The Nobel Prize has been awarded to women 62 times. Katalin Karikó becomes the 13th to win in Medicine

October 02, 2023 06:04 pm | Updated 08:55 pm IST

Hungarian biochemist Katalin Kariko attends the Semmelweis Ignac Award in Budapest, Hungary, May 25, 2021. Two scientists have won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023 for discoveries that enabled the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. The award was given to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. Karikó is a professor at Sagan’s University in Hungary and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hungarian biochemist Katalin Kariko attends the Semmelweis Ignac Award in Budapest, Hungary, May 25, 2021. Two scientists have won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023 for discoveries that enabled the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. The award was given to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. Karikó is a professor at Sagan’s University in Hungary and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. | Photo Credit: AP

Hungarian-American biochemist Katalin Karikó has become the newest Laureate to join the ranks of the numbered women who have won arguably the most prestigious award.

The 68-year-old biochemist and her colleague Drew Weissman were honoured with the Prize for “discoveries concerning nucleoside base modification that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.”

From 1901 to 2023, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to women 62 times. Marie Curie is still the only woman to have won the Prize twice–once in 1903 for Physics and once in 1911 for Chemistry. 

Also Read | A look at how more women are making a mark in Science

The winners of the Nobel Prize have historically been white men. However, in an effort to be more inclusive, five years ago, the head of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences asked nominating bodies to make sure they don’t overlook “women or people of other ethnicities or nationalities in their nominations.”

While more women have won the Prize, the number of female winners in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Economics is still very low. This year’s winner, Dr. Karikó, has become the 13th woman to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Only four women have been granted the Prize in Physics while eight women have won the Prize in Chemistry. The Prize for Economic Sciences has been awarded to only two women.

Also Read | Medicine Nobel for the technology that turned the pandemic 

In the early years of the Nobel Prizes, the underrepresentation of diverse winners was often attributed to the limited diversity within the scientific community. However critics today argue that the selection committees need to do a better job of recognising breakthroughs achieved by female scientists and researchers from regions beyond Europe and North America.

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