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Ada Yonath

(1932 - )

YONATH, ADA (1939– ), Israeli chemist. Born in Jerusalem, Yonath received her B.Sc. in chemistry in 1962 and M.Sc. in biochemistry in 1964 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After completing her Ph.D. studies at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, in 1968 she conducted postdoctoral studies at the Pittsburgh Carnegie-Mellon University and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1970, Yonath joined the Chemistry Department of the Weizmann Institute and established what was for almost a decade the only protein-crystallography laboratory in Israel. In 1984 she was promoted to associate professor and in 1988 she became a full professor. She was the head of the Structural Chemistry Department (1989–90) and the Structural Biology Department (1992–94). From 1988 she was director of the Helen & Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly and of the Joseph & Ceil Mazer Center for Structural Biology at the Weizmann Institute, where she became the Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology. Between 1986 and 2004, in addition to being a faculty member of the Weizmann Institute, she headed the Max Planck Research Units for Ribosomal Structure in Hamburg, Germany.

Prof. Yonath spent most of her scientific career working to unravel the structure of the ribosome, the cell's "protein factory" which synthesizes proteins according to genetic code instructions. Her 20-year research efforts included pioneering technical advances such as cryo-bio-crystallography, which revolutionized structural biology worldwide. Her studies culminated in 2000 when she determined the structures of the two ribosomal subunits, an accomplishment ranked by the prestigious Science magazine as among the most important scientific developments of the year. She then revealed the modes of action of over a dozen antibiotic families, thus paving the way for structure base drug design.

Yonath was a member of the Israeli Academy of Science and Humanities, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the European Academy for Science and Art, the EMBO, and of the International Academy of Astronautics. She was the winner of the 2002 Israel Prize in chemistry. She was also the recipient of the First European Crystallography Prize, the Kolthof Award for Outstanding Research in Chemistry, the Kilby International Award, and the Harvey Prize.

In October 2009, Yonath was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry, along with American scientists Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz, for her work mapping the structure of ribosomes. She is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel chemistry prize and the first since 1964.

[Bracha Rager (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

Jerusalem Post

Photo courtesy of the Weizmann Institute.