Professor Eiichiro Komatsu

Image credit: Hiroto Kawabata

Eichiro Komatsu is a theoretical and observational cosmologist and Director of the Physical Cosmology division at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany. He studies cosmic inflation, the cosmic microwave background, the large-scale structure of the Universe, and why its expansion is accelerating. Professor Komatsu became fascinated by astronomy while at school and went on to study astronomy at the Tohoku University in Japan, graduating with his PhD thesis on “The Pursuit of Non-Gaussian Fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background” in 2001. While working on his thesis, he joined the WMAP science team at Princeton, and then became an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Texas. In 2010 he became director of the Texas Cosmology Center, an interdisciplinary centre to study the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the origin of matter in the universe and how structures formed and evolved. He moved to the Max Planck Institute in 2012.

He has received many awards, particularly recognising his leading work on the WMAP satellite project. From the Astronomical Society of Japan, he received the Young Astronomers Award in 2004 and the Chushiro Hayashi Prize in 2014. He received the Nishinomiya-Yukawa Memorial Prize for physics for his studies of the early universe in 2010 and he was awarded the American Astronomical Society Berkeley Prize in 2013. Together with the WMAP team, he shared the Gruber Prize in 2012 and the Breakthrough Prize in 2017.

Professor Sir Roger Penrose FRS OM

After achieving a first-class degree in mathematics from University College London, Roger Penrose undertook a PhD at Cambridge, while at St John’s College, finishing in 1958. He subsequently became a Research Fellow at St John’s. His work in algebraic geometry led him to positions at Princeton, Syracuse, King's College London and, in 1964, to a Readership at Birkbeck College. Two years later he became Professor of Applied Mathematics there. In 1973 he was appointed Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

After making outstanding achievements in pure mathematics, in the 1960s he started applying his ideas to astrophysics, influenced by Denis Sciama. In 1964, he was the first person to show that the formation of black holes was unavoidable in Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In 1969, with Stephen Hawking, he proved that all matter within a black hole collapses to a singularity, a point of infinite density and zero volume. He went on to postulate the cosmic censorship conjecture and the theory of twistors.

Sir Roger is well known for his popular science books, including The Emperor's New Mind, for which he won the Royal Society Science Book Prize in 1990. He has received numerous awards and recognition for his work, including the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics (1971), the Royal Society Royal Medal (1985), the Dirac Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics (1989), The Albert Einstein Medal (1990) and the Naylor Prize of the London Mathematics Society (1991). In 1972 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). Along with Stephen Hawking, he was awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1975 and the Wolf Foundation Prize for Physics in 1988. He was knighted for services to science in 1994 and in 2000 was appointed to the Order of Merit. In 2020 Sir Roger was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, the crowning achievement of a magnificent career in mathematics and physics.