Stanford is the top producer of Nobel Laureates in this century

And that is by a clear margin.  Columbia is number two.  Harvard is number eleven.  UCSB > MIT.  None for Oxford.

The list is here, excluding literature and peace prizes.

As for countries, the United States is a very clear number one and the UK is number two.  Other than Japan, Asia barely has any at all.

The pointer is from Michelle Dawson.  Here is my previous post on Stanford.


The supposed link to the list points to another MR post.

Correct link:

I visited Stanford's 8,180 acre campus in 1975 and couldn't see why anybody wouldn't want to be there.

Of course, Stanford was well aware of that, too, and thus has worked very hard to keep people out. In 2007, Stanford president John Hennessy pointed out that “the size of our undergraduate population has remained nearly level for more than 35 years. In 1970, the undergraduate class size was 6,221; in 1980 it was 6,630; last year it was 6,689.” The consequent increase in the rejection rate allowed Stanford to more than double its percentage of freshmen scoring 700 or higher on the Math SAT. (Over the same period, California grew from 20 million to 36 million—although in fairness, California’s test scores did not improve as much as Stanford’s.)

Hell of a thing for a private institution to do.

They also put together a hell of a football program, given the high academic standards and small undergrad population.

Being Stanford and skimming the most talented, smartest fraction of D1 quality football players doesn't seem that impressive. I assume there aren't that many of those kids with a burning desire to go to school in Evanston.

Stanford pulls in lower rated (from a football perspective) high school kids than most similarly successful college programs. They just do more with less. I'm sure the kids being relatively smart helps.

Looking at their recruit rankings in recent years, #24, 13, 51, 7, 22, 25 , 18

They're no Alabama, but they're consistently pretty good. Having looked at that now, what amazes me is how bad USC and NC have been.

But it's true that if you are a good football prospect who prioritizes academics but wants to play on a decent team, you only have so many programs that meet that criteria. And often a kid doesn't receive offers from more than a couple of these schools.

My list would be: Stanford, Notre Dame, UCLA and Michigan (sometimes have decent teams, but not consistently), Georgia Tech (are only good once in a while), Baylor (only a recent football power), Northwestern (sometimes puts together a good team), Wisconsin (good football, borderline academics). I'm probably forgetting a couple.

Yeah, Stanford gets decent kids, that is actually better than I thought. But for having been 1 or 2 in the Pac-12 so often, they seem to be recruiting at a lower level than you would expect.

Yeah, USC's record with their talent is embarrassing.

Stanford's strategy is to recruit nationwide and find the handful of kids that are both pretty smart (not average Stanford smart) and really good football players. Those guys exist. They then sell those kids the idea of getting a Stanford degree and now being on a really good football team to boot.

Two 4* rated kids in my area (NC) went to Stanford this year and that was exactly the pitch. BTW it is also the pitch that Duke is trying to make.

UNC suffers from a total lack of football culture. They recruit well because NC has good talent and they are an attractive school but the guys they recruit never quite pan out as good as you would think and they never are able to put it all together. Of course a multi year academic and athletic scandal with NCAA hasn't helped.

There are a lot of schools that combine great football with great academics. Here are the program I would add to Jan's list

Washington (good once in a while, but football stadium is incredible)
UNC-Chapel Hill
Penn State

It's actually pretty amazing how many really good colleges there are in America. It's a lot easier to find a good education than it is to find good football!

A few of those are good schools that have good academics and have good football, but they don't have good academics when it comes to football. UNC, Penn St, UVA,, USC, Washington pretty much let any football player in that passes the NCAA minimum standards which are very low. And most of them (most notably UNC) create a shadow academic progam for athletes to keep them elligible.

Some of the others that you list like NW, Vandy, and Berkley (probably I an not sure) have higher standards. But of your list I only would only say that USC, Penn St, and maybe UW have been as good as Stanford ihas been recently (Rose Bowl or BCS caliber)

You have high standards, Jan. I think a kid could get a very good education at pretty much any good D1 football school. That is, if they put in the effort.

Woops, I meant to write the abovef comment anonymously. Jan, you were on my mind.

Yeah, I don't dispute that! Of course, going to a school with a more rigorous curriculum and smart fellow students can do a lot to make one's education better. Also, I am sure some football players can (and do) find their way to relatively easy courses of study at any of those schools.

