Is there, as some commentators have claimed, affirmative action at work in the awarding of Nobel Prizes?
If there is, it has been almost entirely restricted to the Peace Prize in recent years. The Nobel Committee publishes a year-by-year list of winners, with photographs and clues to nationality, here. Scanning back through the last ten years, I get the following headcounts.
I have used the Ice People / Sun People schema of We Are Doomed, with Europeans and East Asians as Ice People, Africans and Amerindians as Sun People. Subcontinental Asians I have cut crudely, with Moslems as honorary Sun People and non-Muslims as honorary Ice People. It’s a fair balance, I think, and doesn’t actually make much difference to the numbers.
Here we go. For each year I list the six Nobel categories in order: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Peace, and Economics. The score in each box is Ice People / Sun People, so “2-0” means two Ice People and no Sun People.
That gives us totals of 28-0 for Physics, 25-0 for Chemistry, 27-0 for Medicine, 10-0 for Literature, 4-6 for Peace, 17-0 for Economics.
There are some gray patches. The guy from Mauritius may be a Muslim, for all I know — one-sixth of Mauritians are. It doesn’t make much difference. The Nobel Prize looks awfully like an Ice People club, and those earnest Scandinavians feel terrible about it.