Nobel Prizes are a big honor not only to their winners but to the country the winner is from. The news overnight that Elizabeth Blackburn has been bestowed the Nobel Prize for medicine gives Australia something to boast about.

The Australian Government’s “Study In Australia” website, for example, lists a history of Australian Nobel Prize winners as a reason to study in Australia. “With a population of just over 21 million, Australia is one of the leading Nobel Prize–winning countries in per capita terms.”

Winning countries in per capita terms perhaps, but lets look at it a different way. Since the Nobel Prize was first established in 1901 there have been 260 winners from The United States. Australia? 10.

Yet given the prestige a Nobel Prize awards a country, particularly when it’s potentially a country’s first female winner, it is little surprise that Australia and the US are currently engaging in a headline tug of war, each claiming recent Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn as their own.

  • 3 Americans share 2009 Nobel medicine prize — Newsx
  • Two American Women Win Nobel Prize for Medicine — Women’s Rights
  • “Immortality Enzyme” Wins Three Americans Nobel Prize — Bloomberg
  • Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider And Jack Szostak: 3 Americans Share 2009 Nobel Medicine Prize — The Huffington Post
  • Scientist Australia’s first woman Nobel laureate — The Age
  • Australian wins Nobel Prize for medicine — Sydney Morning Herald
  • Australian scientist wins Nobel prize — ABC News
  • Australian researcher Elizabeth Blackburn woman wins Nobel Prize for Medicine — news.com.au

So, whose Nobel Prize tally count will Blackburn contribute to?

Both it appears. Blackburn, who was born in Tasmania but moved to the U.S. 30 years ago, has dual Australian-U.S citizenship.

This means that, although her work was conducted in the U.S., Australia still can claim Blackburn as its first Female Nobel Prize winner.

And what a title it is. Female Nobel Prize winners are far and few between. Since the Nobel Prize was established in 1901 there have been almost 800 male laureates and only 35 females, however thanks to Blackburn and her colleague Carol W. Greider that number now stands at 37.

Have women really only contributed to 4.63% of the most outstanding achievements of the past 100 years? Crikey wants your thoughts.

If you think there are any Australian women who, as asserted in the Will of Nobel Prize creator Alfred Nobel, “have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind [sic]” send you suggestions to [email protected].

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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