Aye4Scotland recently tweeted that Scotland had produced more Nobel Prize winners per head ‘than any country in the world’. But is this true?
Since the prize was first awarded in 1901, thirteen Nobel Prize-winning men have hailed from Scotland.
William Ramsay (1904), Alexander Todd (1957) and J. Fraser Stoddart (2016) won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and C. T. R. Wilson (1927), David J. Thouless (2016) and J. Michael Kosterlitz (2016) won the Prize in Physics.
John Macleod (1923), Alexander Fleming (1945) and James Black (1988) all won Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine.
Arthur Henderson (1934) and John Boyd Orr (1949) won the Nobel Peace Prize, while James Mirrlees (1996) and Angus Deaton (2015) have been awarded the Prize in Economic Sciences.
According to the National Records of Scotland, the latest estimate of Scotland’s population was 5,404,700. Based on this figure, Scotland has racked up 24 Nobel prizes per 10 million citizens.
This is still far fewer than the Faroe Islands, which boast around 200 prizes per 10 million people. Saint Lucia (112 prizes) and Luxembourg (34 prizes) have also generated more prizes per 10 million people.
Of course, it’s debatable how a “Scottish” Nobel Prize should be defined. Do Charles Glover Barkla or Peter Higgs count as having won for Scotland? Barkla was born in Widnes but won the 1917 Nobel Prize in Physics while at the University of Edinburgh, and Higgs, who won in 2013, is professor emeritus at Edinburgh.
On the other hand, Kosterlitz was born in Aberdeen but is now a US citizen and affiliated with Brown University in Rhode Island.
But even factoring in both Barkla and Higgs, Scotland totals 28 prizes per capita - not enough to top the list on this one.