Genius Cliques: Mapping out the Nobel Community | by Milan Janosov | Sep, 2023

The community of Nobel laureates. Picture by the creator.

This piece was initially revealed within the second situation of Nightingale, the printed journal of the Information Visualization Society.

Although I bought my Ph.D. in Community and Information Science, I’ve at all times stayed near my roots, particularly in Physics, each time looking for inspiration. Rising up in Hungary, I used to be notably amazed by the achievements of “The Martians,” a gaggle of famend scientists who emigrated from Hungary to the US round World Struggle II. Curiously, a few of them even went to the identical highschool.

The Martians included, as an example, Leó Szilárd, who not solely found the speculation of nuclear chain response but in addition co-patented the fridge with Albert Einstein and Eugene Wigner–a key scientist on the Manhattan Venture–main the event of the primary nuclear reactor. For his contributions, Wigner acquired the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963, numbering among the many 18 Nobel Prizes which have been linked to thinkers with Hungarian origins.

These 18 prizes solely measure about three % of all of the Nobel Prizes ever awarded. In actual fact, since 1901, about 600 prizes have gone to considerably lower than a thousand laureates within the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Drugs, Literature, Peace, and–beginning in 1969–Economics. The location highlights different thrilling statistics concerning the prize and its awardees: from the youngest (17 years previous) and oldest (97) laureates to multiple-prize winners reminiscent of John Bardeen (Physics, 1956 and 1972), Linus Pauling (Chemistry 1954, Peace 1962), and Marie Skłodowska-Curie (Physics 1903, Chemistry 1911).

The Curie household dominated the Nobel. Marie Curie first shared a prize along with her husband, Pierre, and later acquired a second award. Moreover, the mighty couple produced a Nobel-winning inheritor. Their daughter, Irène Curie, who shared the popularity along with her husband, Frédéric Joliot, was awarded the prize within the area of Chemistry in 1935. Marie Curie was a member of one other fabulous instance of the interlinked small world of laureates (sadly, Pierre handed away in 1906): the Solvay Convention on Physics in 1911. It was in all probability probably the most spectacular line-up in science ever: 27 of the 29 members had both already received, or later acquired, the Nobel Prize.

The tales of the Martians, the Curie household, the Manhattan Venture, and the Solvay Convention all counsel that, behind the scenes, some critically intertwined social networks are at work amongst Nobel laureates. To hint this community, I went to probably the most broadly used on-line encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and picked up the Wiki web page textual content of every laureate.

Then, in every laureate’s web page textual content, I counted the mentions of all the opposite names, noting whether or not any pairings shared a standard historical past noteworthy for Wikipedia. This manner, I constructed a community of 682 nodes and 588 hyperlinks, the place nodes correspond to laureates, and the power of the hyperlink between two nodes is proportional to the variety of occasions their Wiki websites reference one another. Moreover, I downloaded the entire view rely of every laureate’s web page and set their community node dimension proportional to the logarithm of that quantity. This node scaling ultimately highlighted people who have change into family names. To finalize the community visualization, I utilized colour coding that corresponds to the scientific disciplines. You could discover the lead to Determine 1.

Determine 1. Nobel Community. The community of Nobel laureates with at the very least one connection, based mostly on the cross-references between their Wikipedia pages. Every node corresponds to a laurate, edge widths measure the variety of cross references, and node dimension is proportional to the entire view rely of their Wiki pages. Coloration encodes the disciplines they have been awarded (within the case of a number of completely different awards, a colour was picked at random from the awarded disciplines). Nodes with the very best view counts are labeled.

To me, as a community scientist, the primary and most placing statement concerning the community is its core-periphery separation: a big, linked part within the middle (a so-called large part) which accommodates greater than 30 % of the nodes, and a fragmented ring round it with smaller community parts, with sizes as much as ten nodes. Essentially the most frequent part sizes are as few as two and three nodes, which aligns properly with the truth that the Nobel Prize will be shared amongst a most of three laureates, and shared prizes have gotten increasingly more widespread within the majority of fields.