I remember talking to a Stanford assistant football coach about 10 years ago, before their resurgence under Jim Harbaugh, and he told me that some kids they recruited couldn't get past admissions (even though an offer had been made), and some of those kids ended up playing at Harvard and Princeton.

Stanford, a school that competes against the likes of USC and Notre Dame, had tougher admissions standards (for athletes) than some of the top Ivy League schools! Not sure if that is still the case, but I remember hearing a recruiting specialist comment recently that there is a huge difference in standards (for athletes) between Stanford and its so-called peer football institutions like Northwestern, Duke, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame. It was not even close.

My hunch is that if Stanford had athlete admission standards comparable to other Division 1 schools, it would compete or win the national championship every single season.

I think that guy was blowing a bit of smoke. Or maybe Stanford changing their standards is what lead to their resurgence. Stanford football players are much smarter than your typical State U, but almost none of them would get into Stanford if it were not for football and certainly they are not Ivy league guys.

On this narrow topic, it's notable that Princeton increased its undergraduate enrollment a few years ago, and that Yale has just announced a similar move. Those are both laudable measure, and could hurt P and Y in the competition with Stanford, if you look at narrow measures like "admit %" and "yield."

On the other hand, those new students are not athletic recruits—teams aren't getting bigger --so perhaps for these places larger classes actually lead to higher average GPA's and test scores.

Most of the commentary about this subject is so strange. Nobel Prizes are a very long lagging indicator of new science, usually rewarding contributions from 20-30 years ago that have morphed into bona fide new branches of science.

In that sense, it's not strange or worrying at all that Asia ex-Japan has so few prizes, as they have not invested heavily into scientific research for more than 20-30 years. If this trend continues through the 2020s and 2030s, then I think it is fair to wonder if they are not "nurturing the creativity, the freedom and the often rather maverick thinking that can lead to the most groundbreaking scientific discoveries". But I remember that people criticized Japan for this same thing not so long ago and they seem to be fine now, no more criticism that the Japanese lack creativity. Just like I wouldn't find it alarming at all to see America and especially British dominance in the Nobel Prizes wane over time as other countries take more prizes. This isn't a sign that they are getting weak or unable to "truly find the space to think big" so much as other countries are catching up in terms of infrastructure and developing intellectual talent.

Although if we're going to use this as a platform to complain about culture, shouldn't we talk about the supposed benefits of the Scandinavian model? Where are they?

It is humorous to see good old UCSB above MIT and Oxford though. UCSB students will quite literally be putting that in their pipes and smoking it.

I'm not saying it is cultural, but you should know that Norway is on the list at #9, which in per capita terms means it is kicking ass. Israel also does very well for such a small country.

"But I remember that people criticized Japan for this same thing not so long ago and they seem to be fine now, no more criticism that the Japanese lack creativity."

I heard that a lot around 1999. But since then the Japanese won a lot of Nobels.

My impression is that creativity is hard to measure, so I take it less seriously than, say, IQ, for which we have a century of pretty coherent data. This isn't to say that creativity doesn't exist, just that it's hard to quantify to use to make predictions.

"Nobel Prizes are a very long lagging indicator of new science, usually rewarding contributions from 20-30 years ago that have morphed into bona fide new branches of science."

I think that's an excellent point.


yup, strange, dumb, and way too personalized. But many regulars here and some random strays consider these early MR posts as an open KoffeeKlatch kickoff to their self-focused day.

As to the original topic of Nobel Prizes, the selectors & selection process is also critical to understanding the final distribution of actual Prizes. The Nobel Prize system is fundamentally political and subjective. Analyze the selectors.

While Nobel Prizes are a lagging indicator, there is something to be said of culture as well. Having grown up in India, my frustration with the education system lies with the fact that free thinking/questioning is not nurtured. My experience (granted, I haven't done any extensive research or gathered scientific data from across the country), based on people I've interacted with, suggests that questioning in middle and high schools is generally frowned upon. There always are exceptions, and always will be when we look at a community as a whole.

My personal belief is that "creativity" comes from the ability to question and reason. Schooling is generally a very viable vehicle to lead kids towards this thought process. Unfortunately, education and schooling is looked upon as a money making industry and not as a service towards the uplift of the community. As a result, I wonder if we would ever see the rise of ground breaking discoveries from nations where challenging existing rules is not the norm.

It should be noted this is not an exclusive of India...

Among the various problems that plague education in India, I would put the profit motive way at the back. Based on my experience, teachers who are themselves incompetent or just don't know much about their subjects discourage questioning. Unfortunately, the vast majority of teachers in India fall in that category. Private (profit-making) schools are the only ones that provide an education worth a damn. That's why the government passed the RTE act two years ago, effectively forcing private schools to reserve a sizeable fraction of their seats to students from underprivileged backgrounds. The government (or governments, at the state and local level) knows that the schools it maintains are completely useless, with teachers who don't show up half the time and yet can't be fired because they are government employees.

Kris - Yes, you highlight something that's very true. I'm guilty of thinking purely of private schools when I provided my opinion and honestly I'm ashamed of my thought process. That being said, even in private schools that provide education worth a damn, questioning is discouraged. This is in part because all that is expected of students is the ability to memorize. If this is the expectation and the criteria to show progress, there is no incentive for questioning. I was referring to this systemic issue with my initial comment. As for the RTE act, of the 25%, 14% is purely based on caste with no considerations on the economic status. I'd rather see an act that places more importance on the economic status (the ones who truly cannot afford it), rather than the caste system.

Where's Singapore?

At least Oxford has the excuse that they train Prime Ministers rather than rocket men.

And Singapore doesn't? Because that's what quite a lot of that last thread was about, brain drain to government

I bet Oxford actually trains Singapore's Prime Ministers

My mistake. The Prime Minister of Singapore was, of course, a Cambridge mathmo.

Just curious, Stanford means a) undergrads from Stanford working somewhere else b) graduates from Stanford working somewhere else, c) graduates from somewhere else working as researchers in Stanford.

It is the school they were affiliated with at the time of the award.

Good God, what an absurd criterion. What's the justification? That it suits an idle sod who's collating the data? I hope they at least exclude the counterfeit prize in economics.

And I hope you get dysentery. Maybe we'll both get what we want.

So, Stanford has a great human resources office.

Stanford already has a sterling reputation though.

You should save your praise for UC Santa Barbara's HR department. They seem to be quite good at attracting academics who get fed up with conventional science but have already made their mark that will garner Nobels.

Yes, being at Stanford when award is received is not, in itself, meaningful for how good Stanford is at anything but rewarding the same people who get Nobel Prizes. Being at Stanford is attractive and Stanford can and does hire these people. But where were they when they did the work? When the were getting the experience that allowed them to do the work?

Forget about countries and schools, let's look at culture.

A quarter of prize winners are Jewish. More than a third of the American winners are Jewish.

Through 2011, based on a website hosted by biochemist Israel Hanukoglu, who was the chief science advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister:

Medicine or Physiology: Jews have comprised 51 of the 199 laureates, or 26 percent
Physics: 47 of 191, or 25 percent
Chemistry 30 out of 160, or 19 percent
Literature: 12 out of 108, or 11 percent
Peace: 9 out of 101, or 9 percent
Economics: 24 out of 69, or 35 percent

You don't survive 3500 years of war and persecution without generating very successful survival strategies. And genes too probably.

Is there some group out there that hasn't survived the past 3500 years and still survives?

Do you actually believe that the Old Testament is history? Why?

Health-wise, Ashkenazi Jews' genes clearly have a negative impact.

You write that despite them having a longer than average lifespan

Two things. Not all of these genetically linked diseases are fatal. Second, you have to look at why this groups' lifespan may be longer, because I don't think it is well understood. The same genetic anomalies that make them more susceptible to many diseases, which is undisputed, can also be linked greater average IQ and other traits. For example, intelligence is closely linked to income, which is one of the best predictors of lifespan.

intelligence is closely linked to income, which is one of the best predictors of lifespan.

So... their genes have a positive impact on health?

I believe that is a likely pathway. But can we say those are "healthy genes"? Not how most people would categorize it.

On the other hand, I'd expect anyone with Tay-Sachs in their family to say that it is obviously a detriment.

Maybe, but what was successful then may not be successful now.

That logic can be applied to many groups of people.

"Where are the Romans now?" In Tony Soprano's words, "you're staring at them, asshole".

Great clip.


God love you, Steve, but you won't win the Nobel prize in blog comment formatting for this one.

