Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2009
She was born in Jerusalem on June 22, 1939 in a Jewish family coming from Poland, with limited economic resources. In her childhood, her admiration for Marie Curie and her profound curiosity led her to science. She did her secondary studies at the Institute Tichon Hadash, where, impressed by her talent, they accepted her in exchange of Mathematics lessons to young Bulgarian immigrants.
In 1965 she got her degree in Chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem with a M.Sc in Biophysics and, in 1968, she obtained her PH.D. in X-Ray Crystallography at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel). In 1969 she carried out postdoctoral studies at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) and, in 1970, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she worked on the structure of the nuclease S. at the laboratory of professor Al Cotton. At the same time, she studied with profesor W. Lipscomb, who in 1976 would receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
At the end of 1970 she came back to the Weizmann Institute and created the first biological crystallography laboratory in the country. She was a pioneer in the development of ribosomal crystallography, which, contrary to the opinion of the scientific community, enabled her to unravel the tridimensional structure of the ribosome and its vital function in the protein biosynthesis. This basic research has had a great therapeutic impact because it has shown the mechanism of action of several antibiotics that attack bacterial ribosomes to inhibit them.
Ada Yonath received several awards for her scientific contribution: In 2007 she received the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, in 2008 she was awarded both the L'Oréal-UNESCO Prize for women in science and the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. And in 2009, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan from India and Thomas Steitz from the United States.