Physical Sciences Rankings: They're working on what goes on
10 November 2011
The US takes each of the top six places in the physical sciences league table - and 27 of the top 50.
Honours are shared for the top spot by the West Coast's California Institute of Technology and the East Coast's Princeton University.
Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the US, but its work in the physical sciences is as up to date as it gets.
The first undergraduate chemistry laboratory in the US was founded by Princeton physician John Maclean in 1795, and throughout the 19th century chemistry was a required subject for all Princeton students.
Today, it boasts the flagship Frick Chemistry Laboratory, opened in 2010. It is the second-largest single academic building on the university's campus and houses some of the world's most advanced instrumentation in the discipline.
Covering a range of subjects including astronomy, chemistry, mathematics and physics, the physical sciences is a globally diverse field - and an increasingly competitive one.
Although the US accounts for more than half the world's top 50, there are nine countries represented in the table.
France has three representatives: the École Polytechnique, the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and the école Normale Supérieure.
Pierre et Marie Curie is one of the three famous Parisian Sorbonne universities. It specialises in science and medicine and it accounts for the lion's share of the annual budget allocated to the trio: €472 million (£416 million) out of €684 million.
Its foundations in the heart of the capital's Latin quarter date back 900 years. Its most famous alumna is Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband Pierre for their work on radioactivity, and the prize for chemistry in 1911 for her research into polonium and radium - research that ultimately cost her her life.
Curie remains the only woman to have won two Nobel prizes.