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Arthur Ashkin of Bell Laboratories in the United States won half of the 2018 prize for inventing "optical tweezers" while Strickland shares the remainder with Frenchman Gerard Mourou, who also has USA citizenship, for work on high-intensity lasers.

Arthur Ashkin of the United States was awarded half the $1.01 million prize; the other half is shared by Gerard Mourou of France and Canadian Donna Strickland.

Marie Curie, who is the only woman who has received two Nobel Prizes, was the first woman to ever win the physics prize in 1903 for her co-discovery of radiation.

This year's Nobel Prize for physics has been awarded to three researchers for devising tools made from light.

"Obviously we need to celebrate woman physicists because we're out there. I'm honoured to be one of those women". The 96-year-old physicist may not be available to give interviews today, he told the Nobel committee, because he is "very busy working on his latest paper".

She was given the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1911.

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Ideal timing: Strickland's win comes just days after CERN physicist Alessandro Strumia made controversial and widely-reported comments at a conference claiming that men are better at physics.

Ashkin's work was based on the realization that the pressure of a beam of light could push microscopic objects and trap them in position.

"The inventions being honored this year have revolutionized laser physics", the Nobel Committee said in a statement. That increases the pulse intensity, which has found its most practical use in corrective eye surgeries. Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland developed a method of generating high intensity ultra-short optical pulses.

On winning the Nobel, Strickland told The Associated Press: "I just find the whole thing surreal".

Mourou's prediction came to pass a mere decade later, she said, adding Chirped Pulse Amplification now has broad applications. They first stretched out the laser pulse in time by several orders of magnitude, thereby reducing their peak power, then passed the stretched pulse through an amplifier, and finally compressed the pulse again in time to produce a short pulse with much enhanced power.

Last year's physics prize went to three Americans who used abstruse theory and ingenious equipment design to detect the faint ripples in the universe called gravitational waves.