Skip to main content

Are people from London and the South East physics dullards?

All together now: 'Maybe it's because he's not
a Londoner, that he's a physics great...'
While walking the dog yesterday I got to thinking about Isaac Newton (the way you do) and from him, of the other great physicists in British history. And it started me thinking that London and the South East is rather under-represented.

As a little experiment, I've listed all British Nobel Prize in Physics winners, plus the obvious individuals who would have won a Nobel if it had been around in their day.

I came up with:

  • Isaac Newton (NE)
  • Michael Faraday (born in London, but his family had just moved from NW)
  • James Clerk Maxwell (Scot)
  • 1904 Lord Rayleigh (SE)
  • 1906 J J Thomson (NW)
  • 1915 WH and WL Bragg (NW)
  • 1927 Charles Wilson (Scot)
  • 1928 Owen Richardson (NW)
  • 1933 Paul Dirac (SW)
  • 1934 James Chadwick (NW)
  • 1937 George Thomson (East Anglia)
  • 1947 Edward Appleton (NE)
  • 1948 Patrick Blackett (London)
  • 1950 Cecil Powell  (SE)
  • 1952 John Cockroft (NW)
  • 1973 Brian Josephson (Wales)
  • 1974 Martin Ryle (SE)
  • 1974 Anthony Hewish (SW)
  • 1977 Nevill Mott (NE)
  • 2003 Anthony Leggett (London)
  • 2013 Peter Higgs (NE)
So, London manages 2, and the SE manages 3. That's not a bad score, but still seems a little meagre compared with 7 from the North West.

Of course the numbers are small, and it's hard to read a lot into such statistics (though it's worth a pause for thought that we didn't get a single Nobel Laureate in Physics between 1977 and 2003). Even so, it would be interesting to compare the ratio of, say cabinet minsters from London and the South East to other parts of the country since 1901 (the year of the first Physics Nobel).

My suspicion is that such a comparison might suggest that where physics greats are chosen on merit, cabinet ministers are chosen for a different reason entirely.

P.S. I couldn't be bothered to go through cabinet ministers, but I did prime ministers and it's quite interesting that a) Scotland is over-represented, b) NW is under-represented and c) the domination of London and the SE is relatively recent:

  • Arthur Balfour (Scot)
  • Henry Cambell-Bannerman (Scot)
  • Herbert Asquith (NE)
  • David Lloyd George (Wales)
  • Andrew Bonar Law (Colonies)
  • Stanley Baldwin (Midlands)
  • Ramsey McDonald (Scot)
  • Neville Chamberlain (Midlands)
  • Winston Churchill (SE*)
  • Clement Attlee (SE)
  • Anthony Eden (NE)
  • Harold Macmillan (London)
  • Alec Douglas-Home (London)
  • Harold Wilson (NE)
  • Edward Heath (SE)
  • James Calaghan (SE-ish**)
  • Margaret Thatcher (NE)
  • John Major (SE)
  • Tony Blair (Scot)
  • Gordon Brown (Scot)
  • David Cameron (London)

  • The two starred items are because we don't have a South Midlands:
    * Oxfordshire is spiritually SE
    ** Portsmouth is not spiritually SE, but Hampshire is


    Popular posts from this blog

    Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

    The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

    Why I hate opera

    If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

    Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

    Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope