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Is There a 'Secret Formula' to Winning a Nobel Prize?


Glasses and beards?

Wish there were a "secret formula" to winning a Nobel Prize?

There probably isn't, but there is most certainly a pattern.

The BBC took a look at every winner since 1901 and found that overall, winners of the prestigious award are most likely to be an older, American male who is married, shaves regularly and does not wear glasses.

Here's the full formula:

bbc nobel prize formula A snippet of the BBC's infographic showing of Nobel Prize winner patterns. (Image source: BBC)

The BBC said that all of its data for winners reflected their status at the time of the award, except for literature and peace prize winners whose data reflects their status while obtaining their undergraduate degrees.

Here's the full graphic:

bbc nobel prize infographic The BBC analyzed data for all Nobel Prize winners since 1901 to figure out if there was a "secret formula" to winning. (Image source: BBC)

Head over to the BBC to check out the infographic in more detail.

The 2013 Nobel Prizes are being awarded this week. Here are the winners so far:


Three U.S.-based scientists won this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing powerful computer models that others can use to understand complex chemical interactions and create new drugs.

Research in the 1970s by Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel has helped scientists develop programs that unveil chemical processes such as the purification of exhaust fumes or photosynthesis in green leaves, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. That kind of knowledge makes it possible to optimize catalysts for cars or design drugs and solar cells.

nobel prize_chemistry This Wednesday Oct. 9, 2013 photo shows a webpage showing the laureates Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel as winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry, announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. The prize was awarded for laying the foundation for the computer models used to understand and predict chemical processes. (AP)


The physics prize was awarded for a theory about how subatomic particles that are the building blocks of matter get their mass. The theory made headlines last year when it was confirmed by the discovery of the Higgs particle, which originates from an invisible field that gives particles mass. This theoretical understanding is a central part of the so-called Standard Model, which describes the physics of how the world is constructed. The prize was shared by two men who proposed the theory independently of each other in 1964: Peter Higgs of Britain and Francois Englert of Belgium.

A combo of recent pictures taken on July 4, 2012 at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) offices in Meyrin near Geneva shows British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, left, and Belgian theoretical physicist Francois Englert, who were awarded laureates of the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics at the Nobel Assembly at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Oct. 8, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images/Fabrice Coffrini)

Physiology or Medicine

The medicine prize, the first of the 2013 awards to be announced, honored breakthroughs in understanding how key substances are moved around within a cell. That process happens through vesicles, tiny bubbles that deliver their cargo within a cell to the right place at the right time. Disturbances in the delivery system can lead to neurological diseases, diabetes or immunological disorders. The prize was shared by Americans James E. Rothman of Yale University and Randy W. Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley; and German-American Dr. Thomas C. Sudhof, of the Stanford University School of Medicine at Stanford University.

Randy Schekman Of UC Berkeley Shares Nobel Prize For Medicine University of California, Berkeley professor Randy Scheckman holds up a lifetime parking pass as U.C. Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks looks on during a news conference, Oct. 7, 2013 at U.C. Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif. Scheckman, along with American James E. Rothman and German-American Thomas C. Sudhof, were awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their work on how the body's cells decide when and where to deliver the molecules that they produce. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

Coming Up

The Swedish Academy will reveal its choice for the Nobel literature award on Thursday and a Norwegian committee will name the winner or winners of the Nobel Peace Prize Friday. That award is always announced in Oslo, in line with the wishes of prize founder Alfred Nobel. This year's Nobel season ends with the economics award on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Featured image via

(H/T: io9)



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