The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics has been jointly awarded to three scientists for their “groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics,” and for the first time in over half a century, a woman is one of the winners.
Prof. Donna Strickland, a Canadian professor from Waterloo, Gerard Mourou from France and American Arthur Ashkin will share the near million dollar prize, $998,662.97 to be exact. Ashkin will receive the biggest share, and at 96, he will be the oldest man to ever receive the award.
The scientists were recognized for their use of light to create miniature tools. Arthur Ashkin invented the “optical tweezers,” highly focused beams of light that explored microscopic objects and living organisms. Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland collaborated to develop a method of generating high intensity ultra-short optical pulses.
Strickland’s award comes one day after Cern, the European nuclear research centre, suspended senior scientist Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University, who told a seminar that physics “was invented and built by men” and females often land jobs with fewer journal publications. Cern said his presentation was “unacceptable in any professional context.”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Strickland is the third female physicist to win the prize. No woman has won the Nobel prize since Maria Goeppert-Mayer who won 55 years ago for her discoveries about the nuclei of atoms. The only other female winner is famous physicist, Marie Curie.
Strickland was reportedly brought to tears upon learning she was the first in over 50 years.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“I thought there might have been more but I couldn’t think. Obviously, we need to celebrate women physicists because we’re out there. Hopefully, it will start to move forward at a faster rate. I’m honored to be one of those women.”