Woman among three laser pioneers honoured with Nobel Physics Prize

2018-10-02 15:14
A screen displays portraits of Arthur Ashkin of the United States, Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada during the announcement of the winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. (Hanna Franzen/AFP)

A screen displays portraits of Arthur Ashkin of the United States, Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada during the announcement of the winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. (Hanna Franzen/AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Stockholm – Three scientists on Tuesday won the Nobel Physics Prize for inventing optical lasers that have paved the way for advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery and in industry, the jury said.

Arthur Ashkin of the United States won one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01m) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada shared the other half.

Ashkin, 96, was honoured for his invention of "optical tweezers" that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers.

With this, he was able to use the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, "an old dream of science fiction," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

A major breakthrough came in 1987, when Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them, the Academy noted.

Ashkin, who made his discovery while working at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1952 to 1991, is the oldest winner of a Nobel prize, beating out American Leonid Hurwicz who was 90 when he won the 2007 Economics Prize.

Meanwhile Mourou, 74, and Strickland – only the third woman to win the Physics Prize – won for helping develop a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, "the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind," the jury said.

Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery.

Mourou was affiliated with the Ecole Polytechnique of France and the University of Michigan in the US, while Strickland, his student, is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

Women are 'out there'

Speaking by phone to the academy, a moved Strickland said she was thrilled to receive the Nobel prize that has been the least accessible for women.

"We need to celebrate women physicists because they're out there... I'm honoured to be one of those women."

Before her, only Marie Curie and Maria Goeppert Mayer had won the physics prize, in 1903 and 1963 respectively.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has in the past lamented the small number of women laureates in the science fields in general.

It has insisted that it is not due to male chauvinism bias on the award committees, instead attributing it to the fact that laboratory doors were closed to women for so long.

ALSO READ: James Allison, Tasuku Honjo win Nobel for lifesaving cancer research

"It's a small percentage for sure, that's why we are taking measures to encourage more nominations because we don't want to miss anyone," the head of the Academy, Goran Hansson, said on Tuesday.

Last year, US astrophysicists Barry Barish, Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss won the physics prize for the discovery of gravitational waves, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity.

On Monday, two immunologists, James Allison of the US and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, won this year's Nobel Medicine Prize for research into how the body's natural defences can fight cancer.

The winners of the chemistry prize will be announced on Wednesday, followed by the peace prize on Friday. The economics prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 8.

For the first time since 1949, the Swedish Academy has postponed the announcement of the 2018 Nobel Literature Prize until next year, amid a #MeToo scandal and bitter internal dispute that has prevented it from functioning properly.


Read more on:    nobel prize  |  arthur ashkin  |  donna strickland  |  gerard mourou  |  sweden  |  science

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.