doar ivriJewish Women Nobel Laureates


(revised: Jan. 7, 2011)


Gene Eisen


    This note updates my article, Jewish Women in Science Win the Nobel Prize: Breaking the Glass Ceiling, published in The Israel Philatelist 60(3): 92-95 (2009) in which I discuss fully stamps associated with four female Jewish Nobel laureates in science: Gerty Cori, Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, Rita Levi-Montalcini and Gertrude Belle Elion. I neglected to mention a Gabon stamp with a picture of Cori issued in Oct. 1995 (Scott 803c). Also, since publication of the article there have been two additional Jewish women Nobel laureates in science and two new stamp issues featuring Jewish women Nobel laureates in science.


    In 2009, Mali issued a set of ten souvenir sheets recognizing women Nobel Prize winners in science, including sheets for Cori, Yalow, Levi-Montalcini and Elion. The Elion sheet is the first to include her portrait. These sheets are not listed in the Scott catalogue because of their questionable usage for postage.


    Two women Nobel Prize winners in the sciences in 2009 have a Jewish lineage: Ada E. Yonath (Chemistry) and Elinor Ostrom (Economics). Congo issued souvenir sheets in 2010 to honor the 2009 Nobel laureates. Again, these issues are not listed by Scott because of their questionable postal usage. One of the six stamps on one souvenir sheet includes a picture of Ada Yonath and a second sheet has a stamp picturing Elinor Ostrom.


   Ada Yonath became the first Israeli woman to win a Nobel Prize (out of nine Israeli Nobel laureates) and the first woman in 45 years to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The Israeli crystallographer received the award for her breakthrough studies on the structure and function of ribosomes and their interaction with antibiotics. Ribosomes are the cellular organelles where protein synthesis takes place. She shared the 2009 Nobel Prize with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz.


   Yonath was born in 1939 in Jerusalem to a Zionist couple who had immigrated to what was then Palestine. Her father was a rabbi and they eked out a meager living with a small grocery store. Despite their poverty, her parents managed to send Ada to a top school to assure that she would receive a good education. After high school she attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she received a B.S. in chemistry in 1962 and an M.S. in biochemistry in 1964. In 1968, she received her Ph.D. in X-ray crystallography from the Weizmann Institute of Science. She is currently director of the Helen and Milton Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly at the Weizmann Institute.


   Elinor Ostrom was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson, for “her analysis of economic governance especially the commons.” She is the first woman and the first non-economist to win the Nobel Economics Prize. Her research is associated with the resurgence of the field of political economy.


   Ostrom was born in 1933 in Los Angeles, CA, the daughter of Adrian and Leah Awan. Her father was Jewish and her mother was Protestent, and she attended a Protestent church as a child. She often spent weekends with her father’s sister who kept a kosher home. Her father was a set designer and her mother was a musician. Ostram received a B.A. in political science at UCLA. She later returned to attend graduate school at UCLA where she earned an M.A. in 1962 and a Ph.D. in 1965 in political science. In 1973, she and her husband, Vincent Ostrom, founded A Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University. She holds a distinguished professorship at Indiana University and is also on the faculty of Arizona State University.


     I acknowledge the helpful suggestions of Dr. Maurice Glicksman for several needed additions.




Ada Yonath:

Elinor Ostrom: