Three researchers on Tuesday shared the 2018 Nobel Physics Prize for inventions in the field of laser physics that have paved the way for advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery and industry, the jury said.
Arthur Ashkin of the United States won one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million or 870,000 euro) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada shared the other half.
Ashkin, 96, was honored 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.
Ashkin, who is Jewish, is the oldest person ever named as a laureate for any of the prestigious Nobel awards.
Meanwhile Mourou, 74, and Strickland — only the third woman to win the Physics Prize — won for together developing 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.
BREAKING NEWS⁰The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the #NobelPrize in Physics 2018 “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” with one half to Arthur Ashkin and the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland. pic.twitter.com/PK08SnUslK
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 2, 2018
Strickland is the first female Nobel laureate to be named in three years and is only the third woman to have won the physics prize; the first was Marie Curie in 1903.
“Obviously we need to celebrate women physicists, because we’re out there. And hopefully in time it’ll start to move forward at a faster rate, maybe,” Strickland said in a phone call with the academy after the prize announcement.
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.