Nobel Prize for Israeli woman

By Jessica Elgot, October 7, 2009
Follow Jessica on Twitter
Ada Yonath

Ada Yonath

An Israeli has become the first woman in 45 years to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Ada Yonath, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, won the 2009 prize along with American partners Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz for "studies of the structure of the ribosome."

The ribosome is the mechanism in the body which translates the DNA code into life.

The study will be used for advances in antibiotics.

Professor Yonath, who is a single mother, received an honorary degree from Oxford University last year.

"I was pretty surprised, because I wasn't expecting it," she told Israel Radio.

Only three women have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry and none since 1964 when the UK’s Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin received the award.

The Nobel Prize is an award of 10 million Swedish kronor (£900,000) and a medal.

The prizes will be presented at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of award founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.

Sheridan Gould, director of Weizmann UK, said: "It is just the most fantastic achievement, our phones haven't stopped ringing all morning. It's a great honour, not just for Israeli scientists but for women in science, and I am thrilled that this unbelievable woman, who has worked so hard, has been honoured in this way."

She added: "Apparently Shimon Peres has been trying to call her all morning, but she's turned her phone off!"

The Nobel Prize for Literature, which will be announced tomorrow, has two strong Jewish contenders, Israeli writer Amos Oz and American Philip Roth.

Last updated: 11:03am, October 13 2009