New Nobel laureate says in ‘toxic interview’ that he only won because his fellow laureate is a woman

Nobel laureate Reinhard Genzel at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.Image AFP

And the story had started so well. Two weeks ago Genzel and his American competitor Andrea Ghez, together with theorist Roger Penrose, won the Nobel Prize in physics. The reason? The years of intensive search of both Genzel and Ghez for the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, an object so massive that even light cannot escape its attraction and so mysterious that our understanding of reality within it invariably crumbles .

However, the joyful mood that the announcement sparked among astronomers has turned to anger in some since the offending interview was released on Thursday. ‘Many people in our close-knit community are shocked and disappointed,’ says astrophysicist Sera Markoff (University of Amsterdam).

In Der Spiegel Genzel talks about the fierce competition between his group and that of the American Ghez – a competition he invariably won, he emphasizes. ‘We were always ahead. We always got the results first. ‘