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Nobel China

China has had an impressive rise economically in recent decades. Historically, it was the source of many globally important innovations. We wonder: How many Chinese citizens have been awarded a Nobel Prize in any field since the prizes were first given out in 1901?

A. Zero
B. Five
C. Seven
D. Twenty

A. Zero is not correct.

A Brazilian citizen has never been awarded a Nobel Prize. It is the only one of the so-called BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — to which this applies.

The 1960 Physiology or Medicine Laureate, Peter Medawar, was born in Rio de Janeiro, but left as a child and spent the remainder of his life in the United Kingdom. A UK citizen, he was teaching at University College London when he was awarded the prize.

Recipients are counted on the basis of the nationality they held at the time of when the award was given. The country of their birth does not count if that nationality was abandoned. Laureate with multiple citizenships are counted for each country.

Among other key emerging market nations, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia also have no Nobel Laureates. In comparison, Argentina has five, Mexico two and Turkey two.

The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize went to a group from an emerging democracy, Tunisia, for their work in the country’s political transition after the 2010/2011 revolution. So far, Tunisia has been the only country in the Arab Spring to stay on the path of building a relatively stable and peaceful multiparty democracy.

B. Five is correct.

There have been only five Nobel Laureates who were Chinese citizens at the time they were awarded their prizes, according to Encyclopedia Britannica and NobelPrize.org, the official website of the Nobel prize.

The latest of them is Tu Youyou, a co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, awarded “for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.” Dr. Tu is only the 12th woman to win that prize (and she is the 11th to share it with male co-recipients).

In 2012, groundbreaking novelist and essayist Mo Yan (who writes under the pen name Guan Moye) won the Nobel Literature Prize for his works of “hallucinatory realism” that merge Chinese “folk tales, history and the contemporary.”

In 2010, human rights campaigner Liu Xiaobo, won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, while in prison. (He still has not been released.) Liu was the first Chinese Laureate in more than half a century. In 1957, Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang were jointly awarded the Physics Prize, making them the first two Chinese citizens to become Nobel Laureates.

India, like China, also has had five Nobel Laureates in all categories. The first recipient was poet Rabindranath Tagore, who was awarded the Literature Prize just over a century ago, in 1913. He was the first Nobel Laureate from outside Europe or North America for any category.

The most recent recipient was Kailash Satyarthi, who shared the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai. Both received it “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” in India and Pakistan respectively, as well as worldwide.

C. Seven is not correct.

South Africans have won seven Nobel Prizes. The first South African recipient was Max Theiler, in 1951, who received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his research on yellow fever.

South Africa’s most famous Nobel Laureate was Nelson Mandela, who shared the 1993 Peace Prize with South African President F.W. de Klerk. The latter was the final leader of Apartheid-era South Africa and arranged the transition to Mandela’s leadership the following year.

The Nobel Peace Prize was also awarded to South Africans for anti-apartheid efforts in 1960 and 1984, to ANC president Albert Lutuli and Archbishop Desmond Tutu respectively. The 1991 Literature prize went to South African author Nadine Gordimer for her anti-Apartheid writings.

The most recent recipient was J.M. Coetzee, a South African author, who won the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature.

D. Twenty is not correct.

The total number of Nobel laureates from Russia or the Soviet Union is 20. The first Russian laureate was Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, who was awarded the Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904.

Russia’s most recent laureate is Konstantin Novoselov, a University of Manchester-based professor, who received the 2010 Physics Prize. The last Soviet-era Laureate was Mikhail Gorbachev, the country’s leader, who was awarded the Peace Prize in 1990.

Until 2015, there had been no Nobel Prizes awarded to people from former Soviet Union countries other than Russia. The 2015 Literature Prize was awarded to non-fiction author Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

Japan surpassed Russia’s Nobel count this year. The 2015 prizes for Physics and for Medicine or Physiology both included Japanese co-recipients. This means there have now been 21 Nobel Laureates who were Japanese citizens at the time of their award.

Only five countries have more Nobel Prize winners than Japan, Switzerland and Russia. They are Sweden (33), France (57), Germany (80), Great Britain (107) and the United States with 349 Nobel Prizes.

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