Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 10 Universities in the World Based on Nobel Prizes

1. (tie) Cambridge: 88 (11% of all winners)
2. (tie) University of Chicago: 87 (11% of all winners)
3. Columbia: 86 (11% of all winners)
4. MIT: 78 (9% of all winners)
5. Berkeley: 70 (8% of all winners)
6. Oxford: 56
7. Stanford: 55
8. University of Heidelberg: 54
9. (tie) Yale: 48
9. (tie) Harvard: 48

If you think getting into college is hard, imagine how much harder it is to win the Nobel Prize.

Since the Nobel was first awarded in 1901, 826 individuals (and 20 institutions) have won the award--in six fields: literature, physics, chemistry, economics, physiology or medicine, and peace.

You might wonder what universities have produced the most Nobel Prize winners. If you look at which schools have had the most Nobelists affiliated with them overall--whether as faculty, students, or researchers--three universities really stand out and are in class by themselves:

Cambridge University in England leads the world with 88 Nobel Prize winners. The University of Chicago is right behind with 87 winners--the most of any American university--followed closely by Columbia University in New York with 86. About 11% of all the winners of the Nobel Prize have been affiliated with each of those schools.

MIT is fourth with 78 Nobelists--about 9.4% of those who have won the award.

There is quite a bit of drop off in winners for all other universities. The University of California at Berkeley is in 5th place with 70 winners (about 8.5% of all the people who have ever won Nobels.)

The University of Chicago and Cambridge have been neck and neck out front for years. In 2000, for instance, Cambridge had 74 winners and UChicago had 72.

Notes: Officially Columbia only claims 80 winners, but it has a slightly more conservative way of counting winners than Cambridge, UChicago, and MIT. The latter three schools, for instance, include visiting professors in their official count, unlike Columbia. However, by doing our own count of Nobelists affiliated with Columbia (including anyone who has ever been a student officially in a degree program, a researcher, or a visiting professor) we arrived at a total of 86 winners. We did not recalculate the totals for the other top four schools since they already used wider criteria for counting winners. (However, claims on the internet that Columbia has 97 Nobelists are incorrect, since that count includes people who merely gave a lecture at Columbia, received an honorary degree from Columbia, had a book printed by Columbia, or people who merely had library privileges at Columbia.)

It is perhaps not surprising that UChicago and Columbia lead the American lists considering their longstanding place at the top of U.S. universities (as mentioned in earlier posts on this blog.)

It's worth noting that Cambridge and Columbia have quite a bit larger student bodies than UChicago. UChicago has about 5,100 undergraduate and 15,000 students overall. Cambridge has about 12,000 undergraduates and 18,500 students overall. Columbia has about 7,900 undergraduates and 27,000 students overall.

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