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Women Nobel Laureates

Gertrude Elion, 1918 - 1999

In 1903, two years after the Nobel Foundation was established, Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, in Physics; eight years later, Curie became one of the few dual Nobel laureates when she won the Prize in Chemistry. Since then, 28 additional women have won Nobel Prizes, representing all categories except Economics (added to the Nobel roster only in 1968).

The 29 female Nobel laureates, however, have been far outnumbered by the over 600 male prizewinners. They have also been heavily clustered in two categories, with two-thirds winning for either Peace or Literature. Only ten women have won a total of 11 Nobel Prizes in the scientific categories of Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology or Medicine, reflecting the longstanding marginalization of women in the scientific disciplines.

In 1966, Nelly Sachs became the first Jewish woman to win a Nobel Prize when she was awarded the Prize for literature. Jewish women have been disproportionately represented among the Nobel Prize-winning female scientists, 40% of whom had some Jewish background. Sharon Bertsch McGrayne argues that the Jewish commitment to scholarship and abstract thinking - while beneficial to both men and women in the sciences—has been particularly helpful for women. While Jews make up approximately 3% of the population of the United States, 27% of American Nobel laureates have been Jewish, and two-thirds (two of the three) American women Nobel-winners were Jews.

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Gertrude Elion
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Notes: 
  1. Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries (New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1993).
  2. "Female Nobel Prize Laureates," The Nobel Prize Internet Archive, accessed January 22, 2001; available at http://www.almaz.com/nobel/women.html.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Gertrude Elion - The Nobel Prize - Women Nobel Laureates." (Viewed on April 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/elion/nobel-prize/women-nobel-laureates>.