|Ada E. Yonath|
Prof. Ada E. Yonath during her visit to Kerala in 2013 Feb.
22 June 1939
Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine (now in Israel)
|Institutions||Weizmann Institute of Science|
|Alma mater||Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Weizmann Institute of Science
|Known for||Cryo bio-crystallography|
|Notable awards||Harvey Prize (2002)
Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2006)
L’OrÃ©al-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (2008)
Albert Einstein World Award of Science (2008)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2009)
During my time I had some very difficult years, and I had very pronounced competition, all by men.
I used ribosomes from very, very robust bacteria under very, very active conditions and found a way – I actually took advantage of research done before me at the Weizmann, the same institute I am now – how to preserve their activity and their integrity while they crystallized.
People always talk about the implication and applications of a process, but for me, the goal is purely about knowledge. Knowledge can become practical today, in 20 years, or in 500 years. Ask Newton. He didn't know there would be space research based on his accident with the apple.
Anyone who sits in our jails who is not just a criminal but what we call a terrorist, with or without blood on his hands – and these definitions are also unclear to me – should not be sitting in our custody.
At the end of the 1970s, I was a young researcher at the Weizmann Institute with an ambitious plan to shed light on one of the major outstanding questions concerning living cells: the process of protein biosynthesis.
Many ribosomes act simultaneously along the mRNA, forming superstructures called polysomes.
I wanted to reveal how genetic code is translated into protein. I knew a great application could be for antibiotics, since half of the useful ones target the ribosomes, but I didn't believe I could contribute to it. It was like the next Mount Everest to conquer. It was my dream to contribute something to humanity.
Waiting for me in Stockholm will be a personal assistant – Katrina from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs – as well the secretary of the Swedish Academy. They'll help us with our things and take us to our hotel. From the moment I arrive, I'll always be together with the other two laureates.
People are obsessed with my haircut; everyone wants to do something with my hair before the ceremony. Very senior figures tell me their hairstylist wants to do my hair for free. It's surprising. People from television are interested almost exclusively in aspects of my hair and my hairdresser.
From the age of 11, I was cleaning floors, washing dishes, making sandwiches and being a cashier. Survival was the name of the game. Life was so hard that I had to struggle to keep up my standards. Under these conditions, I didn't think about science too much.
DNA is a code of four letters; proteins are made up of amino acids which come in 20 forms. So the ribosome is a very clever machine that reads one language and operates in another.
There are over 7,000 different types of proteins in typical eukaryotic cells; the total number depends on the cell class and function.
I was described as a dreamer, a fantasist, even as the village idiot. I didn't care. What I cared about was convincing people to allow me to go on with my work.
For quite a while, I didn't receive a higher academic status. I didn't feel any discrimination against me as a woman scientist, but I hadn't produced a lot of science journal articles.
When a man sits in our jails for a number of years, and around him friends and family become angry, that is how we create terrorists.
I was born in Jerusalem in 1939 to a poor family that shared a rented four-room apartment with two additional families and their children.
If one has curiosity, then one stands the chance of attain a high level of scientific inquiry.
My kindergarten teacher encouraged me to learn, as did my school headmaster, who gave me a grant to study.
Even if I tried to fill up the stadium in Ramat Gan, I don't think I could.
I'm truly glad I've managed to get the public interested in questions about basic research.
After I spent my compulsory army service in the 'top secret office' of the Medical Forces, where I was fortunate to be exposed to clinical and medical issues, I enrolled to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Proteins are constantly being degraded. Therefore, simultaneous production of proteins is required.
My neighborhood didn't really encourage women, though it didn't prevent women from progressing, either.
Once, when I tried to calculate the height of the balcony, I broke my arm. Another time, I wanted to see if water moves faster than kerosene. When my father came out to smoke, a fire broke out.
My memories from my childhood are centered on my father's medical conditions alongside my constant desire to understand the principles of the nature around me.
I am against boycotts in general: boycotts against us as well as anything and everything that can be boycotted.
It is a great honor for me to be able to express my sincere gratitude to the Nobel Foundation.
The world was not supportive. They look at me as a joke for 13 to 14 years until I could prove feasibility; then I had competitors. Those that laughed at me became my competitors.
I don't walk into the lab in the morning thinking, 'I am a woman, and I will carry out an experiment that will conquer the world.' I am a scientist, not male or female. A scientist.
The Weizmann Institute showed me respect and didn't require many administrative tasks, so I was quite independent. I did what I wanted.
My parents were Zionists born in Poland. My father was a rabbi who didn't know much about science and ran a grocery store in the neighborhood with my mother's help.
I was born in Jerusalem with a religious background and a rabbi as a father… it was rather poor, but what we did have, we did have books.
The ribosome is a machine that gets instructions from the genetic code and operates chemically in order to produce the product.
Words originating from the verb 'to die' were frequently used when I described my initial plans to determine the ribosome structure.
I don't distinguish between men and women. This is irrelevant to me, and I don't think in these terms.