The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to a woman for the first time in more than half a century.
Canadian Donna Strickland has become only the third female winner of the award. Dr. Strickland shares this year’s prize with Arthur Ashkin from the US, and Gerard Mourou from France. The Nobel prize worth a total of nine million Swedish kronor (approximately equivalent to $1,000,000) recognizes their discoveries in the field of laser physics.
The team developed a technique called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA). The technology is used to create the most precise and intense laser pulses. It has a wide range of uses, ranging from modern corrective laser eye surgeries to laser therapy targeting various cancers.
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) offered it’s congratulations to the winners: “The countless applications made possible by their work, like laser eye surgery, high-power petawatt lasers, and the ability to trap and study individual viruses and bacteria, only promise to increase going forward.”
By doing so she joined the ranks of Marie Curie, who was awarded the Physics prize for her work related to radioactivity in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was given the prize in 1963 for her work on atomic structures.
Marie Curie was a Polish-born woman who spent her adult years in France. She is best known as a chemist and the pioneer of modern radioactivity research. She was the first woman to win a Nobel prize and the first of only two people to win for two different sciences, Physics and Chemistry. Marie Curie shared the 1903 award with her husband Pierre Curie and Antoine Henri Becquerel.
German-born American physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer was the last woman to win the physics prize, given the award for her discoveries about the structures in the nuclei of atoms. After her death, a grant award was created in her honor by the American Physical Society to help young female physicists.