Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nobels for Chemistry, Literature Handed Out

STOCKHOLM -- British novelist Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel Prize for literature Thursday, following Wednesday's prize for chemistry, which was awarded to Gerhard Ertl of Germany.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the coveted 10 million Swedish crown ($1.54 million) prize, called Lessing, 87, an "epicist of the female experience, who, with skepticism, fire and visionary power, has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny."

Lessing, the oldest Nobel literature laureate since the prizes began in 1901, was the 34th female Nobelist and the 11th woman to take the literature award.

"Doris doesn't know yet, because she's popped to the shops," said a spokeswoman for Lessing's agent Jonathan Clowes.

Clowes added in a statement, "We are absolutely delighted and it's very well deserved."

Lessing debuted as a novelist with "The Grass is Singing" in 1950, a book that examined the relationship between a white farmer's wife and her black servant.

Her 1962 work "The Golden Notebook" was widely considered her breakthrough.

"The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th century view of the male-female relationship," the academy said in its citation.

Lessing was born to British parents in what was then Persia, now Iran. Her family moved to Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in 1925.

On Wednesday, Gerhard Ertl won the Nobel Prize for chemistry on his 71st birthday for inventing ways to watch chemicals react on a surface, helping in the development of cleaner cars and better fertilizers.

The academy said Ertl's work laid the foundations for a field of research called surface chemistry, which explains processes from simple rusting to the destruction of the ozone layer.

"Knowledge about chemical reactions on surfaces will also help us produce renewable fuels more efficiently and create new materials for electronics," the academy said in a statement.

Ertl, former director of the Fritz-Haber Institute at Berlin's Max-Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, described the prize as "the highest honor the heavens of science can bestow."

"It's difficult to grasp it, even now," Ertl told reporters. "I was speechless and then came the tears."

Ertl was the second German to win a Nobel science award this year after Peter Gruenberg shared the physics prize with France Albert Fert on Tuesday.

In a letter to Ertl, German President Horst Koehler said the prize was "proof of your scholarly excellence and casts a spotlight on the work of the Max Planck Society and the research in Germany overall."

Surface chemistry is not glamorous, but Catherine Hunt, president of the American Chemical Society, said it has "transformed lives in so many ways."