(I hate the fact that MR's blog software does not recognize and render text new lines as expected. Sigh.)

"This century" is only 14 years (the list is only through 2014), and "affiliation" means at the time the award was made (not where the recipient received his or her degree), whether for 30 years or a day. Stanford can be proud of this achievement, but I might note that being in Silicon Valley today has rewards other than academic.

Or 15 years, depending on which year you prefer to count as the first of this century.

Note that the title here is untrue: at least according to the data linked in the first comment, Stanford is not the largest *producer* of Nobel Prize winners but is the largest *consumer* of them.

Oops I misread the article. Pretend I said nothing and carry on... carry on...

(Though their score of "3" versus "2" does not seem statistically significant)

Would be quite interesting to do a study over a longer time period including 1. Undergraduate Degree 2. Graduate Degree 3. Institution When Awarded 4. Institution five yrs after awarded.

I would make it five items and make #3: Institution where work that led to award was completed.

Exactly. At least half of Harvard's Nobel winners have done their award-winning work in state universities. Then they were recognized, got famous, got hired by Harvard and eventually got the prize.

I believe that if you do it (for all time) as either undergrad or grad degree as a fraction of total alumni, Caltech is first by a considerable margin. I believe that one figure I saw was around 1/1500 grads.

I agree! By undergrad and per capita Caltech is probably an order of magnitude ahead of everyone.


When I visited Stanford (primarily d-school, but others as well ) in 2009 for just 3 hours, I encountered 5 pieces like that:
1. flyers on the front desk for people considering suicide to call some office
2. postings for people to call security being afraid to leave office alone after dusk
3. blackboard flyers for people "to ask for forgiveness" in there destroyed relationships
4. hilarious postings, how to built relationships
5. openly dishonest claims on what others invented first

The atmosphere was always tense, just pseudo "creative, open, relaxed", hyper competitive, dishonest, and you could feel, that psycho breakdown is for many there just one step away

Ah, your first trip to a university campus!


California, no doubt about it!
As for Compton Community College, well, Pluto's not a planet.
Well, maybe it is.

Australia is not a continent.

Shots fired!

I understand that this is simply one way of viewing Nobel Prize winners, but you have to admit that numbers one and three both being in the Bay Area is impressive, as is 3 and 7 being UC campuses. And for that matter, three of the top seven being in California is impressive.

In fact, the UC system has had over 30 Nobel Prizes in the last 25 years.

1) Many of their Nobel laureates (especially in e.g. Physics) won for work they did at somewhere else 20 years ago.

2) I was in the Physics department in ~2000 when Stanford was winning (a share of) a 4th straight Physics Nobel. A few days later there was a department email that said, "Please join us for our annual Nobel Prize party".

3) When Bob Laughlin won the Nobel Prize, he took the rest of the semester off, and everyone in his undergrad quantum mechanics class received an "A". As I recall nothing was learned, but the administration couldn't really give him a hard time because he was now a Nobel Laureate.

A.B., 1972, University of California at Berkeley
Ph.D. , 1979, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Research Physicist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 1982-present
Associate Professor of Physics, Stanford University, 1985-89
Professor of Physics, 1989-present

Bob Laughlin's CV. He's spent most of his life in California, including being from Visalia. Too much. Your point 1 is a good point, but we really need to see the figures before discounting these stats.

The amazing Stanford, a very highly ranked school academically that can field a top football and basketball team.

Much as I dislike praising Stanford, the Director's Cup stats are impressive:

Is TC fishing for a better job?

How long had prizewinners been at their affiliated institution at the time of their award? I suspect many jumped around a bit, so to say that Stanford "produces" the most may not be an accurate reflection of reality.

"None for Oxford"
Wikipedia on James Mirrlees: "During his time at Oxford, he published papers on economic models for which he would eventually be awarded his Nobel Prize."
Does Florida State get Dirac?

Miami. : (

I love a good East Coast, West Coast throw-down.

Israel is in Asia too and it's fifth on the list.

Does that ranking change if you consider Nobel Prizes + Fields Medals?

Great takeaway from this thread: Stanford has a surprisingly good football team for having a small and nerdy undergrad population, and is also a hangout for a bunch of deadwood Nobel Prize winners, some of whom might be smart Jews.

Institutions dominate.

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