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Nobel Laureates And Age

Shuang Li |
October 2, 2014 | 4:58 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Here comes the Nobel season. The Nobel Prize 2014 will be announced in the week of Oct. 6. Between 1901 and 2013, the Nobel committee has awarded the prize to 851 Laureates. Looking at how old the Nobel Laureates were the year they were awarded, one may find that it’s never too old nor too young to win a Nobel Prize. 

SEE ALSO: Thomson Reuters Predicts 2014 Nobel Laureates

It is not our stereotype to connect the Nobel Prize to fairly old people. Statistics on the official website of the Nobel Prize show that, 49.8 percent of the Nobel Laureates receive their awards at the age of 60 or later, only 12 percent of them win the awards before they turned 45. 

Nobel Laureates and age (Shuang Li/Neon Tommy)
Nobel Laureates and age (Shuang Li/Neon Tommy)
The Nobel Laureates are not only old, they are getting older. From 1911 to 1920, the second decade that the Nobel Prize is awarded, the average age of all Nobel Laureates was 52. After nearly a century, the average age of Nobel Laureates has increased to 66, according to the statistics from 2001 to 2010

Leonid Hurwicz, an American economist and mathematician, won the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 2007. What makes him stand out from others is that he won the award in a record-breaking age - he was 90 years old at that year. 

The oldest Nobel Laureate demonstrates the frequent elder age among Economic Science Laureates. The average age of Nobel Laureates in Economic Science is 67, which is the highest comparing to Laureates of other categories. Physics Laureates have the youngest average age of 55. 

William Lawrence Bragg was 25 years old when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics with his father in 1915. The British physicist is not only the youngest Nobel Laureate in any Nobel Prize category, but also the only Laureate that was awarded under the age of 30. 

The Youngest and oldest Nobel Laureates (Shuang Li/Neon Tommy)
The Youngest and oldest Nobel Laureates (Shuang Li/Neon Tommy)

Benjamin Jones and Bruce Weinberg, two experts from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Ohio State University, analyzed Nobel Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2008. They found that “the trend across all fields is toward researchers being older when they produce their greatest work”. 

Jones and Weinberg attribute this effect to a shift from theoretical work toward experimental work. Young people tend to do better in theories, but experimental work requires aggregation of knowledge. They also think as fields expanding, it may take longer time to accumulation knowledge necessary to making a significant contribution. 

SEE ALSO: Why Nobel Laureates Are Getting Older

The youngest and oldest Nobel Laureates are both men. In fact, the oldest female Laureate, Doris Lessing, was only two years younger than Hurwicz when she was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature in 2007. Winners of the prizes in Literature constitute the second eldest group in Nobel Laureates. They were 65 years old in average when received the prize. 

SEE ALSO: Oddsmakers Weight In On Who Will Win The Nobel Prize For Literature

Tawakkol Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. The Yemeni political activist was 32 year old in that year, which makes her the youngest female Laureate. She is also the youngest Peace Laureate, the average age of whom is 62. 

The youngest and oldest female Nobel Laureates (Shuang Li/Neon Tommy)
The youngest and oldest female Nobel Laureates (Shuang Li/Neon Tommy)
According to the official website of the Nobel Prize, Nobel Prize in Medicine 2014 will be announced on Oct. 6, followed by the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8, respectively. The Nobel Peace Prize 2014 will be announced on Oct. 10. 

Contact Staff Reporter Shuang Li here and follow her on Twitter here.



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