The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences on Tuesday awarded half the 9-million-kronor ($1.01 million) prize to Arthur Ashkin of the United States and the other half will be shared by Gérard Mourou of France and Canada's Donna Strickland.
The prize was also awarded to Prof Arthur Ashkin, for his invention of "optical tweezers" that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser-beam fingers.
The developments have led to advanced precision instruments that are opening up unexplored areas of research and a multitude of industrial and medical applications, it added.
Strickland was shocked to hear she was one of three women to win the physics prize (the first being Marie Curie in 1903, the last being Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963).
"We need to celebrate women physicists because they're out there..."
Strickland said in a telephone interview with the academy at a press conference that she was happy and surprised to be receiving the prize, which she looked forward to accepting in Stockholm in December.
She has been teaching at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, since 1997, where she oversees an ultrafast laser lab and works with a team of undergraduate and graduate students. Its uses include the millions of corrective eye surgeries that are conducted every year using the sharpest of laser beams. These days, though, scientific research is "a hobby more or less", he told the official website of the Nobel Prize.
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Ashkin's work was based on the realisation the pressure of a beam of light could push microscopic objects and trap them in position.
American Arthur Ashkin, one of the winners of the Nobel Prize for physics on Tuesday, is the oldest person ever named as a laureate for any of the prestigious awards.
A reporter asked the physicist how it felt to be in the company of so few women.
Mourou and Strickland's method involved reducing the peak intensity of light by stretching it out through a mile-long fiber optic cable, amplifying it, and them compressing it again.
When the pair refined the technique, Strickland recalled Mourou's advice to talk up their accomplishment and tell their peers that the gigawatt laser they had developed would lay the groundwork for devices a million times more powerful down the road.
She studied optics at the University of Rochester, in NY state, working towards her PhD under Mr Mourou. The interesting thing about Ashkin's tool (Apart from the fact that it is made of frigging light!) is that it can be used to reach right inside a cell without damaging the living systems.
Strickland says she was left in disbelief when the call from Stockholm came early this morning notifying her of the win, saying she thought it was "crazy". He has finally received his due, at least as far as the Nobel Prizes are concerned.
Nobel prizes are honored annually for the great achievement of physics, medicine, economics, peace, and literature.