First Female To Win Nobel Prize For Physics In 55 Years

Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland Win 2018 Nobel Prize In Physics For Laser Inventions

Nobel Prize in Physics Shared by Woman for 1st Time in 55 Years

Arthur Ashkin, the American who developed "optical tweezers", became the oldest Nobel Prize laureate at age 96.

The other half will be split by Donna Strickland, of the University of Waterloo, and her former co-worker Gerard Mourou, now at the Ecole Polytechnique in France, for their development of chirped pulse amplification (CPA), a technique of harnessing high-intensity lasers.

The inventions revolutionized the field, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted in its announcement. "This new tool allowed Ashkin to realize an old dream of science fiction - using the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects", the academy says in its press release.

Mourou and Strickland worked together as supervisor and graduate student, at the University of Rochester, to develop methods of creating the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever produced.

Their work paved the way for laser eye surgery to improve vision and studies that can manipulate cells and their innards.

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Donna Strickland, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, became the first woman to win a Nobel in three years and is only the third to have won the prize for physics.

Dr Strickland has said she enjoys the competitive rush of pushing the boundaries of what lasers can do. Strickland says. "It's not like I was thinking, 'Oh, somebody should give me a Nobel Prize.' It's sort of surreal". The duo conceived of a brilliant approach to creating ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying the amplifying material.

The Nobel prizes have always been dominated by male scientists and none more so than physics. At a press conference back in 1963 after she won the prize, she said the model came from a discovery that the particles of atoms behave "very much like partners in a waltz".

"Their innovative work can be found in applications including corrective eye surgery, and is expected to have a significant impact on cancer therapy and other physics research in the future".

2014 - Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura won the physics Nobel for developing the first blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

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Last year's prize was awarded to the trio of Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne for their work which led to the detection of gravitational waves: ripples in the fabric of spacetime, produced during violent events, such as the merger of black holes.

Asked what her first reaction to the news was, Strickland told the press conference announcing the prize, "First of all, you have to think it's insane, so that was my first thought".

The award is worth a total of nine million Swedish kronor (NZ$1,516,421.91).

Out of 923 total Nobel Prize laureates, only 48 of those have been women, and just three in the physics category.

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