Switzerland - Best Country in the World?
Quality of Life.
2 of the world's top 3 most
livable cities and 3 of the top 9 are located in Switzerland
(Mercer survey 2010).
As of 2010-2011,
Switzerland tops again the overall ranking in the
Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum.
is the world's leading science nation,
as shown below and to the right.
Patents. Switzerland has
the highest number of patents per capita, and
is world leader in per capita R&D expenditure
(2000 World Competitiveness Report of the IMD).
Switzerland boasts the world's highest number of scientific
publications per capita, as well as the most citations per capita
Here are the
physics: Switzerland 40.5, Israel 21.0, Sweden 16.4,
Germany 13.3, UK 9.5, US 8.8, Italy 7.6, Japan 7.0.
It also has the most publications per scientist (in this ranking
the runners-up are closer, due to
fewer scientists per capita):
Switzerland 14.3, UK 12.2, US 11.2, Holland 10.6.
Similarly for citations per scientist:
Switzerland 196.4, US 146.0, UK 140.7, Holland 130.3
(Reckling 2007, UNESCO database).
In particular, a Swiss boasts
most cited single-author paper ever (200,000+ cites).
In business Switzerland is also punching far above its weight.
For many decades it had the world's highest
GDP per capita; it still has the world's largest
wealth per capita
(Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2010).
When the two Swiss pharma companies
Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy merged to become Novartis in the 1990s,
this was the biggest merger in industrial history so far,
quite remarkable for a country of
only 7.5m, or 0.001 of the world's population.
Today 2 of the world's top 6 pharma companies are Swiss.
So is the world's largest food company.
Banking does play a role, but is not
the most important industry. Much of Swiss GDP
is contributed by small companies with at most a few 100 employees,
many of them world leaders in their particular niche markets.
Many CEOs and 45% of the professors are foreigners (soon >50%).
Excellent industry-oriented professional education yields high
Multilingualism is the norm.
Switzerland is surrounded by the
European Union (a new kind of empire?),
which in many ways is like a giant version
of Switzerland, whose individual states (cantons) retain a lot
of power, with mutually competing tax systems, lots of local direct democracy &
referendums, and a consensus-based federal government whose largely unknown leaders frequently change on a routine basis.
Switzerland got the
highest ranking in the
list of happiest countries (1990s average), according to the Happiness Foundation.
Switzerland is the land of superlatives,
leading the world in science,
Nobel Prizes, patents,
quality of life,
competitiveness, happiness, many sports,
you name it. The Swiss are too modest
to boast about this, but for
Prof. Schmidhuber it's ok to say that,
since he is not Swiss.
boasts far more Nobel Prizes per capita than any other nation
that collects Nobels on a regular basis,
even when we do not consider all the foreign laureates living here.
Ignoring statistical outliers St. Lucia and Iceland (each with a single laureate,
according to the Nobel Foundation),
Switzerland is the only country with
nearly 3 Nobel Prizes per million capita
(properly taking into account that
most laureates get only 1/2 or 1/3 or 1/4
of the prize).
The large science nations all have values below 1 (so do most small nations).
In the above graphics on the evolution of national shares
of all Nobel Prizes 1901-2006,
the vertical width of a nation's colored band at
each year measures its percentage of all Nobel Prizes up to that year.
Switzerland is the prominent red band.
Note how many of the prizes it got, although it is now
40 times smaller than the US, and 10 times smaller than Germany,
which led the absolute Nobel Prize count
until 1956 (until 1965 if we consider
only the laureates' countries of birth; until 1975
if we consider only the sciences).
Below we list some of the greatest breakthroughs
that took place in Switzerland.
Albert Einstein, perhaps the
most famous scientist ever,
had his "miraculous year" 1905 at a patent office in Berne, Switzerland, and
published his master work on general relativity theory 1915 in Berlin. Back then he was both German
and Swiss (see
and in fact he had Swiss citizenship longer than any other.
voted him greatest
physicist ever (poll for Physics World magazine; source: BBC News, 29 Nov 1999); he also
became TIME magazine's person of the century.
Today his theories have innumerable practical applications.
Switzerland is birth place
World Wide Web, created in 1989 by British scientist Berners-Lee
at the European particle collider
CERN near Geneva, Switzerland.
