The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded 111 times to 207 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2017.
Ashkin wins half of the prize for his development of "optical tweezers" which have allowed tiny organisms to be handled with light beams.
Arthur Ashkin of Bell Laboratories in the United States won half of the prize for inventing "optical tweezers" while Frenchman Gerard Mourou, who also has U.S. citizenship and Canada's Donna Strickland shared the other half for work on high-intensity lasers.
"The inventions being honored this year have revolutionized laser physics".
Ashkin discovered that the "radiation pressure" from a beam of light could be used to move extremely small objects and hold them in position. Eventually, Ashkin and colleagues refined the tool to be able to capture individual atoms in the 1980s; and that same decade, he managed to use an infrared beam to trap bacteria without harming them. And the optical pulses of Mourou and Strickland have made numerous applications possible, notably laser eye surgery.
Strickland's award is the first to have gone to a woman in physics since 1963, when it was won by Maria Goeppert-Mayer; Marie Curie was the only other one, in 1903.
Strickland said she was honored by the nomination but also emphasized the need for more female participation and acknowledgment in the field.
Before Dr Strickland and Dr Mourou's pioneering work, the peak power of laser pulses was limited because, when cranked up to high intensities, they would destroy the material used for amplifying its energy.
Mourou, 74, and Strickland, then at the University of Rochester, invented chirped pulse amplification, a form of high-intensity laser, as they described in a 1985 paper that was Strickland's first scientific publication.
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Shortly before the announcement of the award, a physicist gave an "offensive" lecture at the Cern particle physics laboratory in Geneva in which he stated that physics was "built by men" and that male scientists were being discriminated against.
A University of MI professor will share the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to laser development.
Mourou says he finds it hard to describe his emotions at winning.
The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to a woman for the first time in 55 years, and for only the third time in its history. Becquerel received the other half of the prize that year.
Billions of people make daily use of optical disk drive, laser printers and optical scanners. millions undergo laser surgery.
The Nobel comes with an award of 9 million Swedish kronor (roughly $1 million).
Last year's physics prize went to three Americans who used abstruse theory and ingenious equipment design to detect the faint ripples in the universe called gravitational waves.