Nobel laureates by country and prize

October 10, 2011  |  Infographics

Nobel Laureates

Nobel Prizes have been awarded every year since 1901. Where are all the winners from? Jon Bruner from Forbes puts it in a graphic. It's a simple yet effective approach where dots represent a won award, and countries are sorted by number of prizes won. The United States has clearly dominated the field since 1950, although many winners were foreign-born:

The United States is also unique in the scale on which it attracts human capital: of the 314 laureates who won their Nobel prize while working in the U.S., 102 (or 32%) were foreign born, including 15 Germans, 12 Canadians, 10 British, six Russians and six Chinese (twice as many as have received the award while working in China). Compare that to Germany, where just 11 out of 65 Nobel laureates (or 17%) were born outside of Germany (or, while it still existed, Prussia). Or to Japan, which counts no foreigners at all among its nine Nobel laureates.

Before World War II, it was a different story. Germany led the way.

[Forbes | Thanks, Jon]

58 Comments

  • “Germany (incl. West Germany)” — this will make the East Germans happy. Usually it is the other way around ‘Germany (incl. East Germany)’, because the GDR (DDR; East Germany) ceased to exist and the state of West Germany is today’s Germany…

    • Good catch! You’re entirely right–but in this case, I used “incl. West Germany” because no one working in East Germany won the award. I’d be curious to know why–the GDR was the most prosperous Eastern Bloc country by far, so why wasn’t it as productive in the basic sciences as the Soviet Union, which had seven laureates in physics and one in chemistry?

  • I am missing Austria with 17 native Nobel Prize winners… Equal to UdSSR…

  • “Laureates are shown in the country that they hosted they research at the time of the award”: maybe your austrian superbrain were in the US at that time.

  • There are two things that strike me: first, the fact that almost all Prizes in Economics have gone to the US (you have to take into account that this Prize has not been awarded before 1968). And second, 17 out of 110 Nobel Peace Prizes (15%) have gone to the US, which seems pretty much considering its rather controversial role in promoting peace around the world.

    • Hard to think of very many Economists from other countries in the world, can you name any?
      As to Peace Prizes, other than Obama, the American laureates were nominated for actually working to end specific conflicts. It was Alfred Nobel’s first and foremost reason for creating the fund.

  • As a scientist born and raised in the U.S., I find this graphic a source of pride (especially the numbers for Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine), though I think the fact that 32% of the U.S. laureates were foreign-born is another datum illustrating the confusing state of science here. In our universities and a few progressive cities, science (and rational humanism in general) flourish, yet in much of the nation there is not only scientific illiteracy but often genuine antipathy toward scientific thinking. Our system seems to provide fertile ground for top-level science to grow, yet our education system is not the best producer of “seeds”, i.e. the creative and disciplined minds that eventually produce the fruits of innovation. If (or when) the U.S. system stops attracting outside brainpower, there could be a precipitous decline in “American” scientific excellence.

    • This is a point I hoped readers would take away from the graphic, particularly by looking at the way that Germany’s scientific dominance collapsed and America’s began in the late 1940s. That was due to a change in which country was the world’s most attractive host for scientific research–a title that has to do with all sorts of things, including network effects, funding, existing human capital and general hospitality–and it’s not hard to imagine that a few factors tipping in favor of other countries could lead to a self-reinforcing decline in American leadership.

      • Among the many possible factors leading to attractiveness as a host for research, I wonder what you think of language as a possible contributor. In addition to the post-WWII influx of European (and especially German-speaking) scientists and academics, American military & economic power rose as Britain’s waned. Thus there was no need for innovators from throughout the British Empire to learn a new language in order to succeed in the U.S.

        (I imagine this effect of language might be difficult to parcel out, since the transfer of world power status from the UK to US overlapped with the exodus of scientists from Germany. I wonder: did most aspiring non-German scientists in the early 20th century learn German as a second language?)

        In the current scientific marketplace, the status of English as the scientific lingua franca still benefits the U.S., as many budding scientists from Europe and Asia speak fluent English. But this factor doesn’t have to benefit nations like the U.S., where English is the predominant native language. The ubiquity of English as a second language could actually aid future reverse (or lateral) migration of scientists. Anecdotally, when I peruse post-doc listings in Europe, knowledge of the native language is preferred, but proficiency in English is generally required. If the scientific marketplace or general hospitality changed appreciably, I think that the status of English as the vehicle language could actually work against the U.S.

      • That’s an interesting thought, Dave: once English truly becomes the global language, everyone else will speak it as well as native-born Americans and the U.S. will lose its advantage in that respect.

        For what it’s worth, my great grandfather studied at Freiburg in the 1880s before becoming a zoology professor in the U.S., a common pattern among American academics of that era (including Mark Twain, who spent time at Heidelberg because it was then the center of the academic world). He published many of his articles in German, even in U.S. journals (a practice mirrored in today’s publication of English articles by German journals). My sense is that during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, German was as much the language of science as English is today.

    • That’s an interesting statement and confirms what I have been thinking for a long time. I myself am German, born here, raised here, educated here. Since I work as a lecturer and scientist at a German University, I often hear colleagues complaining about the state of the German educational system, stating that students are getting dumber and dumber and that we provide mediocre education in general. This lament is usually followed by a statement of how that is much better in the US.

      I usually disagree, because what I concluded from discussions with friends and colleagues as well as the international news was, that while the US certainly have a small number of Universities that are much better and especially have a better reputation than German Universities, the average German University provides better education than the averag US American University. While this situation might be dissatisfactory for scientific research and developpment at first, I think that Society as a whole draws at least as much benefit from a highly educated population as it does from a hand full of genuinely brilliant scientists. Also, this highly educated population is the “mother soil” for future generations of brilliant scientists and provides an atmosphere where scientific progress is embraced.

      I am therefore grateful to live in a country where higher education is free and available for everybody who meets the requirements, rather than being so expensive that students and parents alike have to encumber themselves with dept to be able to afford it.

      • While I agree that Germans are well educated, allow me to disagree, Frau Professor-Doktor, on several points:

        1- The United States has more “great” universities (not a handful), than Germany has universities in total. Germany has 70 degree-granting institutions. The USA has 4236 as of 2004, not including technical academies and Internet Universities.

        2- There is a lot of cooperation between Academia and Business. Businesses do a lot of Research and Development used by Professors, and vice-versa.

        3- Awards and Prized are not necessarily a reflection of a Nation; however,there is an American culture of competition, in the belief that the reward justifies a greater effort, more cooperation.

        As a whole, the USA received more Nobel prizes after WWII, in part because the Scandinavian committees became less Eurocentric, and in part because economic boom combined with creativity.

        Nothing wrong with being proud of your educational system. We are proud of ours. Think of it like Sports: nothing wrong with cheering for your team for the Gold Medal, and the competition is fun!

