Professor Strickland is the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics since 1963. “The inventions being honoured this year have revolutionised laser physics,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on awarding prize. “Advanced precision instruments are opening up unexplored areas of research and a multitude of industrial and medical applications,” it also said. Professor Ashkin, 96, won one half of the million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) prize, while Professor Mourou and Strickland of Canada shared the other half.
Dr Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers, which is used to study biological systems. Drs Mourou and Strickland paved the way for the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created. They developed a technique called Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA). Reacting to her win, Dr Strickland, who is based at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: “First of all you have to think it’s crazy, so that was my first thought. And you do always wonder if it’s real.The last woman to win the physics prize, German-born American physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer, took the award for her discoveries about the nuclei of atoms.
In a statement, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) offered its congratulations to all the winners, adding: “The countless applications made possible by their work, like laser eye surgery, high-power pettawat lasers, and the ability to trap and study individual viruses and bacteria, only promise to increase going forward.