Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo won part of the US$1.01 million prize, which she shared with Arthur Ashkin of the United States and Gerard Mourou of France.
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 USA citizenship, and Canada's Donna Strickland shared the other half for work on high-intensity lasers.
Strickland says her first thought on hearing she'd won the physics prize was "it's insane".
"Obviously, we need to celebrate women physicists because we're out there and hopefully in time it will start to move forward at a faster rate maybe", she said.
FILE- Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry are conferred upon people who have excelled in the field of science.
Dr Strickland shares this year's prize with Arthur Ashkin, from the U.S., and Gerard Mourou, from France.
The Nobel prizes have always been dominated by male scientists, and none more so than physics.
These became the standard for high-intensity lasers, for example used in millions of corrective eye surgeries per year.
Friday: Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded.
Mourou and Strickland's work resulted in "the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind" - allowing for incredibly precise cutting or drilling through living matter.
On Monday, two immunologists, James Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, won this year's Nobel Medicine Prize for research into how the body's natural defences can fight cancer.