nobelprize.org) On 10 December 2014 this year’s main award ceremonies take place in Stockholm and Oslo, adding the latest laureates to the list of 567 Prizes that went to 889 laureates in 6 Prize categories, amongst them 46 women, 22 organizations and 6 multiple laureates since its inauguration in 1901. These are plenty of awards that went out over time and allow a closer look at the spatial distribution of the awards that went out over time. The following Worldmapper-style cartogram shows the overall shape of the Nobel Prize World that shows where all prizes that were awarded in the past 113 years went to. Each country is resized according to the total number of Nobel Prizes that went to an individual or group from that country:

Map of the distribution of Nobel Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

This image already highlights the very unequal global distribution of the recipients which makes some wonder (amongst many other controversies), whether this Prize is really always given out (as sought by Nobel) “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind” or whether there is a certain geographical bias. Despite the overall dominant picture of all prizes given out is very much also reflected in the different categories that this award is given out for, there are distinct patterns between the individual categories, such as the poorer parts of the world doing slightly better in the Peace prize as well as in the number of women who received the award. The following map series shows, where the prizes went to over all time in each individual category as well as the distribution of men and women who have received the honour:

Chemistry
Map of the distribution of Chemistry Nobel Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

Economics
Map of the distribution of Economics Nobel Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

Literature
Map of the distribution of Literature Nobel Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

Medicine
Map of the distribution of Medicine Nobel Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

Peace
Map of the distribution of Nobel Peace Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

Physics
Map of the distribution of Physics Nobel Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

Women
Map of the distribution of Female Nobel Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

Men
Map of the distribution of Male Nobel Prize Winners
(click for larger version)

As all these visualisations show, the distribution of Nobel Prizes over time show a high degree of global as well as gender inequality in science and society. An analysis of the patterns over time by Jürgen Schmidhuber – one of the few analyses done on the issue – discussed “the growing number of laureates per Nobel Prize […] by comparing the temporal evolution of national Nobel Prize shares by country of birth and by citizenship”. It shows how dominant Europe and the USA have always been, though with changing temporal patterns, but also what that there are particular patterns of brain drain (and brain gain) in the 20th century that increase the dominance of certain nations even further as the globally magnets of research. Far over 80% over the prizes awarded to date have gone to the wealthiest parts of the world. And equally unequal is the share of women amongst those being awarded this prestigious honour. Are male scientists from the rich world really that much better in cultural and/or scientific achievements as this images suggest?

The content on this page has been created by Tina Gotthardt and Benjamin Hennig using data from Nobelprize.org. Please contact me for further details on the terms of use.

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