Todmorden beaten to the Nobel punch - but Grammar School’s still tops with two different winners!

Sir John Cockcroft
Sir John Cockcroft

Todmorden is justifiably proud of the fact that it has produced two Nobel prizewinners.

But a number of questions relating to the awards - including is the town the smallest place to produce two Nobel winners - have sparked the imagination of ex-pat Todmordian Duncan Williamson, who with the help of the Nobel Prize website and a Facebook page to open debate has been digging out some facts and figures.

Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson

Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson

Duncan says: “I was born and brought up in Todmorden and still have family there although I now live in Thailand. Along with just about every Todmordian since 1951, I have talked with pride about the achievements of Sir John Cockcroft and then of Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson. I have been answering questions concerning our Nobel Prizes and the Prizes of others.

“Is Tod unique in having two Nobel Laureates? Is Tod punching above its weight in terms of Laureates versus population size? Is Tod Grammar the only school to have produced two Laureates”

Duncan, whose findings are published on his blogspot began crunching numbers.

As might be expected, big cities top the list with New York producing 46 winners with Paris second (25) and London third (19). Todmorden is one of 41 places to have claimed two Nobel prizewinners and is one of just 89 to have claimed more than one prize.

The question of number of awards related to population was the key inspiration behind his interest, said Duncan.

“For me, this is the big question: person for person, is a Todmorden Nobel Prize worth more than one anywhere elese on the planet? In other words, is Todmorden the smallest town in the world to have been awarded two Nobel prizes?” he said.

Using modern day population figures, a two prize place has a mean population of more than 960,000 and a median of almost 388,000 inhabitants, whereas Todmorden has only around 15,500 inhabitants. The largest two-prize city is Mexico City with 8.9 million people while Halifax, 12 miles away with a population of around 88,000 also has two, John E. Walker and Oliver Smithies.

Alas, small though Tomorden may be, Duncan’s research revealed Tod has been beaten to the punch! Rendcombe, in Gloucestershire, with a population of just 354 people, also has two - though they were won by the same man, Frederick Sanger. Frederick won the Chemistry prize outright in 1958 and outright again in 1980! “Sanger helped to answer another question raised on the Facebook page, namely ‘is Todmorden Grammar School the only school to have produced two Nobel Prizes? Again, no.

“However, let’s find a winning angle for Todmorden: Sanger won two prizes but he is only one Laureate, albeit Laureate and Bar - so for having two Laureates from the same school, Tod is tops!”

Other stats on winners, including their ages (at 54 Sir John was two years younger than the average Physics Laureate and - for a Chemistry Laureate - at 52 Sir Geoffrey was six years younger) are also examined by Duncan in his study.