2009 – Ada Yonath

By Amy Morris (Bogeret and Madricha)

In 2009, Ada Yonath won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. This made her the first Israeli woman to receive a Nobel Prize, the first woman from the Middle East to a Nobel Prize in the sciences and the first woman in 45 years to win a Nobel Prize for Chemistry. However, she commented that there was nothing special about a woman receiving the award. She won the award for her structure and functions of the ribosome along with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz. Their work has, among other things, been instrumental in the development and production of antibiotics. Ada Yonath said that "People called me a dreamer" when she first started researching ribosomes back in the late 1970s. Yonath's parents were Polish refugees who moved to Jerusalem in 1933. Her father was a rabbi but ran a grocery shop after failing to find work. The family found it hard to make ends meet. Growing up she slept on the floor and waited once a week for a truck to come so they could collect buckets of water. Yonath remembered books being the only thing that kept her occupied. One that particularly caught her attention was a biography of Marie Curie.