Which country has the best brains?

Total nobel prizes won sine 1901 top five countries

Over the past week, the Nobel prizes have been awarded in chemistry, medicine, peace, physics and literature.

The awards are an annual ritual celebrating human intellectual endeavour that began in 1901. They were set up by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor and arms manufacturer, who requested in his will that his fortune be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the "greatest benefit on mankind".

Nobel winners in their own words

Biochemist Dr Frederick Sanger, who won it twice
  • The BBC has unearthed previously unseen interviews with Nobel scientists in its archives
  • These have now been digitised, see link below

Over the intervening 109 years, more than 500 prizes have been awarded. But which nation can claim the most winners?

We have trawled throught the archives to produce a definitive list of the nations with the biggest brains.

A clear winner would be the United States which comes out top overall, as well as in five of the six categories. The UK is next, with 117 Nobel medals. However, France, which bumps along in fourth or fifth, is clearly ahead when it comes to literature.

But there are a total of 69 countries or territories whose citizens have picked up the prize, from St Lucia to this week's latest addition, Peru, birthplace of author Mario Vargas Llosa.


Download Nobel prizes by country [37kb]


  • The figures include all Nobel Prizes awarded up to and including 8 October 2010
  • Prizes are allocated to the country/countries stated on the winner's biography on the website of the Nobel Prize committee (www.nobelprize.org)
  • Where the website mentions multiple countries in relation to a prize winner (country of birth; country of citizenship; country of residence at time of award) each of those countries is credited as having won the prize
  • Where a prize has multiple winners, the country (or countries) of each winner are credited
  • Prizes which were declined by the winner are included
  • Prizes won by organisations are not allocated to countries
  • The Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is not a Nobel Prize per se, but it is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences according to the same principles as for the Nobel Prizes. We therefore include it

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