Age dynamics in scientific creativity

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Nov 22;108(47):18910-4. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1102895108. Epub 2011 Nov 7.


Data on Nobel Laureates show that the age-creativity relationship varies substantially more over time than across fields. The age dynamics within fields closely mirror field-specific shifts in (i) training patterns and (ii) the prevalence of theoretical contributions. These dynamics are especially pronounced in physics and coincide with the emergence of quantum mechanics. Taken together, these findings show fundamental shifts in the life cycle of research productivity, inform theories of the age-creativity relationship, and provide observable predictors for the age at which great achievements are made.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Creativity*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Natural Science Disciplines / history*
  • Natural Science Disciplines / statistics & numerical data*
  • Nobel Prize