This Nobel Prize Has A Serious Diversity Problem

Only two women have ever won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 115 years.

04/10/2016 8:36 PM AEDT | Updated 05/10/2016 6:43 AM AEDT
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Nobel 2015.

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded Tuesday to a group of scientists for their studies of unusual states of matter such as in superconductors.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences hailed winners David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz for their pioneering work, but some scientists criticized the lack of diversity in the category ahead of the announcement.

Only two women have ever won out of the 201 Nobel Laureates awarded the prize since the category was established in 1901. That makes it the Nobel Prize with the smallest percentage of female winners. But as astrophysicist Dr. Katherine J. Mack describes below, the number of women obtaining doctorates in physics is actually increasing.

The first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics was the physicist and chemist Marie Curie in 1903. The next winner was the theoretical physicist Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963. We’re still waiting more than half a century later for another woman to win, so it’s not surprising that Mack called out the diversity issues surrounding the award.

Mack made headlines earlier this summer when she shut down a Twitter troll who tweeted she should “learn some actual science” and stop believing the climate change “scam.” 

“I dunno, man, I already went and got a PhD in astrophysics. Seems like more than that would be overkill at this point,” she tweeted back. 

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling joined in the smackdown in a magical show of support for Mack.

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