I additionally realized that nodes within the large part are bigger, that means considerably increased visibility and a better variety of search hits for these laureates, as measured by logarithm of their Wiki view counts. After wanting into the information, it seems that the median Wiki-view rely is 351,005 within the central part, whereas solely 170,510 for the outer ring, and the typical view rely worth is about 2.5 occasions increased for the central part than for the outer ring. So it appears, the central clique is far more widespread!

However who’re they? The coloring with the green-yellowish shades versus reddish tones is supposed to differentiate sciences from humanities, coinciding with the left and proper sides of the enormous part. These sides are linked by Sir James Chadwick, who received the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics for locating the neutron and who additionally turned a scientific advisor to the United Nations. The science aspect (Determine 2a), headlining researchers like Albert Einstein and Max Planck, appears to have a powerful root within the Prussian Academy of Sciences (1700–1945) and can also be sturdy amongst the founders of recent Physics, from the Curies to Enrico Fermi and Eugene Wigner or György Hevesy (each with Hungarian and Martian roots).

Determine 2a. Zoom-in of Determine 1, specializing in the clique in sciences.

On the humanities aspect (Determine 2b), we are able to see some fairly widespread figures. Apparently, science isn’t the best way to world fame! There are instantly two central laureate organizations that strike the attention: the European Union and the United Nations, each awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. Notable people embrace outstanding politicians, reminiscent of Barack Obama or Henry Kissinger, the human rights activist Nelson Mandela, and the economist Milton Friedman (with Hungarian, however non-Martian, roots).

As for the outer components, there are just a few famously social people, reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Richard Feynman — personally, my favourite Nobel laureate for each his scientific contribution and his playful and eccentric persona. These people, regardless of residing busy lives, are considerably remoted from the community, probably as a result of time and geographical areas of their energetic years in comparison with different laureates. Moreover, the information could also be incomplete right here as Wikipedia is neither good nor one hundred pc correct in documenting social connections, and sadly (or not?), Fb didn’t exist at the moment.

Lastly, the Hungarians and the Martians: wanting on the knowledge, it seems that lots of them usually are not linked to even a single Nobel laureate, and those that are members of the community are merely scattered round. The explanations behind this are unclear — perhaps the legend of the Martians is overrated, or perhaps there weren’t sufficient of them awarded a Nobel to look within the community visibility. One factor is for positive, although: the Manhattan Venture counted seven Nobel laureates whereas it was operational and, later, a dozen extra, however amongst them solely Wigner was from the Martians.

Determine 2b. Zoom-in of Determine 1, specializing in the clique in humanities.

As inspirational as it’s to scan all these names and connections in The Nobel Community, and regardless of the way it makes me actually really feel as if I’m “standing on the shoulders of giants,” the community has its flaws. Moreover the peripheral Japanese Europeans, we see an elite membership rising within the middle with the vast majority of widespread names clustered collectively within the large part, excluding two-thirds of the community. This implies that two-thirds of the laureates simply stroll away with the prize and return to their work, and solely the remaining third interact in seen connections, be it friendships or collaborations. As “The entire is larger than the sum of the components,” lacking greater than 60 % of these sensible minds from the central circulation of concepts appears a pity.

Much more missed alternatives come up. The central part itself is cut up into two camps: science and humanities. This polarization very a lot goes towards right this moment’s essential course, interdisciplinary analysis, which provides us the facility to sort out main societal issues by no means skilled earlier than. Moreover, the community reveals the low variety of feminine laureates. Regardless of the distinctive historical past of Marie Curie, solely about six % of laureates have been feminine, most of whom have been awarded the Peace Prize (16.5 % of 109 awarded) and the least of whom earned awards in Physics (1.8 % of 219 awarded).

Nonetheless, all isn’t misplaced. Mapping workout routines like this one might help reveal these points, which in any other case are barely seen, even to probably the most avid Nobel followers. Zooming out and using community science can spotlight in any other case hidden patterns and allow understanding, which is step one in figuring out future options, be it about gender gaps or elitist cliques.

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