      • Well, if you start throwing around numbers, at least get them right. Germany has 415 degree granting institutions as of 2010. The most recent numbers I found on the US ar from 2009 and report 4,474 degree-granting institutes (youe were not that far off there). I could write a lengthy statement on how obviously the US have more Universities (pop. of 82,000,000 in Germany vs. 311,000,000 in the US) and how 1,711 of the 4,474 “degree-granting institutes” are 2-year institutions that would not count as a University or College here, how the German dual vocational education does in fact cover professions you’d need a college degree in the States… But I won’t go in depth of that discussion.

        All I did was pointing out the flaws in the respective systems and draw my own personal conclusions of the facts. If you prefere the American System, that’s fine. Feel lucky to live there, just as I feel lucky to live here. Interestingly enough, people who start throwing a fit, like you did, usually don’t have experience with the German or other European educational systems at all. Also, I wonder, why are you so defensive?

        Just to keep things as accurate as possible. My source for the German stats was the Federal Statistical Office (http://www.destatis.de/jetspeed/portal/cms/Sites/destatis/Internet/DE/Navigation/Statistiken/BildungForschungKultur/Hochschulen/Hochschulen.psml) and for the American the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_244.asp).

      • I returned to this string due to a new comment, and saw your answer.
        I don’t think my raction was “throwing a fit”
        I agree with your numbers, not with your conclusions. We do have 4 times the popullation, ten times the degree granting university, which do NOT include two-year colleges. We have more than 17000 total, only about 4500 full doctorate granting colleges, still ten times Germany.

        As to your personal attack, entschuldingen-sie bitte. Iam quite familiar with the German system, having been involved in hiring German managers for my international corporation, and I speak some German, fluent French, Fluent Spanish, and I am an expert on European education.
        It’s too easy to dismiss any reaction to the “Europe is better than the USA” as a sign of ignorance. On the contrary. More ignorant Americans tend to accept that Europeans are better-educated than educated Americans. I respectfully disagree. The best educated Germans I have had the pleasure to work with were those who ALSO had some exposure to Anglo-Saxon education!

  • I haven’t checked the actual data (so I’m just working from memory), but I think there are missing countries. Where’s Spain (at least one in medicine), where’s Iceland (one in literature?). Of course, if I can spot this quick two missing countries I guess there are many, many more, but there is no account of that in the graphic nor in the original article.

    Ruben

    • You’re right that not every country is represented here: 65 countries have had at least one Nobel laureate, and I didn’t have room to list all of them. The lines for the United States through Russia are in order as the seven countries that have the most laureates. I added Japan and China to the bottom because they exhibit interesting acceleration trends. Thank you for pointing out the omission of a note to that effect: I’ve added it to my original post.

      • Ruben Berenguel October 10, 2011 at 11:21 am

        Wonderful Jon! I was just being picky: your article/postwas too interesting to letavethis fact out in the air.

        Thanks for being so quick,

        Ruben

      • That explains it. I was wondering where Australia was, since we have ~10 Nobel Prizes, and you’d stated that it was sorted by Most Number of Prizes.

        I’d started trawling wikipedia to find out what country hosted the research etc on each prize to find out why we weren’t there.

        Maybe mention the fact that Japan and China are there for a specific reason, not because they are next in the sorted order :)

  • Ashkenazi jews have won around 30% of all the STEM-related Nobel prizes, for whatever reason that ethnic group is insanely good at churning out intelligent, scientific-minded people– that is the reason why Germany falls off the map after WW2.

    • Fabian Romero October 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      jew is a religious adherence, not an ethnicity. And about half of those you consider ‘jew’ are actually atheist.

    • Since Germany’s dominance of science and technology ended as in 1945 its obvious the change was due to the war. Its also worth noting that the Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1900, but Germany’s dominance of science and technology existed long before 1900. Several things contributed to Germany’s science and technology leadership being stripped from them. The allies prohibited Germans from studying and further developing certain science and engineering fields, they stole many of Germany’s engineering developments and brought the Germans to the USA to further develop these products. Among the things Britain and the USA stole from the Germans (and prohibited the German’s from working in these fields for many years) was rocket technology, jet technology and stealth jet technology. The USA was the first country to land on the moon because they brought Werner von Braun and 100 of his colleagues to the USA after the war to build rockets for the USA. Von Braun spearheaded the landing on the moon. The USA gained the lead in civilian jet technology and lead this field for over 50 years by bringing German engineers to the USA after the war and prohibiting Germans from even flying for some years after the war.

      In addition Germany was physically destroyed and the study of pure science was inhibited by Germany’s former enemies also.

      It could have been worse. The allies originally planned to implement the “Morgenthau Plan” set forth by America’s Jewish Secretary of the Treasury in which Germany was to have all industry removed from the country and it was to be turned into an agrarian country. Germany was to be made into one huge farm. If the plan had been fully implemented an additional ten million Germans would have died. After WW II, the allies killed an additional several million Germans, but the figure was below 10 million.

      WW II was the best thing hat could have happened to the USA and the worst thing that could have happened to Europe.

      Some people on here mention Jews contribution to Germany’s success. While Jews were a factor in Germany’s success, they made up less than one percent of Germany’s population. Germany dominated the Nobel Prizes until 1945 and they had about 500,000 Jews. Poland had over 3 million Jews and received one Nobel Prize between 1900 and 1945.

  • I think I would have liked this better if the categories were small multiples.

  • Eleven Australians have won Nobel Prizes, including one in the team for Physics this year… again, left of the list like other countries, whilst a country like China (with three) gets on. A typically myopic view of the world from the US!

    • In fact, why not look at Nobel Laureates per head of population and see where a country such as Australia features then. It’s a nonsense, too, to count ‘foreign-born’ winners as Americans, unless of course they have become citizens on the US.

      • See my comment about Israel, population 7 million, 10 Nobel Prizes, including this year’s in Chemistry for the discovery of quasi-crystals

  • This is a great example of how editorial decisions can make the asset fit the format yet cause a greater ill. Whatever the criteria, the limited data set caused the exclusion of the entire African continent. I’m sure this is unintended but it is surely awkward.

    http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2011/09/women-laureates-message-on-death-of-wangari-maathai/?ref=196

    • As a North African myself, I deplore the fact that the continent has not produced much in terms of Nobel-worthy luminaries. Sure, there was Tutu and Mandela, and this year’s valiant attempt by Oslo to send a message via the women of Liberia. The non-scientific Nobels have a subjective component, so the committee could be pressured to symbolically name more Africans in the future. But the Continent is still a long way from producing decent candidates, as long as smart Africans continue to flee to Europe and the Americas…

  • ISRAEL (pop 7 million) has TEN Nobel prizes, only one less than Japan (170 million) and 7 more than China (1.4 billion).

    • It does seem to be a major omission from this data. Israel’s accomplishment is remarkable considering the small population and that the country started in 1948.

