Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Comment
  • Published:

Nobel laureates are almost the same as us


Data show that apart from their prize-winning work, the careers of Nobel laureates follow the same patterns as those of the majority of scientists.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Career patterns of Nobel laureates.


  1. Livanova, A. Landau: A Great Physicist and Teacher (Pergamon Press, 1980).

  2. Jones, B. F. Age and great invention. Rev. Econ. Stat. 92, 1–14 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Liu, L. et al. Hot streaks in artistic, cultural, and scientific careers. Nature 559, 396–399 (2018).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Sinatra, R. et al. Quantifying the evolution of individual scientific impact. Science 354, aaf5239 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Wuchty, S., Jones, B. F. & Uzzi, B. The increasing dominance of teams in production of knowledge. Science 316, 1036–1039 (2007).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Wu, L., Wang, D. & Evans, J. A. Large teams develop and small teams disrupt science and technology. Nature 566, 378–382 (2019).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  7. Fortunato, S. Growing time lag threatens Nobels. Nature 508, 186 (2014).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  8. Li, J. et al. A dataset of publication records for Nobel laureates. Sci. Data, (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Zuckerman, H. Scientific Elite: Nobel Laureates in the United States (Free Press, 1977).

  10. Jones, B. F. & Weinberg, B. A. Age dynamics in scientific creativity. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 18910–18914 (2011).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank L. Liu, Y. Wang, Y. Ma, J. Love, B. Uzzi and all members of Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO) for invaluable comments and helpful suggestions. This work is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award numbers FA9550-15-1-0162 and FA9550-17-1-0089, National Science Foundation grant SBE 1829344 and Northwestern University’s Data Science Initiative.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



D.W. and S.F. conceived the project; D. W. designed the experiments; J.L. and Y.Y. collected data and performed empirical analyses with help from S.F. and D.W.; all authors discussed and interpreted results; D.W., J.L. and Y.Y. wrote the manuscript; and all authors edited the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dashun Wang.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Li, J., Yin, Y., Fortunato, S. et al. Nobel laureates are almost the same as us. Nat Rev Phys 1, 301–303 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing