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Nobel Prizes honor a record 5 women and President Barack Obama

STOCKHOLM — A record five women were among the 13 people awarded Nobel Prizes on Thursday, including a writer who depicted life behind the Iron Curtain and two American researchers who showed how chromosomes protect themselves from degrading.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf presented the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) prizes in chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and economics at a glitzy ceremony at a Stockholm concert hall. Hours earlier, President Barack Obama received the peace prize in Oslo.

Only 40 women have won the prestigious awards, including Marie Curie, who was given the 1903 physics prize and the chemistry prize eight years later. In all, 802 individuals and 20 organizations have received Nobel Prizes over the years.

Herta Mueller, the Romanian-born author, accepted the Nobel literature award for her critical depiction of life behind the Iron Curtain — work drawn largely from her personal experiences. Mueller's mother spent five years in a communist gulag, and the writer herself was tormented by the Securitate secret police because she refused to become their informant.

Elinor Ostrom, 76, made history by becoming the first woman to receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, sharing it with fellow American Oliver Williamson for their work in economic governance.

Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, both of the United States, shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with countryman Jack W. Szostak for their work in solving the mystery of how chromosomes protect themselves from degrading when cells divide.

Ada Yonath of Israel and Americans Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz shared the chemistry award for their atom-by-atom description of ribosomes, the protein-making machinery within cells. Their research is being used to develop new antibiotics.

George E. Smith and Willard S. Boyle of the United States shared the physics prize for inventing a sensor used in digital cameras. Also taking the prize was Charles K. Kao, also from the United States, for discovering how to transmit light signals long distances through hair-thin glass fibers.

Nobel Prizes honor a record 5 women and President Barack Obama 12/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 10:41pm]

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