(JTA) – Three researchers, including a Jewish American, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for inventions in the field of laser physics. Arthur Ashkin, 96, who retired in 1992 after 40 years at Bell Labs in New Jersey, but remains active in his home laboratory, is the oldest-ever Nobel laureate. He started his work on manipulation of microparticles with laser light in the late 1960s, which resulted in the invention of optical tweezers in 1986. Optical tweezers can grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam “fingers.” They have resulted in the invention of advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery and in industry.
Ashkin won one half of the $1 million prize, with Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada sharing the other half for together developing a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, which also is used in corrective eye surgery. Strickland is the first woman to receive the physics prize in 55 years. Ashkin also is known for his studies in photorefraction, second harmonic generation and non-linear optics in fibers. He holds 47 patents.
His parents were immigrants from the Ukraine who married and settled in Brooklyn, where Ashkin was born. He received a PhD in nuclear physics from Cornell University.