On A Per Capita Basis – Top Ten Countries With The Most Nobel Prize Winners

When we collate a list of countries with the most Nobel Prize winners, then undoubtedly United States is at the top of the list. After all till date they have been awarded 270 Nobel Prize winners and the country which came in a distant second is United Kingdom with 117 winners.

However if we do a different type of listing we get a totally different picture. Let us count the number of prizes one in proportion to the number of people living in that particular country, and the results change dramatically. A per capita basis listing gives us the top ten countries listed below, and we assure you that the results will be surprising:


1. Iceland :

They have a population of less than half a million people and they have one Nobel Prize winner. The Nobel for literature was awarded to Haldor Laxness in 1955 for his “for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland”. He wrote fifteen novels, poetry, short stories and travelogues.


2. Sweden:

The birthplace of the Nobel Prize has won 28 Nobel prizes and has a population of only 9 million people. They have probably the world’s best per capita record on a per capita basis, being edged out by Iceland by a small fraction.


3. Switzerland:

A close third is Switzerland with 26 winners and a small population of approximately 7.8 million people. They have given us many Medicine and Physics and Chemistry winners.


4. Denmark:

With a population of only 5.5 million people, Denmark has been honoured with 13 Nobel Prize winners. They have won four prizes for Medicine and in 1908 Fredrik Bajer won the Nobel Prize for Peace.


5. Norway:

Another Scandinavian country in the Top Ten list is Norway. With a population of only 4.9 million, they have been the recipients of 11 awards, ranging from three in Literature in the years 1903, 1920 and 1928, to three in Economics in 1969, 1989 and 2004.


6. United Kingdom:

Once again, a small country with a fairly small population but a very large list of Prize Winners. They have a total of 117 winners so far, and many of them have been won in the field of sciences such as Chemistry and Physics, They won their first Nobel in 1902 and 2010 they added to their tally with three more.


7. Austria:

They have won 10 Nobel Prizes, and the youngest person ever to receive a prize was a citizen of their country. William Lawrence Bragg was only 25 years old when he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915.


8. Ireland:

Ten winners and five of them winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, Ireland is a surprising addition to this list. In 1998 two of their citizens shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, and in 1976 the two co-founders of Community of Peace People were awarded the Peace Prize


9. Germany:

102 winners and a population of approximately 84 million people, Germany is a part of this list due to it’s long list of Prize winners. From 1901 till 2009 they have won awards in all the fields of Nobel Prize segments.


10. Netherlands:

Another Scandinavian country, Netherlands has so far won 19 prizes, the latest being the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010, won by Andre Geim. With 9 winners in the field of Physics, they seem to be specializing in that segment of science,



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7 Responses

  1. Eva

    Nice list~!

    Though last time I checked the Netherlands wasn’t a Scandinavian country?

  2. Bastogne

    Here’s a wild idea: why don’t we use the term ‘Scandinavian’ and apply it to countries in Scandinavia?

  3. anonymous

    Actually your list is incorrect the most Nobel Laureates per capita is St. Lucia. It has a population of about 173,000 and two nobel laureates. Sir Arthur Lewis – 1979 and Derek Walcott- 1992.

  4. Carpenter

    No, the Netherlands is not Scandinavian, but it is a Germanic country, like all countries on the list except Ireland. (Although genetically, Germanics and “Celts” are the same.) It is remarkable, the number of Nobel prizes won by Germanic countries – and the number of inventions and scientific breakthroughs they have invented.

    You can also compare with the large number of prominent mathematicians born in each European country:


    The lists are enormous for North European countries. For Spain, Greece and Portugal for example, not so much. Interesting historical trend, now that these countries are in an economic jam.

  5. Aunty


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