  • Very interesting discussion! Many factors determine who gets a Nobel, I believe nationality or ethnicity are more incidental factors in it than the circumstances surrounding the individuals. The fact that most of Europe and Japan were destroyed in WW II and America was not has a lot to do with where research flourished. It is easy to see that other countries are now catching up! As for China , India or the continent of Africa, colonialism was clearly the decisive factor in keeping them in the dark ages. No country should boast about Nobel prizes by numbers lest it backfires on them. For example, the unusually large number of Americans in the list of economics Nobel laureates could also be associated with the disastrous results recently in all those countries who followed the teachings and policies propagated in U.S. business colleges. Germany, on the other hand, calls itself not simply a “market economy” but a “social market economy” and has fared far better. I have been educated in India, Germany and the U.S. I have most benefited from the German education, primarily because of its emphasis on hands-on application of what I learned at the university while I was still at the university. It took slightly longer to graduate from the university but I needed no time at all being a full fledged member of the industrial team I joined after graduation. In the U.S. the industry complains that graduates need a long time before they are really productive. The bottom line is that Nobel prizes are not a good indicator of how good the education system in a country really is. What counts is how the country as a whole fares!

    • I could not disagree with you more, Subhash.
      I am a product of colonial education (French Morocco)
      We greatly benefited from colonial influx of culture, as did India, aside from the horrors or colonialism.
      The jibberish about Colonialism and the destruction of Japan and Europe being responsible for the decline of Nobel Prizes is pathetic:
      The USA did not in fact destroy Europe and Japan. They both did a great job destroying themselves. The USA through the Marshall plan helpled rebuild Europe, and a similar effort went on in Japan.
      Both Japan and Germany thrived in the wake of the non-colonial, non-Imperialist US victory.
      What did happen however is that post-WWII Europe abandoned creativity to concentrate on Social-Democrat policies.
      As far as Economis and failures, please wake up, Subhash: Nobel Economists have been on both sides: Keynesians, and supply-siders.
      To use the anecdotal current history to argue that American Economic models were a failure is to deny all the successes, not just in America, but in India, Brazil, Canada.
      Or perhaps you feel that without British colonialism, India would have been better off under a Soviet system?

      • I am not sure why you attack commentators with words like “wake up” and at the same time complain about others attacking your statistics. Several points to clarify: No, the US did not destroy Europe and Japan, they brought it upon themselves. I agree but I never said they did. The fact remains that the war made many prominent scientists, especially Jews, to move to America and America did benefit from not only their own research but what they contributed to building capabilities. The Marshall Plan was perhaps the single policy success America can point to in the post WW II era. No one doubts that. At the same time, it is also true that European science has made good recoveries since then.

        Now, with your use of words like “jibberish” you are again on attack. But let me tell you one thing: You are up against someone who knows a thing or two that you can only dream of when it comes to colonialism. I will only say one thing emphatically: Yes, India would have been far far better off without colonialism. Heck it was, in fact, better! That is the reason the colonials came to India! It was India and China that dominated the world economies in pre-colonial times when no colonial education existed there. Today, the world is worried again that the very same two countries may dominate in the future. The talk about India having benefited because of English education is nothing but self-serving arrogance of the Anglo-Americans. History shows clearly that many countries did very well, thank you, without English or French or Spanish colonialism and continue to do so.

        If you believe you benefited from French colonial education, good for you. I congratulate you! There are many Indians who also believe English education is what makes India’s economy vibrant today. They forget that education in India actually began to be useful AFTER the end of colonialism. One simple statistic will tell a lot: Literacy in India at the time of independence was 12%, which by the admission of the British authorities themselves was lower than when the British rule began. Today it is well over 60%. More Indians starved to death every year from famines under the British rule than they have in all the decades since they are gone. Even so, India today needs to catch up with her pre-colonial status of educating a skilled work force. The British destroyed India’s industrial capabilities by destroying her education system and her industries.They never introduced modern technical education in India. They only produced clerks! Today in America too it is the lack of solid vocational education that is at the root of our lack of competitiveness, and the strength of Germany.

        How “mature” of you to assume that simply because I think there is room for American education system to improve that I may think the Soviet system was better for India! Why would I believe that one colonial system is better than another? I don’t know who really needs to wake up here.

        The ground reality in India is that English has destroyed the very cultural backbone of what India really is. I don’t know whether you are Moroccan or simply a non-Moroccan who happened to be educated in Morocco. I grew up and got my undergraduate degree (natural sciences) in India, then two graduate degrees in Germany (engineering and economics) and one graduate degree in USA (business). I have worked in Germany for ten years and in USA for thirty years. I have worked in industry as well as academia. I did reasonably well with all this education, not all of it obviously was colonial. I write this to illustrate that you are not dealing here with an inexperienced person either.

        You may hire Europeans for your “international” corporation (whatever that is) but it does not make you an expert on European education. What we are talking about is not a comparison of highly educated individuals from different countries but what the average people get in terms of education because Nobel laureates don’t feed people today, they may help do so in the future no doubt but not today! Finally, whether or not the current economic problems are to be seen as anecdotal, let the future be the judge! After all, these problems are only dwarfed by the depression of the 1930s. Anecdotal?

  • Subhash,
    I am a debater, not an attacker, and if anything I wrote came across as a personal attack, I apologize.

    I have limited patience for thinkers who are eager to assail America’s accomplishments based on a facile assimilation of America with Imperial Powers of the past, willingly predicting America’s decline, as does Fareed Zakaria, whilst in the process diminishing her accomplishments.

    First, let me agree on some points: Europe (and Israel) did benefit from a European brain drain, from Von Braun to Einstein and Oppenheimer. So did the USSR by the way. But no brains migrated here from Japan, and Japan’s Nobel record is mediocre.

    And I agree that European education does require more vocational training than we do here. More on that in a moment.

    I will disagree on colonialism: Sir, I know more about colonialism than anyone. I am not only a true Moroccan, with documented ancestry going back centuries.
    For you see, not only am I a Moroccan, I am also a Jew. In Muslim countries, Jews have long had the status of “Dhimi”, a defined underclass under Sharia law. Dhimis are tolerated non-Muslim minorities who are required to not only submit to authority (Diaspora Jews always do) but also to accept diminished status. Dhimis may not dwell higher than a Muslim, may not hold certain positions or professions.
    India had her “untouchables” and Japan its “Etas”. Jews in Morocco were to live in the Mellah, a word derived from “salt” because when they were allowed to come to Morocco from Spain, they wwere confined to liveing near the salt stores, and were tasked with the responsibility to salt the heads and torsoes of decapitated criminals prior to burial.

    Of course India’s Priest and Merchant Castes had access to education. In Morocco, there was no such thing. The only schooling was the religious Medrasa, and teachers were sent to study in Egypt. Children were neither required nor afforded an education, until the colonial French came.
    My father only had religious education. My mother who was younger, was certified as a teacher under the colonial system with an 8th grade certificate, and taught children in a four-shift school mandated by the French, and continued after Independence in 1956.
    My generation however, got to learn and study in the full French curriculum.
    We traded “Dhimitude” for colonial enlightenment. We loved our King, and hoped with all our hearts that after Independence, he would merge national pride with the positive colonialist input.
    Unlike you, we had no pretense that our educational environment was better before colonialism.

    But now it is not unusual to read that Mali had Universities long before colonialism. I’m prepared to accept the depth of Indian culture as well. The difference is that it was made available to a precious few.

    A friend f mine mastered the sub-saharan African Bambara language in mere months.
    When I asked him how it was so easy, he said that the language only has 3300 words, and limited concepts. A far cry from Sanskrit and its rich tradition, but revealing nevertheless.

    As to American education, I wholeheartedly agree that we do not have a good vocational training system that is mandatory as it is in Germany for non-University-bound high-schoolers.
    But as you will see in my earlier exchange with Sabine in this string, please do not give me statistics that prove little: we have 4 times the population of Germany, ten times the Doctorate-granting universities, about 4500. The rest of our 17,000 colleges really are voacational training environments, often subsidized.
    One only needs to ride the train in Atlanta or NY and see the advertisements for “private colleges” which afre really vo-tech schools that train anything from medical record-keepers to criminal lab technicians.

    To a more personal item in your response, I choose not to mention my company’s name; however I can tell you that in order to hire managers for a company with a presence in every country, we do become quite familiar with the educational systems. I speak seven languages, and I do understand cross-cultural education as well as the value of different educational environments around the world.

    I admire your academic accomplishments and I am glad to have you on my team.
    I am quite confident in assuming that your Natural Sciences and Engineering textbooks were not in Hindi but in English and German.
    Likewise I will assume your Business studies were in English.

    What I cannot understand and will not accept, is the orientation that says that you will take the “post-colonial” spoils in the form of your three graduate degrees, settle in the USA for 30 years, and then proceed to argue that you could have accomplished better were it not for English colonialism.
    I see very few of my Indian-American highly educated friends aching to return to India and restore her pre-colonial glory.

    You state you have been here for 30 years (38 years for me); an Indian-American friend once answered the question “do you go back home often?” by saying: “I’m not sure what home is. Here, I’m a foreigner. There, I don’t belong anymore.”

    But to close the loop, if this is your home now, why can’t you accept the fact that innovation and excellence, greatly enhanced by immigration have lived in this imperfect society, and that a heck of a lot more has been accomplished since WWII than only the Marshall Plan?
    Ask yourself: Arpanet, NASA, Friedman and Krugman, microchips, AZT, solar technology.
    Is any of it “Made in Europe”?

    Yes of course our educational system could use some improvements. I’ll take our dropout Gates, Jobs, Allen, and such, over perfect bureaucratic French ENA graduates who never come up with anything new other than “not-Anglo-Saxon” any day. So do my friends Rajiv and Raguramachandran.

    [email protected]

  • It is good to know where we both are coming from. Also good to know we agree on some points. If you have little patience with those like me who have the temerity to point out the shortcomings of the system we live in, you will perhaps also understand if people like me have no patience with those who have never lived in India or studied her history in any depth even after spending their childhood and youth in India begin to criticize everything Indian and praise everything that is not.

    I do want to add a few angles to your observations about India before and after the British rule. First off, the undoubtedly despicable state of the caste system, although being slowly dismantled, remains a big drag on India’s potential. At the same time British surveys of educational status in India before the introduction of the British education do not support your statement that education was limited to the upper castes. The only area where your statement is accurate is the study of scriptures. But more than the statistics about schools or colleges my argument is that the Indian society was very well educated when it came to professions. Indian goods were noted for their quality the world over. Economists have attested that the world trade was dominated by India and China. These results could not have been achieved if Indians had no access to education. After a century of British education all of it was gone. The reason was that colonial education was not the same as education in England. Incidentally, the language in which anyone is educated does not necessarily have anything to do with its quality. There was every indication that knowledge lowed freely to and from India before the British arrived. It stopped after they began to rule India. Regretfully, my education in India was not British; it was colonial British! If there are so many highly educated Indians in the US today it is not a testimony of the high average quality of education in India which essentially still retains its colonial nature, only worse because in the name of English it has displaced even the most essential knowledge of Indian languages and therefore Indian culture. I respectfully disagree with many of the Indian friends who assign the current improvements in India solely to English education. The reality is that Indian industry and businesses can not find skilled workers in a country that is over a billion strong. I attribute it to the fact that India has not abandoned her colonial system.

    I wonder whether the list of names and projects you count as American would have been possible without the influx of so many who were indeed trained in Europe or elsewhere. Why did so many Americans go to Europe for education before WW II? There is no reason for me to diminish their success but to claim that they are solely the result of our education system is a little too much.

    There are stimulating points in your last response, not all of which I can agree with. Yet, as an analogy I might say that I am not a good cook but I do notice when the food I eat has too much salt and have the right to say so! It also does not take my right away to be in the kitchen.

    Lastly, my Indian-American compatriots will not be able to deny that unlike a decade or two ago many Indians are indeed going back. If some of the Indian-Americans are not at home in either country I can not blame them. More than a generation has passed in the mean time and re-adjusting to new realities is never simple.

    So then the question is what is being done to improve our education system? More than the universities it is the schools, and two year colleges that are the problem. More than the quality of the highest level institutions what are those folks getting who are either not rich enough to afford college or , let’s face it, do not qualify for legacy admissions? What about those who satisfy the high school graduation requirements but do not qualify to be admitted to a university because the schools are not up to it? How can we retain the advantages of the free enterprise system without sacrificing the masses? Why is inequality increasing and what role does education play in this? I will not solve these problems but I hope that “unhappy” soles like me will help stimulate some action.

  • Subhash,
    Debating is indeed an interesting sport! I did in fact specifically state that innovation has greatly been enhanced by Immigration.
    From day one, I have been critical of the American school system. I recall that in my system, the senior year of high school was intense, culminating in a major series of tests for the Baccalaureate. Here, they seem to start planning the prom in their junior year as a full time job. Language instruction is pathetic for a country with so many linguistic resources at its disposal. Many two-year colleges have become little more than a remedial station for what should have been learned in high school. My corporation went from requiring a High School diploma to requiring a college degree just to get an entry level management job. Skills are then taught in-house.
    Yes, the system needs major improvements. I’m not sure I would put it in terms of means and legacy.
    Indeed, school systems regularly lower their standards to achieve “results.”

    What is uncanny is the fact that education and innovation don’t always go hand in hand. Education does help provide financial success as well as a core of excellent technocrats, here, in Germany, France and India.
    But what does provide the drive? Even in Academics, the fierce competitiveness is indeed what provides the Nobel nominations, not education. Nobel nominees are usually beyond what can be taught anyway.

    I take your point about India. European explorers (later colonialists) set out searching for access to India’s goods and Chinese products, from silk to saffron.
    My point about colonial education is its universality. Mandatory schooling came with the colonials. Unlike what you describe in India, in most of Africa, few were educated before. And unlike your description, I had the opposite complaint about colonial French education: it was not local enough. In order to pass the tests and then qualify for French universities, our curriculum was the exact same as that of any Lycee in Paris.
    My mother continued her learning while teaching, simply by receiving the material from France by mail
    After Independence, a sprinking of Moroccan subjects were added, but they were an added burden.
    So we knew more about King Louis than about King Mohammed.

