Ada Yonath

  Female      Israeli      Scientist

  Born : Jun 22, 1939  

About Author

Ada E. Yonath (born 22 June 1939) is an Israeli crystallographer best known for her pioneering work on the structure of the ribosome. She is the current director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly of the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2009, she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz for her studies on the structure and function of the ribosome, becoming the first Israeli woman to win the Nobel Prize out of ten Israeli Nobel laureates, the first woman from the Middle East to win a Nobel prize in the sciences, and the first woman in 45 years to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. However, she said herself that there was nothing special about a woman winning the Prize.

Yonath (née Lifshitz) was born in the Geula quarter of Jerusalem. Her parents, Hillel and Esther Lifshitz, were Zionist Jews who immigrated to Palestine from Zduńska Wola, Poland in 1933 before the establishment of Israel. Her father was a rabbi and came from a rabbinical family. They settled in Jerusalem and ran a grocery, but found it difficult to make ends meet. They lived in cramped quarters with several other families, and Yonath remembers "books" being the only thing she had to keep her occupied. Despite their poverty, her parents sent her to school in the upscale Beit HaKerem neighborhood to assure her a good education. When her father died at the age of 42, the family moved to Tel Aviv. Yonath was accepted to Tichon Hadash high school although her mother could not pay the tuition. She gave math lessons to students in return. As a youngster, she says she was inspired by the Polish and naturalized-French scientist Marie Curie. However, she stresses that Curie, whom she as a child was fascinated by after reading a well-written biography, was not her "role model". She returned to Jerusalem for college, graduating from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1962, and a master's degree in biochemistry in 1964. In 1968, she obtained her Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute of Science for X-ray crystallographic studies on the structure of collagen, with Wolfie Traub as her Ph.D. advisor...

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