Max Fisher from the Washington Post has compiled some maps and charts showing all Nobel Prize winners by region since 1901. Surprisingly, 83% of all Nobel laureates have come from Western countries, revealing a significant amount of scientific inequity around the globe.
By Western countries Fisher is referring to Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Looking at the map, it’s clear that Western Europe and North America take the lion’s share of the awards. These prizes have been granted to 72 different countries — but more than half come from only three countries, the U.S., Britain, and Germany.
The U.S., which won three new prizes on Monday (all in economics), has now been awarded a total of 347 Nobel prizes — far and away more than any other country in the world. The next highest ranked is Britain with 120, followed by Germany with 104, France with 65, Sweden with 30, and Russia with 27.
But outside of these regions there isn’t much to go around. Africa has 16 Nobel laureates, while Asia, the most populous region in the world, has only claimed 49 Nobel prizes. Combined, Asia, Africa, and Latin America have won only 104 Nobel prizes — regions that hold 81% of the world’s population, but only 10% of its Nobel laureates.
There are likely several factors at play here. First, there’s clearly a bias towards Western science (much of it justified). Second, and relatedly, there’s a bias towards certain scientific institutions (again, much of it justified), which, unsurprisingly, are primarily located in the Western world. And thirdly, by ‘the Western world’ what we’re really talking about are the globe’s most affluent and highly developed nations. Bring up the standard of living, quality of education, and economic conditions in the Nobel-poor countries, and you’ll likely start to see a decline in these discrepancies.
Be sure to read all of Fisher’s article as there’s more data and and some fascinating charts.
All images: Max Fisher/Washington Post.