Within two decades the WWW changed the lives of billions, for example, yours.
CERN itself boasts
the biggest and most expensive scientific machine ever, designed to figure out how
the world works.
Swiss inventions & discoveries & heroic deeds
with world-wide impact include
those of Euler (18th century, among the greatest scientists ever,
discoverer of math's "most beautiful formula" ei&pi+1=0),
logarithm tables (Bürgi, 1588-1610),
the first technical journal (Scheuchzer, 1705),
variation calculus & probability theory (Bernoulli, 1713),
the electrostatic telegraph (Lesage, 1774),
photosynthesis analysis (Senebier, 1788),
the internal combustion engine (de Rivaz, 1807) which
eventually led to the second industrial revolution (driven
by the more practical but later engines of Otto & Benz & Diesel),
the first multinational enterprise (Fischer, 1833),
cough pills (Wybert, 1846),
the Red Cross (Dunant, 1864),
the copying machine Schapirograph (Fuerrer, 1902),
the origins of intelligence in children (Piaget, 1936),
the drug LSD (Hofmann, 1938),
artificial hip joints (Müller, 1960),
electronic watches (Accutron, 1959),
the electric toothbrush (Tavaro, 1960),
nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (Ernst, 1966),
the quartz watch (Centre Electronique Horologer, 1967),
the Pascal programming language (Wirth, 1968),
high temperature superconductors (Müller & Germany's Bednorz, 1986),
the first planet orbiting another star (Mayor & Queloz, 1995),
Tamiflu (Roche, 1999),
Gleevec (the first wildly successful cancer drug, Novartis, 1990s),
the first human stratosphere flight (A. Piccard, 1931),
the first and only trip ever to the ocean's deepest point (J. Piccard, 1960),
the first balloon trip around the world (B. Piccard, 1999),
and many, many more.
Switzerland is among the world's most sportive nations,
collecting many more Olympic medals per capita than
almost all other countries. The plot above refers
to the most recent Summer & Winter Olympics (2008 & 2010),
where 7.5m Swiss
won 8 golds - more than 1.0 golds per million capita (gpmc). This puts them
in an exclusive club with Jamaica (6 golds / 3m people = 2.0 gpmc),
Norway (12 golds / 5m = 2.4 gpmc), and
East Germany (1976:
47 golds / 16m = 2.9 gpmc;
1980: 3.5 gpmc; the number of golds per Games
has grown by 64% since 1976 though).
The values of the large
nations are clearly below 0.5 gpmc; most small nations have 0.0 gpmc.
Switzerland also has the lowest obesity rate (7.7%)
of the Western world (compare: US 30%, UK 23%, Germany 13%, Norway 8.3% -
OECD Health Data 2005). Japan has only 3.2% though.
TIME magazine's millennium issue (1999) called the Swiss-born LeCorbusier
the most influential architect of the 20th century.
architects are the Swiss Herzog & de Meuron (e.g.,
Olympic stadion of Beijing).
Two of the 30 Pritzker Prizes so far
(dubbed the architecture Nobels) went to the little
country with just one thousandth of the world's
population (most recent laureate: Zumthor, 2009).
Swiss also dig the world's longest tunnel
(57km - BBC 2007).
Democracy was invented by the Ancient Greeks.
By some definitions of the concept, Switzerland is the oldest still
existing democracy (since 1291).
Copyright notice (2010):
To make his job ads (1,2,...)
tried to find a compact summary of what's great
about Switzerland, but could not find any (are the Swiss too modest?), and so he
made one. (In fact, many Swiss aren't aware of all the great Swiss achievements listed here.)
JS will be delighted if you use
the text in this web page and/or the Nobel graphics in the second column
for educational, non-commercial purposes, including
provided you mention the source and provide a link.
Above: Roger Federer, often called the greatest tennis player ever, man
with the most Grand Slam titles (16 as of 2009), and only athlete ever to become
Laureus World Sportsman of the Year more than twice (actually 4 times: 2005 - 2008). Another recent Swiss athlete superstar is Simon Ammann:
at the 2010 Olympics he became the
first ski jumper ever to win 4 gold medals.
is director of the
Swiss Artificial Intelligence Lab IDSIA, birth place of
the New AI (formal & general).