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Women Nobel Prize Winners – Women Who Won Nobel Prize

by Bani Banerjee
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There is no other prize in the intellectual realm replicating the prestige of the Nobel Prizes. In 1901, the first-ever Nobel Prizes begin. Between the years 1901 and 2020, the Nobel Prizes and the Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded 603 times to 962 people and organizations. In the first year, no women won with this great award. As of 2020, only 57 women won the Nobel Prize, and a total of 58 Nobel Prizes are presented to women. About one in every 20 years!

The First Female Nobel Prize Winner – Madame Marie Curie

The first-ever woman Nobel Prize winner was Marie Curie, who won the prize in Physics in 1903.

‘Madame’ Marie Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist, who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She is also the only woman who has won it twice. She won once in physics (1903) and once in chemistry (1911). Adding more to her pockets, her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. This made the two the ‘only mother-daughter pair’ to have won Nobel Prizes.

Why Are There So Few Women Nobel Prize Winners?

In the history there have been very less women Nobel Prize winners when compared to men. Göran Hansson, Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Nobel Foundation said, “We are very proud of the laureates who were awarded the prize this year. But we are disappointed looking at the larger perspective that more women have not been awarded. Part of it is that we go back in time to identify discoveries. We have to wait until they have been verified and validated before we can award the prize. There was an even larger bias against women then. There were far fewer women scientists if you go back 20 or 30 years.”

He also added, “If you look at the Nobel Prize committees, there are women chairing three of the six committees. There are female scientists on all the committees. So, I don’t think there is any substantial, er, male chauvinist bias in the committees.” to his justification.

However, 2009 was memorable because most women won Nobel Prizes in that year. This year five women became laureates in four different categories. These women Nobel Prize winners certainly opened up the path for many others who are to come after them.

Women Who Won Nobel Prize

There are few women Nobel Prize winners but they have done extraordinary work in their respective fields. We have listed down the names of these women and their achievements.

Women Nobel Prize Winners
YearNameCountryCategoryDetails
1903Marie Skłodowska CuriePoland and FrancePhysicsShe was awarded for her extraordinary work in the joint research on the radiation phenomena.
1905Bertha von SuttnerAustria-HungaryPeaceShe was awarded for her audacity to oppose the horrors of war in her book – Lay Down Your Arms
1909Selma Lagerlöf SwedenLiteratureShe was awarded for the condescending idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterise her writings.
1911Marie Skłodowska CuriePoland and FranceChemistryShe was awarded the second time for her discovery of Radium and Polonium.
1926Grazia DeleddaItalyLiteratureShe was awarded for her idealistically inspired writings.
1928Sigrid UndsetNorwayLiteratureShe was awarded majorly for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages.
1931Jane AddamsUnited StatesPeaceShe was a Sociologist and President of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
1935Irène Joliot-CurieFranceChemistryShe was awarded for her contribution to the synthesis of new radioactive elements.
1938Pearl S. Buck United StatesLiteratureShe was awarded for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces.
1945Gabriela Mistral ChileLiteratureShe was awarded for her lyrical poetry inspired by powerful emotions. It made her a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world.
1946Emily Greene BalchUnited StatesPeaceFormerly Professor of History and Sociology; Honorary International President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
1947Gerty Theresa Cori United StatesPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for her participation in the discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen.
1963Maria Goeppert-MayerUnited StatesPhysicsShe was awarded for her participation in the discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure.
1964Dorothy Crowfoot HodgkinUnited KingdomChemistryShe was awarded for her participation in the project – determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances.
1966Nelly Sachs Sweden and GermanyLiteratureShe was awarded for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel’s destiny with touching strength.
1976Betty Williams and Mairead MaguireUnited KingdomPeaceFounder of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (later renamed Community of Peace People).
1977Rosalyn Sussman YalowUnited StatesPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for the development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones.
1979Mother TeresaIndia and YugoslaviaPeaceLeader of Missionaries of Charity, Calcutta.
1982Alva MyrdalSwedenPeaceFormer Cabinet Minister; Diplomat; Writer
1983Barbara McClintockUnited StatesPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for her discovery of mobile genetic elements.
1986Rita Levi-MontalciniItaly and United StatesPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for her discovery of growth factors.
1988Gertrude B. ElionUnited StatesPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for her discovery of important principles of drug treatment.
1991Nadine GordimerSouth AfricaLiteratureShe was awarded for her magnificent epic writing style.
1991Aung San Suu Kyi MyanmarPeaceShe was awarded for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.
1992Rigoberta MenchúGuatemalaPeaceShe was awarded in recognition of her work for social justice and ethnocultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.
1993Toni MorrisonUnited StatesLiteratureShe was awarded for her real-like writing style giving life to an essential aspect of American reality.
1995Christiane Nüsslein-VolhardGermanyPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for her participation in the discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development.
1996Wisława SzymborskaPolandLiteratureShe was awarded for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.
1997Jody WilliamsUnited StatesPeaceShe was awarded for her participation in the work for the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines
2003Shirin EbadiIranPeaceShe was awarded for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She focused on the struggle for the rights of women and children.
2004Elfriede Jelinek AustriaLiteratureShe was awarded for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays.
2004Wangari MaathaiKenyaPeaceShe was awarded for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.
2004Linda B. BuckUnited StatesPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for her participation in the discoveries of odorant receptors and the organisation of the olfactory system.
2007Doris LessingUnited KingdomLiteratureShe was awarded for that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire, and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.
2008Françoise Barré-SinoussiFrancePhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for their discovery of HIV, human immunodeficiency virus.
2009Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol W. GreiderAustralia and United StatesPhysiology or MedicineThey were awarded for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.
2009Ada E. Yonath IsraelChemistryShe was awarded for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.
2009Herta MüllerRomania and GermanyLiteratureShe was awarded for her being the one who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.
2009Elinor OstromUnited StatesEconomicsShe was awarded for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.
2011Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol KarmanLiberia and YemenPeaceThey were awarded for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.
2013Alice MunroCanadaLiteratureShe was awarded for being the master of the contemporary short story.
2014May-Britt MoserNorwayPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for her participation in the discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.
2014Malala YousafzaiPakistanPeaceShe was awarded for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.
2015Tu YouyouChinaPhysiology or MedicineShe was awarded for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria.
2015Svetlana AlexievichBelarusLiteratureShe was awarded for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage.
2018Donna Strickland CanadaPhysicsShe was awarded for her participation in the method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.
2018Frances ArnoldUnited StatesChemistryShe was awarded for the directed evolution of enzymes.
2018Nadia Murad IraqPeaceShe was awarded for her joint efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict
2018Olga Tokarczuk PolandLiteratureShe was awarded for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life
2019Esther Duflo France and United StatesEconomicsShe was awarded for her participation in the experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.
2020Andrea M. Ghez United StatesPhysicsShe was awarded for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy.
2020Emmanuelle Charpentier FranceChemistryShe was awarded for the development of a method for genome editing
2020Jennifer DoudnaUnited StatesChemistryShe was awarded for the development of a method for genome editing.
2020Louise GlückUnited StatesLiteratureShe was awarded for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.
2021Maria Ressa PhilippinesPeaceShe was awarded for her fight for freedom of media.
2022Annie ErnauxFranceLiteratureShe was awarded for the way she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.
Female Nobel Prize Winners

Women today and in history have been part of outstanding breakthroughs. They reshaped the landscape of science, only a few get to hold the Nobel Prize. Whether conscious or unconscious, biases affect the prospect of women getting recognition for their skills and hard work. There are various ways and steps that can improve this situation. Like in the UK, they select a candidate from an under-represented group. Hopefully, we will see more women Nobel Prize winners in the future.

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