Brilliant women scientists win Nobel prize

Science superstars: They won their prize for creating “genetic scissors” © Getty

Is science sexist? Two women have made history by sharing the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Only seven women have ever won the award, but the total for men is 180. Some say science must change.

What’s happening

Early on Wednesday morning, French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier had a phone call. It was from Sweden.

The person on the phone had exciting news: Emmanuelle had won a Nobel Prize. And she had made history. She and her fellow chemist, Jennifer Doudna, were the first women to share the award.

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The Nobel Prize is awarded each year to people who have achieved amazing things in different fields.

There are six prizes awarded each year in subjects including physics, literature and peace.

Emmanuelle and Jennifer are the sixth and seventh women to win the chemistry trophy – although nearly 200 men have won it in the past.

Jennifer said she was happy to be part of this historic moment, saying “I’m proud of my gender.”

The first woman to win a Nobel Prize was Marie Curie. During her lifetime, she won both the physics and chemistry awards – the only woman ever to win twice.

But since then, only nine other women have won Nobel Prizes for chemistry or physics.

Is science sexist?

Some say…

Yes, it’s obvious! Many of the brilliant minds behind the scientific discoveries of the last 200 years were made by women. But they are not remembered. This sets a bad example for young girls interested in science because they have few female role models to look up to. The Nobel Prize should celebrate more female scientists in future.

Others think…

It’s not that simple. The problem is that there aren’t as many female scientists in the first place. Only 12% of those working in science are women. This is a problem that has nothing to do with science but society. Boys are encouraged to behave differently when they are growing up. As a result, more boys choose to study STEM subjects.

You Decide

  1. Who is your favourite scientific role model?

Activities

  1. Make a poster about Marie Curie. Draw a picture of her and present facts about her life and work.

Some People Say...

“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.”

Marie Curie (1867–1934)

What do you think?

Word Watch

Sweden
A country in Scandinavia. The Nobel Prize was named after a Swedish scientist called Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite. The group that decides the prize winners is still based in Sweden.
Nobel Prize
Each Nobel Prize has prize money of about £860,000. When winners share the prize, they divide the money between them.
Chemist
An expert in chemistry.
Peace
The Nobel Peace Prize is perhaps the most famous. Previous winners include Barack Obama and Malala Yousafzai.
Marie Curie
She worked alongside her husband, making discoveries about radioactivity that have changed the world. She is the only person to win the Nobel Prize for two different subjects.
STEM
An abbreviation used to describe a certain collection of subjects: science, technology, engineering and maths.

Subjects

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