Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland win physics Nobel

A portrait of Alfred Nobel the Swedish industrialist and inventor can be seen on a banner at the Nobel Forum in Stockholm Sweden

A portrait of Alfred Nobel the Swedish industrialist and inventor can be seen on a banner at the Nobel Forum in Stockholm Sweden

American Arthur Ashkin of the old Bell Laboratories was awarded one half of the 9 million Swedish kronor ($1.01 million) prize for "optical tweezers", and the other half went to France's Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland of Canada's University of Waterloo for laser advances that were turned into the beams that correct nearsightedness.

The Nobel prizes have always been dominated by male scientists, and none more so than physics.

Ashkin, who made his discovery while working at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1952 to 1991, is the oldest victor of a Nobel prize, beating out American Leonid Hurwicz who was 90 when he won the 2007 Economics Prize.

These became the standard for high-intensity lasers, for example used in millions of corrective eye surgeries per year.

Marie Curie won the physics prize in 1903 and the chemistry Nobel Prize in 1911. "I'm honored to be one of those women", Strickland said in a news conference following the announcement in Stockholm.

Strickland had became attracted to laser physics for not only scientific but also aesthetic reasons: She noticed the green and red beams that shone throughout Mourou's lab like a Christmas tree.

The optical tweezers created by Ashkin can manipulate living cells like viruses and bacteria without damaging them. Strickland is only the third woman in history to win the physics prize.

The 59-year-old Guelph, Ont., native made the discovery while completing her PhD at the University of Rochester in NY and will share half of the US$1.01-million prize with her doctoral adviser, French physicist Gerard Mourou.

Using the CPA technique, the peak power of laser pulses grew much more rapidly and it is now a regular feature at laser labs around the world.

Dr Strickland has said she enjoys the competitive rush of pushing the boundaries of what lasers can do.

Around the same time, Mourou and Strickland were working together at the University of Rochester to overcome a problem that had dogged laser research for decades: High intense laser beams tended to destroy the material used to amplify them.

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"I knew he was right, it just seemed very bombastic for me to say it in front of the experts of the world", she said.

2015 - Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald were awarded the prize the discovery that neutrinos switch between different "flavours".

When she received the call this morning telling her about the award, as many Laureates in the past have said, she was in disbelief.

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