    Many systems have their failings. I believe a vigorous debate should take place on all fronts.
    I just do not believe that it is necessary to frame the debate in terms of comparisons with “better” systems. Unfortunately many of my European friends tend to do just that, forcing people like me to react by asking which system ends up producing innovation, and ultimately quality of life for most citizens?
    Of course we benefited from Tesla, but we produced Edison. Of course we benefited from Von Braun but we produced Neil Armstrong. Dr Vashi is my neighborhood’s favorite, and my colleague Pankar has more patents on his wall than my wallpaper has flowers.

    So, in debating terms, I have now blunted any criticism that I don’t appreciate the contribution of immigrants and their foreign education.
    But there must be something in the water here.
    And America, though never really a true colonial power, experiences the same phenomenon: we come, we rarely go back.
    At the end of the colonial era, on of the major points of negotiation for Independence was not only continuity of education, but even agreements to train leaders in the colonizing country so they could come back and take over the running of their country.
    Unfortunately, a great majority ends up remaining in France, England, Spain, Germany and of course the US, Chicken and egg?

    In conclusion, I do believe we should revisit our educational structure and methods.
    Similarly, Germany and France, and Cuba and Taiwan ought to also engage in their own soul searching, for no one is perfect, but criticism from outsiders stings more than arguing about the dirty laundry within the family!

    [email protected]

  • It has been exciting to do the “sparring”! I certainly have learnt from it. In different ways, perhaps, we both came in as outsiders and have become insiders. In India, where I often visit and where I have a large family that loves India but with wide open eyes and minds. When I criticize things in India they don’t look at me as an outsider because they know my criticism comes out of love. But i do encounter others who call me “you Americans”. Unlike some Indians you quoted I would describe myself as equally Indian and American. That is why I arrogate myself the right to criticize both and love both. I guess it is the flip side of the coin to the ones who don’t feel at home here or India. I think I am lucky to have two loves! I will add here that the individuals who hired me in the United States from my previous position in Germany were so different from the ones under whom I worked before retiring that the experience has become symptomatic of the decline that we see at so many places around us. It worries me.

    I have seen your e-mail address at the end of your last two responses but desisted from going there. This discussion began on the internet and I was not sure if it would be appropriate to move it to individual level. Thank you!

  • Subhash,
    If I had a problem with people writing to me directly, I wouldn’t sign with my email.
    I welcome personal conversations, as more often than not, the Comment strink on the NYT site tends to disappear rapidly, and sometimes the NYT even limits the number of comments.

    I totally respect your “bigamy” about loving both India and America. It’s a bit more complex for me…

    we do have one more thing in common: the people I worked with before I retired worried me as well, and they include young Indian-American MBAs. Not because they were Indian of course, but precisely because they seemed in some cases to have adopted the entitlement mentality, perhaps exaggerated because they were good, rather than accepting the humility that should come with opportunity, while at the same time ambitiously cultivating the best path to success. You and I depend on them now.
    I want both the gifted immigrants we inherit and the local kids to challenge themselves every day, relentlessly, to prove to us that they are an even better generation, as each new one should be.

    All the best, and feel free to write
    Guedy

  • Two weeks of holidays and that is what you get. A whole bunch of new posts here.

    First off, I will abstain from the discussion of the benefits or disadvantages of colonialism on the education of the local population. I don’t have a degree in history and no personal experience either, so I don’t feel like I could add something to the discussion or even adequately judge all of the arguments.

    Secondly, Subhash, your arguments were spot on and made it moot for me to bring them up myself. I’d like to thank you for that.

    Guedy, you might consider not jumping to conclusions right away just because people criticise the American system. Subhash as well as I (although you obviously came to a careful agreement with Subhash later on) never said that the systems we prefered over the American one were perfect. There certainly is place to improvement. But your arguments on how you’d take the brilliant exceptions over a bureaucrat any day are flawed.

    Of course brilliant scientists/inventors are the salt in the soup that is society. The problem is that without the vegetables, the meat and the water you cannot cook soup. The salt on the other hand, though essential for taste and on the long run for health also, is expendable for quite long periodes of time. You can live on a soup without salt, but not from salt only. What am I trying to say with that? I am trying to find an adequate metaphore to make my point about why a highly educated average population is more important in day to day life than a handfull of brilliant minds. Obviously those brilliant minds create more added value than the average guy, that is why they usually earn a lot more money, but the average guy could lead their lives without them also. Less wealthy, less advanced, I’ll give you that without hesitation. But the other way round? That will prove difficult. (I’m not saying a brilliant person would be unable to do a menial job — in the broad sense of the term — but they would have to if there were only brilliant minds. Because somebody has to produce what they invent! And clean the streets, administer budgets and so on.)

    Also you said that the most brilliant people you met were those with at least some Anglo-Saxon education. Well of course they are. They have a wider spread horizon than somebody who always stayed in the same place for their studies. I doubt that it has much to do with whether they went to an Anglo-Saxon country or anywhere else. More likely is that people with at least some Anglo-Saxon education are more likely to apply to a US based international company than those with let’s say a Swedish-Spanish or a German-French education. If you move far from home for a job, and the US is far from home when you’re European, then it’s either because of personal preferences (you like the culture, that particular job, the region) or because you think that your chances are better there. I don’t see how chances are better in the US for a European than they are in Europe, no matter the degree or the kind of education. So there is only personal preferences left. Obviously somebody who chose to study in an English speaking country does have preferences that are inclined towards the Anglo-Saxon world! Others don’t, but that doesn’t make them less brilliant per definitionem.

    You seem to think that just because some people disagree with you they have to be wrong. Well, that’s not the case. I simply put emphasis on other values than you do. Which is fine, as I said before. I am not here to proselytise, I am just voicing my opinion and deliver the arguments why I came to my conclusions. But you take it as a personal offence, which it is not, and in turn are very agressive and far from subjective.

    Oh, and btw. you got your numbers wrong, again. You said you had 10 times as many Universities and 4 times the population of Germany. Implying a ratio of 2.5. I take the liberty of correcting that. If my above mentioned numbers are correct (which they should be) then you have 6.66 times as many Universities (excluding two year programs) and 3.79 times the population of Germany, leading to a ratio of 1.76. One might think that the difference is not important, but since you make this the core of your arguments you should at least be accurate.

    And even this includes the institutes that primarily offer undergraduate education. If you include only those that award at least 50 Master-level or higher degrees per year, you are down to 930 Universities in the US, which leads to the interesting number of 334,408 inhabitants per University that produces a considerable output on graduate degrees, compared to 197,590 inhabitants per University with a considerable output on graduate degrees here (because apart from maybe a handfull of really, really small Universities of the 415 all award 50 or more graduate degrees per year).

    I know that this led far from the original topic, but I couldn’t leave that uncommented.

    • Hello Sabine (and I hope, Subhash)

      As you will observe if you followed the progression of my conversation with Subhash, initial comments to an article tend to be crisp, sharp, rather black-and-white and lacking nuance.
      If the conversation continues however, and it does not turn into a shouting match, one finds more intelligent and subtle issues to discuss.
      Both yoou and Subhash had an initial reaction to the Nobel statistics that was rather negative, at least as it pertains to the overwhelming number of Americans; but from different viewpoints.
      Yours, Sabine, was that even if Germany does not produce many Nobel laureates, Germans are better educated than Americans in general.
      Subhash’s basic reasoning is that country really doesn’t matter, but individuals do, and that Germany was destroyed in WWII, India was set back by British colonial education, etc.

      With respect, I disagreed with both, but not as “chauvinistic” a manner as you seem to have perceived:
      I am neither American-born, nor Anglo-Saxon educated.
      But one does not need a History degree to note that, notwithstanding Subhash’s view of pre-colonial India, those of us who were born in colonised countries had littlw education infrastructure before. This is not to glorify colonialism, but whether or not I like it, I am its product in some ways, as is Subhash.
      I know many, many Indians around the world, nearly all owe their education to English, along, of course, with a strong tradition of learning and desire to excel.

      I actually do believe that on average, Germans may have better formal education than Americans.
      My only point about numbers of Universities is the opportunity and availability. In many cases, our 2-year colleges are little more than vocational institutes, many private or subsidized, not unlike the private-public partnership that a company like say, Opel, has in Germany, to train non-University youths.

      If in fact Germans are satisfied that it is better to have a better-educated population on average, of course so would we !
      My point is not that drop-outs with a few geniuses are better than good education overall. My point is that despite the more universal nature of education in Japan and Germany, they both produce far less Nobel Laureates, and in many ways, far less innovation. I don’t know why, except that perhaps a certain national psyche drives certain people, including many with the same drive who come here because they feel they may be able to better act on their drive.

      Let me give you an interesting tidbit of history: when European Jews started to dream about moving to a land of their own, they found they had a serious problem: lots of Doktors, Professors, Engineers, Academics, Artists. But no railroad workers, no farmers, no street sweepers. A man by the name of Borokhov described it as an “inverse pyramid”, exptremely light at the tip at the bottom, and too heavy at the top.
      Thus was born a form of Socialist Zionism, that encouraged well-educated Jews to learn to dry swamps, till the land, make things.
      The joke was that when the first railroad was being built, locals heard a train on the first day. Surprised, they went to the construction site, but instead of the tsh-tsh-tsh of a train, they saw well-dressed Germans passing buckets of dirt and saying “bitte-shoen-herr-doktor, danke-schoen-herr-professor” repeatedly…

      Just two last points: my experience working with people at a Multi-national was not mentioned as a case of people here who had come to work with us. I meant the local managers and Cadres. germany was the first country that we were able to leave entirely alone with not a single US expatriate. Britian was second.
      Only because my business is entirely conducted in English worldwide was there a need for English knowledge, not because we preferred people with Anglo-Saxon training. On the contrary.
      Having said that, I found that they valued whatever Anglo education they got, whether computer science or aircraft engineering, or even a wider personal culture.
      And, let’s face it: as you said, Europeans do tend to be defensively competitive when comparing themselves to Europe. They’re not alone: Canadians are too!

      Finally, dear Sabine, surely, you didn’t learn your flawless English because anybody forced you to now, did you? :=)

      • Well, I am not a fan of brash statements. I try to avoid that kind of thing — although I freely admit that I’m not always successful — because it tends to “turn into a shouting match”. Why? Because I can’t abide idiots who see the world as black and white. Anyway, I can accept that it’s different for other people.

        And, just for your information — yes, I had to be forced to learn English. I didn’t like it at school, much prefered French (and Spanish for that matter). I suppose I still do, but as a scientist you don’t have much of a choice. If you don’t publish in English, it’s not read. It’s okay, eventhough it often lacks the subtility of German or the beauty of French, English is a very serviceable language for science, easy to learn for non native speakers and spoken by important parts of the scientific community.

  • By the way, an interesting article in the New York Times magazine this week addresses some of the comparative issues. If you cannot access it, I will be glad to email it to your email address.
    It is titled “The crisis you don’t know”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/the-other-reason-europe-is-going-broke.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=the%20crisis%20you%20dont%20know&st=cse

    • Yes, I remain interested and am reading. I also read that new article with interest.

      • Perhaps the three of us can teach International negotiators a thing or two about avoiding rash statements and respecting nuance in discussion or even in disagreement.
        In my global business experience, I have been through meetings where fierce disagreements were debated, but we always ended up chilling over a cocktail and a bet on cricket….

    • Interesting, and so American. They conveniently blend out some of the finer points.

      I agree that we do have a lot of problems. Especially in the southern countries, there is incredibly high unemployment among young people, wich is dramatic. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy and to some extend France also. Currently the average unemployment rate is 10.3%, obviously too high. But there are large differences between the countries! The winner is Spain with 22.9% (!), closely followed by Greece (18.8%) and Lituania (15.3%). But there are also countries like Austria (4.0%), Luxemburg and the Netherlands (4.9%) and Germany (5.5%).

      Now, I don’t have the detailed stats by state for the US, but the average is 8.6% of unemployment. That’s a bit better than the Euro zone with it’s 10.3% and even less impressive compared to the 9.8% of the whole of the EU.

      Also the argument about the national currencies is mostly rubbish. It is correct in a theoretical frame, but does not meet the actual problem. Disregarding Ireland, the countries mentioned don’t have anything they can sell. It doesn’t help to have a currency you can devalue if you don’t produce anything! On the contrary, the Euro at leasts guarantees a stable value of the currency, thus providing some economical certainity.

      Now Ireland is different. They actually have an economy. And you know what? They are back, with force! They do have high unemployment rates, but they are getting better. Ireland would not have showed the developpement they had if not for the Euro and the European Union. Neither before, nor after the current crisis. Actually what got them into trouble now was greed, and an absolute believe in the self regulatory powers of the market.

      Another point… Yes many European countries have rigourous laws to protect employees. Germany also. Nevertheless Germany was one of the first economies to boom after the crisis. Why? Because instead of letting workers go the companies kept them in what we call “Kurzarbeit” literally short time work. Basically every worker reduces his or her hours, some can thus balance their work time accounts that were overfull, in other cases the wages are proportionally decreased and the state pays part of the difference. It’s advantageous for everyone. Companies keep their experienced workers, the workers gain more than they would receive in unemployment benefits and the state pays less than what unemployment benefits would be.

      So well, I disagree with most of the conclusions the article draws. The GDP per capita even if it is the most commonly used indicator for the wealth of a society is hardly the best or even a good indicator. What is more important — at least to me — is the degree of social inequality and that the weak ones don’t have to struggle every day.

      I like to live in a welfare state, because that means that even though it is very unlikely that I’ll have to rely on it for a prolonged periode of time one day, I could. My parents could. My brothers, sisters, friends, neighbours and even the strange man down the street could or can. Call it Socialism, if you like, but I believe in a Society that stands up for each other. Even if that means that rich people have to shoulder more of the burden.

