The first Nobel prizes in chemistry and physics were awarded in 1901. Since then, only 10 women have received these honors. Marie Curie was the first woman to win the physics Nobel in 1903; she followed it up with a chemistry Nobel in 1911.
Today, two women – Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A Doudna have been awarded the 2020 Nobel prize in chemistry “for the development of a method for genome editing.” The CRISPR tool has been described as genetic scissors that can be used to edit DNA with extremely high precision and has revolutionized biomedical science. Only seven women, including Charpentier and Doudna, have been awarded the Nobel in chemistry since the first prize was awarded in 1901. This is the first time that two women have shared the prize.
On Tuesday, Andrea Ghez became the fourth woman to win a physics Nobel, following Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018. Ghez shares the prize with Reinhard Genzel and Roger Penrose. Penrose receives one-half of the prize “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.” Genzel and Ghez share one-half “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.”
Commenting yesterday, Michael Maloney, CEO of American Institute of Physics noted: “I am particularly delighted to recognize Andrea’s being only the 4th woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics. When Donna Strickland was recognized in 2018, I said that her being the first woman in 55 years to win was ‘way too long.’ This statement remains true today. We have a long way to go yet to achieve gender equity in physics and a longer path yet to achieve true inclusivity and belonging in our field.”
Echoing Michael’s sentiments, Alix Vance, CEO of AIP Publishing, added, “While we have a long road to travel, this is an important milestone demonstrating that progress is being made and that we can close these gaps. With Ghez, Charpentier and Doudna recognized this week, we are indeed one step closer.”