Nine Nobel Graphs: The Laureates, When They win, and Nobel Impact

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The Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences have been awarded 567 times to 889 people and organizations since 1901. We’ve collected nine graphs on the Laureates’ ages, birthdays, when prizes are awarded relative to the work recognized, citation counts for winners, and more.

The “Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences” is a newer prize. While the other prizes were endowed by Alfred Nobel’s will, the Economics Prize is referred to as a “category of the Nobel Prize” by the Nobel Foundation. It was established by Sweden’s central bank and first awarded in 1969.

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This chart shows total Nobel Laureates on the x axis and Laureates per 10 million people on the y axis. Click and drag to zoom in on the cluster.

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June is the most frequent birth month for physiology and medicine Laureates.

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We can convert heatmaps to 3D plots inside Plotly. Head to the graph URL to see the plot in full-screen.

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Does the award help a career? Citations are one indicator of successful research. Bjork et al. use a Bass Model to show how a Nobel prize-winner’s influence changes over time. The Economist explained the results:

People tend to win Nobel prizes when their career has nearly reached its peak. The Swedish Academy, which makes the award, plays it safe. After winning the prize, there is a small boost to winner’s citation count. But then it declines.

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In 2014 Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest winner in history. She is an outlier in this box plot with jitter. See our interactive tutorial on boxplots to learn more about creating and interpreting box plots.

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Having noted when individuals win the Nobel Prize, let’s examine when they produced their achievements. We turn to Benjamin Jones’, E.J. Reedy, and Bruce A. Weinberg’s paper Age and Scientific Genius.

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Note that the age-creativity relationship varies more over time than across fields. Great achievements before age 30 are becoming increasingly rare. Jones & Weinberg — the source for the chart below — note that

the iconic image of the young, great mind making critical breakthroughs was a good description of physics in the 1920s and 1930s when quantum mechanics was developing.

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The gap between, for example, physics research and recognition has expanded. As The Economist notes, a 6 year wait in 1901 has evolved into a 26 year wait in 2010.

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Recognition delay is increasing across fields. According to the authors:

The increasing number of scientists, their increasing life expectancy, changing research and career policies, and so on, must all play a role in the delay.

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