      Lastly, the article asks what Europe has to offer to the young people, who only have to abide to the laws of flexibility but do not profit from the security the old still have. Well, let me tell you what it it offers to people like me (I think at 28 I still count amongst the young adults): a dream. It offers the ideal of a Society that does count on more values than how much money you are able to make. A Society that has not forgotten what humanity means. It offers (higher) education, health care and retirement plans to everyone, not only those who are able to pay a lot of money for it.

      And I think that is the main difference between the prevalent ideals in the US and the EU. The US are all about individuals, individual chances and freedom, responsibility and risk. The EU are more about community, about solidarity between those who are strong and those who are weak. Of course I know that there are lots of shades between those two points of views, in both societies. Nevertheless, I think the tendencies are the way I described.

      It is also remarkable, that a nation that just so escaped Sutdown twice (!) last year has the audacity to criticise our crisis management, our economical system and our debt management. Btw., Germany (and Denmark some time ago) sold bonds for negative interest rates. I can only say: Take that, Standard and Poors. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,808080,00.html

      Bottom line is — I think — that we dream a different dream. And it is very hard for both sides to understand the logic of the other.

    • By the way, that is an interesting comment about being “forced” to learn English.
      In my humble opinion, if you had no interest in learning the language, then you should have let professional translators express your thoughts in English for you. Having worked with many, I can assure you that they are better than we are at understanding the subtleties of the writer’s language and converting them to equally subtle turns of phrases in English. Then, instead of wasting your brain time on something you do not like, you could invest it in your area of research and expertise, rather than the linguistics.
      It should never be necessary for you to simplify your thoughts just so you can express them in English.
      Goethe was said to know 35,000 words. I don’t read Goethe in English, but I do read Einstein in English, Don Quixote in French, and Hemingway in Spanish…

  • An interesting rebuttal of the article in the New York Times, which does not necessarily reflect the views of all Americans or mine for that matter. It would be a mistake to cast all Americans as monolithic and of a single mind. 40% of American voters consider themselves “Progressive”. Progressive here means that they believe in a system that resembles Northern Europe, but believe that it is a progression, not an instant decision by this government or that. Remember, States have a lot to say on the matter.

    What I always find puzzling is the issue of motivation. Is it as simple as stating that Americans are only motivated by money? Or that Europeans don’t care about money, only about social justice?
    The great majority of Americans never make a fortune, and taking a bit more from the very rich will not turn the USA into Norway overnight.
    But then, what is it that motivates people? If the safety net is so good (which it is) what motivates people in Europe to achieve? Germany is always the exception. As a veteran of European integration, I witnessed the amazing transformation of Southern Europe before and after 1992. Prices and wages quickly adjusted to the levels of the North, and Brussels provided. Subsidies, policies, all contributed to more of a market for Germany, but as you say, even less for them to sell.
    But never mind Greece, where “jobs” mean 6 people at the Acropolis staffing the ticket booth.
    In Europe, unemployment is measured simply by “not working”, whereas in the USA it is defined as the 26 weeks following the loss of job, so perhaps ours is even higher than Europes.
    But as an example: a friend of mine lost his job in France in 2005. For 5 years thereafter, he collected 3000 Euros a month and received all the social services.
    After 5 years, he received a letter simply saying his entitlement was extended by another 5 years, to retirement age. Good for him. I have a lot of younger friends in Belgium and other places who remain “unemployed” for years after high school.
    My question is, what is the motivation? In a report in Le Monde, a striking airport security agent was quoted as saying: “my salary is barely above my youth unemployment benefits. Why should I work unless it is going to be substantially more?”
    I believe that people like you and me are motivated by a personal desire to excel, and not by greed on my side, idealist dream on your side. And excel need not be big things.
    Bernard Henri Levy, the French writer, came to America to retrace the steps of Alexis de Tocqueville (an admirer of early American individualism with concern for community).
    BHL was determined to conclude that America today is inferior (presumably to France/Europe).
    In one chapter though, he described his conversation with a waitress in Idaho. A single mother, she told him she received $750 a month. He asked how do you live on that? So she described that she also receives x from the state, y from her ex-husband, and z from her mother’s savings. She also told him her kid will be entitled to free University in Idaho (yes, most states have that). So she worked for the extras, and to be social with her friends, etc…
    I didn’t see that in Greece and Spain this year. Whne lots of government jobs disappeared, some unemployed passed the time in demonstrations, others at the beach, and some in the labor black market.
    ironically, the latter were quite “American”. hey, government checks, plus tourist tips, good math!

    Which, to close that loop, however lightly, back to Nobel Prizes. Is it so simple as to say that Americans get so many Prizes because they are greedy? And Europeans get less because they are idealists?
    Paul Krugman, Nobel in Economics, writes daily in the Times absolutely preaching the European socio-economic model. Is he motivated by greed? Well, he charges $30,000.00 per speech, where he explains why the wealthy should be taxed at above 95% “because 100% is not realistic.”
    Nuance, subtleties….

    • Guedy, at no point did I call Americans greedy. I just pointed out that they emphasise more on the individual than Europeans do. This is a fact that has been acknowledged in Political Sciences and Sociology for a long time. And I also said that I was obviously aware that there were a lot of shades of the two ideologies mentioned in both societies.

      Also, the security agent at the airport, he did work, didn’t he? He was not on the dole, even though his income was high. There are very few people who go to work solely for money. They also go to work to feel useful or accomplished. That is their motivation. My job at University does not bring a lot of money. Just enough to live on, to go on a holiday every now and then and to put a little sum aside. If I worked in a private company, with my education I could probably earn three times what I’m making now. But I’ll be damned if I leave an interesting, fascinating job just to make more money.

      As for being forced to learn English… I really didn’t have much of a choice. It was obligatory in our school curriculum. And I didn’t say that I’m not grateful now, but I was a teenager and really disliked the language even when I could admit its usefulness. And translations don’t help in science. First of all, most of what I have to read is English. A more basic level would probably be enough to understand them, but I still have to give talks in conferences and communicate with colleagues all over the world. I can’t rely on somebody translating everything I say or write for me. Also professional translators translating your scientific papers never works well. The vocabulary is too specific, too technical. They would have to be experts or at least be knowledgeable in my field of research, which they aren’t. It doesn’t work, believe me, we tried several professionals who specialised on scientific translations. We have professionals proof read our papers and even that leads to very funny results at times.

  • PS: By now you know I stay close to issues about Europe.
    Another long article in the Times, this time about “Europe”, continent? Union? Concept? History?
    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/09/where-is-europe/?nl=opinion&emc=tya1

  • Let us get back to the original chart of Nobel prizes. I noticed that before 1940 Germany was the dominant Nobel country. It also was the country with a long history -since the 1880s- of providing health and retirement insurance to its citizens. Britain too had a sort of health insurance system but not as well developed as Germany. After WW II the British system became gradually more widespread. Britain also shows larger numbers of Nobel prizes in the post WW II period until the late 1970s. In the US, the Social Security and Medicare act was passed in 1965. The US Nobel numbers also went up impressively. Do I see some correlation between general welfare of the population and the number of Nobel prizes here?

