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(photo credit: AP)
Professor Ada Yonath accepted the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in Oslo on Thursday evening, as over 200 friends and colleagues gathered to watch the proceedings at a Weizmann Institute auditorium.
Yonath had earlier been chosen to sit next to Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremonial dinner after the ceremony in Stockholm on Thursday. Following the dinner, she is to make her acceptance speech.
Yonath, 70, was escorted to the ceremony by the monarch. She is the seventh Israeli to receive the Nobel Prize.
She will share the $1.4 million prize for her work on ribosomes with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan from the UK and Thomas Steitz from the US.
Yonath, one of a record five women who were selected by the Nobel Prize committee, told Channel 2 on Wednesday she felt "like Alice in Wonderland" and had received an exceptionally warm welcome from her Swedish hosts.
American George E. Smith, who shares the Nobel Prize in physics, thanked his slow gait for making it possible for him be there. Twelve years ago, he and his wife narrowly avoided a suicide bomb attack that killed 15 people in Jerusalem.
"If we had just been walking a little bit faster I would have never been able to pick up the Nobel Prize," the 79-year-old told The Associated Press. "We were less than 100 meters (330 feet) away and walking towards the place where they blew themselves up."
Smith said it was "marvelous" to get the prize and said he would "never fly in economy class again."
He will share half the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award with American Willard S. Boyle for inventing a sensor used in digital cameras. The other half of the physics prize will go to Charles K. Kao, also from the US, for discovering how to transmit light signals long distances through hair-thin glass fibers.
In addition to Mueller, Americans Elizabeth H. Blackburn, 61, and Carol W. Greider, 48, 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.
Elinor Ostrom, 76, made history by being the first woman to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, sharing it with fellow American Oliver Williamson for their work in economic governance. The prize is not one of the original Nobels, but was created in 1968 in Nobel's memory by the Swedish central bank.
Also in Stockholm Thursday, Romanian-born author Herta Mueller received 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.
"I've had the experience of fear of persecution. It's emotional, it bothers me, it makes me angry," the 56-year-old said at the traditional laureates' news conference before the ceremony.
Mueller said she was very happy to receive the award but wouldn't reveal what she would do with the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) prize money. "But I'm not buying a yacht so don't worry," she joked.
The award ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo were followed by lavish banquets at which the laureates dined with Scandinavian royals, university professors, politicians and foreign diplomats. In Norway, a traditional Nobel Concert is held a day after the ceremony, featuring international jazz, pop and classical music performers.