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Forward 50 2018

Arthur Ashkin

Proving It’s Never Too Late To Make History

You don’t need to understand what optic tweezers are or how they have revolutionized contemporary physics to understand the achievement of Nobel Prize winner Arthur Ashkin. Indeed, even Bell Labs, his former employer, eschews the scientific to describe the tweezers as grabbing “particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers.”

The Nobel committee said that his work “revolutionised laser physics” and opened up “multitude of industrial and medical applications.” He also made history because his success, at the age of 96, means he is the oldest person ever to collect a Nobel Prize.

The recognition of Ashkin — whose father changed the family name from Ashkinazi on his way from Odessa — is a hopeful reminder that no matter how long we wait, there’s a chance that we will all receive the appropriate honors for our achievements.

— Dan Friedman

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