    • Do you really? If I follow your logic, when Germany developed more health and retirement benefits, it had more Nobel Prizes; when the UK did after WWII, it had more Nobel Prizes. When the US….
      Just a sec: the Social Security act was passed in 1935, not 1965. Medicare was added in 1965 to make the State systems more coordinated at the Federal level.
      But if you want to establish a correlation between Social programs and Nobel Prizes, then that logic must be flawed: why is it that as Germany and Britain dramatically increased their social programs post-WWII, their numbers of Nobel Laureates diminished?
      I hesitate to bring up this point, but do you really want to credit pre-WWII National Socialism in Germany for both being a model of social responsibility AND a breeding ground for Nobel Prizes?

      • @Subhash: Interesting idea, I never thought about that. I don’t think I agree though, I think the afflux of Nobel Prices for the US after WWII is definitely due to European (in large parts German) scientists leaving Europe for the US. The later years are in my opinion a result of an increasingly better educated population.

        @Guedy: As I said above, Europe suffered from severe Braindrain after WWII. This has not only an immediate influence on Nobel Prices but also a long term influence. Brilliant scientists are those who train the new generation to become brilliant scientists one day. And brains attract other brains. Why do you think Germany was able to keep the position it had for such a long time? It’s not because Germans are smarter than other people by birth (we know where that idea lead us), but there were smart people educating younger, equally smart people and attracting smart people to study there from all over Europe. It’s a tradition established over hundreds of years. The US did not have this tradition and profited from the knowledge of those fleeing Europe. It has for decades now, and we see the results on the chart above. Smart, young Americans profited from the supplementary knowledge brought to them and in turn became brilliant scientists themselves. They educated the next generation and so on… That’s the way it works.

  • Not at all! In fact, the point I was making is that it is NOT logical to correlate just one factor with the outcome. It is far more complex than that. Books have been published by researchers on similar issues. One recent one that illuminates the complexity is titled “The Spirit Level” by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. It is about what income equality or inequality does to all kinds of indicators of human well-being. The point both of you mention that better education is the reason is absolutely on target. In fact, Guedy’s last comment confirms what I wrote some time before, that the US benefited not only from the influx of European scientists but continues to benefit from scientists from all over the world. Those “imported” scientists were not a product of US system but they found a fertile soil in our well funded and forward looking institutions of higher learning. As good as that is, it also is something to think about. At my state funded university here in the US, the Dean of Engineering once issued a directive to professors asking them to try to have at least 50% of graduate students from the United States. The professors showed him the lists of candidates applying for graduate studies. They were listed according to their merit and there were by far not enough Americans at the top to satisfy the 50% requirement. What do we think of that? I know personally that a lot of Indians are among those at the top of such lists. But I also know that they are there not BECAUSE of the good Indian system but DESPITE it. If so many of them do not go back, it is also because the institutions in India that value them are very few. The broader system there is in very bad shape. Many Indian leaders claim that the bottom heavy population pyramid of India gives India the future edge over China, where population is aging faster. But guess what? The average Chinese is better educated and better nourished than the average Indian. Will her poorly educated and undernourished young people be an asset or rather a liability? If India hopes to catch up with China there is no other way than to improve the average! A dozen or so top institutions will not do in the long run. So, ultimately it does come down to what we value: The maximum good of maximum number of people or the maximum possible achievement by only those who can.

  • I hope everybody is right.
    I hope that with good education and less brain drain, Germany will show more Nobels, if it matters.
    I hope that it is true that here as well, better educated post WWII Americans will educate smart people.
    I hope that India finds its balance between encouraging some return and growing its own institutions.

    I am one of those Americans who truly believe that what is best for America and the World, is for every nation, at whatever stage of development, grows its own, enlightened learning environment, and that everyone can take pride both in their national accomplishments and their contributions to the world’s progress.

    I don’t need America to feel superior. I read newspapers in four languages every day precisely because I want to follow trends, and not only the negative ones.
    I like when France takes pride in a new discovery, or Brazil becomes energy independent with sugar and aircraft manufacturing.

    You’ll just have to forgive me if I react to oversimplified statements like “our system is better than yours”, which I hear from my Japanese and French friends often, or the oversimplified explanations as to why the USA does well in many areas.
    It is what it is. I’ll enjoy my French literature, Brazilian music, German elevator, Indian Doctor, and hope to see more recognition of scientific achievements from Universities from Manila to Kiyev.

    [email protected]

  • Subhash,
    I see young Indian-Americans excelling all the time. I would assume that if they come to your State Funded University as in-state students, they would be considered “Americans”, as opposed to “foreign students”?
    I have worked with both, and I don’t much care what the classification is. Once again, we benefit from the drive of bright young people.
    If anything, your anecdote proves that young Americans who want to and qualify, have plenty of access to higher education!

  • Yes, American born Indians are now in ever larger numbers in their adulthood. They should be counted as Americans, although it is not as automatic as one presumes. When one of my children, a U.S. citizen, applied to graduate schools, specifically requesting forms for U.S. citizens, was sent application forms for foreign students by about one third of the universities, presumably simply by looking at their names. It may have changed in the mean time because of the increasing numbers of such students.

  • Subhash,
    I do enjoy your perspective.
    As we know, Immigration into the USA goes in waves. One only needs to observe taxi drivers in NYC to see it.
    In the 1960s, there were many Greek cab drivers. Then they were Haitian. Then they were Israelis. Then Bengalis. Then Sikh. Then Pakistani, and now Arabs. It is not unusually to talk to a cab driver by the name of Patel or Singh and find that he has a Masters in Mathematics. Asked why he drives a cab, he will usually answer that “I want my children to get the best education.” Not as a handout.
    You also remind me of my friend Mo Siddiqui from Hyderabad. He visits India every year. His sons, both American born, are engineers now. One day he came to work complaining that his son was dating “an American” while there was a perfectly suitable relative in Chicago that his mother wanted him to marry.
    Therein lies what a French writer called “les eaux melees”, the mixed waters.
    One son married an “American” while the other married an arranged bride from Hyderabad.
    The boys fiercely compete with us on the College Football pool, but wear 22 carat Indian gold.
    Who wins? As a country, we do. As individuals, they do too.. Can India hope that everyone, from Brahmins to Untouchables get access to education and entrepreneurship? Of course.
    When will it happen? This decade? This generation? Through cultivating individual achievement? Or social justice? Americans like to believe they have the best experiment in Democracy. I think India now does.
    It is tempting for a large country to be lured into total equality, which usually means the lowest common denominator.
    India’s best bet is to take the best of American and Chinese neo-individualism, and combine it with the power of numbers, values, education, and social responsibility.
    Europeans by and large no longer really believe in “charity”, as in the haves giving to the have-nots.
    They believe in a socio-economic structure that evens the playing field without the need for Charity.
    Americans and Indians continue to believe that to whom much is given, more giving is expected.
    some derogatorily call it “trickle-down”, but it’s not so simple. If Bill Gates gives 20 billion to causes, it is not wrong, and in retrospect, it was OK that he made 50 billion while helping put a computer in every home, which in turn may lift a rural Indian child out of ignorance and into knowledge.

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