The Nobel Women

The recent announcements made by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences are very much rewarding as well as promising. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna will receive the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Just a day earlier on October 6, another woman called Andrea Ghez was named for Nobel Prize in Physics. Their scientific discoveries are as much great and influential as their getting the most prestigious prize is culturally and socially important. In these depressing times it’s news to cherish.

It sends out a very strong message to those who think women are not on a par with men and who stop at nothing to belittle their intellectual abilities. When provided with equal opportunities and resources, women too can contribute to any department of human knowledge including the field of science. Remember in Marie and Malala we have a two-time and the youngest Nobel laureates.

Seen purely from meaning-seeking human perspective and considering science as the modern myth-making for a moment, in Emmanuelle and Jennifer’s discovery there’s a spiritual and universal motif. In Greek mythology, the Fates are a triumvirate consisting of women personifications of destiny. Each of them has an assigned role to play. Clotho spins the thread of life; Lachesis provides humans with their destiny lot, and Atropos cuts short the thread of life. The trio don’t have a fixed abode like Olympus to dwell, yet they control everything even gods. CRISPR-Cas9, also called the genetic scissors, is a genome editing technique for which the duo won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Emmanuelle and Jennifer proved that these scissors can be used to manipulate the very material life is made of, the DNA. These two women have developed tools with which we can ‘cut’ and edit the thread of life wherever we want. Its implications are wide-ranging and far-reaching.

I don’t intend to establish any correlation between the trio and the duo. There isn’t any. Or is there? Maybe. But it’s thrilling to see the role of women in the actual discovery of gene editing and in the mythical destiny editing. She more or less reflects such fundamental roles in our life. Woman literally runs life. It begins with her, develops in and with her and is sustained by her. This Nobel is a little gift in gratitude. Now that she has begun to rise from the long-drawn patriarchal oppression, we men must recognize and appreciate what she is and what she is capable of.

Andrea Ghez, the author of the book ‘You Can be a Woman Astronomer’, has become the fourth female Nobel laureate in Physics. Her discovery is as huge and attractive as the very object she has discovered. Her gaze has pierced through the stardust, down to the centre of the Milky Way thousands of light years away and proved the existence of a supermassive black hole.

Each of these three brilliant women has a very important message to our young girls who also wish to achieve and inspire:

“My wish is that this will provide a positive message to the young girls who would like to follow the path of science, and to show them that women in science can also have an impact through the researching they are performing.” — Emmanuelle Charpentier

“I think for many women there’s a feeling that no matter what they do their work will never be recognized as it might be if they were a man. And I would like to see that change, of course, and I think this is a step in the right direction.”—- Jennifer Doudna

“I am thrilled to receive the prize and I take very seriously the responsibility associated with being the fourth woman to win Nobel Prize. I hope I can inspire other young women into the field. — Andrea Ghez.”

Ubaidullah Pandit has studied Law and Information Technology