Centre for Theoretical Cosmology News

Stephen Hawking awarded largest prize in all of science

Professor Stephen Hawking has been announced as one of the winners of the Fundamental Physics Prize, the most lucrative prize ever established in science. The award was set up in July 2012 by the Russian internet tycoon Yuri Milner with the aim of rewarding achievements in fundamental physics. Past winners include Alan Guth, the inventor of inflationary cosmology, and Edward Witten, a pioneer in the application of topology to physics.

Professor Nima Arkani-Hamed, a member of the Selection Committee, said that the winners of the Fundamental Physics Prize “have done transformative work spanning a wide range of areas in fundamental physics.”

More information about the award can be found on the official website. The story has also been covered in the Guardian, the Independent, and the New York Times.

Professor Stephen Hawking has made watershed contributions to our understanding of the origin and evolution of our Universe and the nature and properties of black holes. Hawking is primarily responsible for at least five important and interlinked breakthroughs in physics:

  • cosmological singularity theorems, showing the inevitability of the Big Bang and a beginning in time (as well as a singularity during gravitational collapse to form a black hole)
  • black hole horizons and uniqueness, discovering the event horizon, its dynamics and the laws governing gravitational radiation, while also proving that quiescent black holes must be axisymmetric
  • black hole radiation and laws of thermodynamics, resulting from Hawking’s investigation of quantum fields around a black hole and leading also to his derivation of the black hole entropy
  • quantum fluctuations as primordial seeds for large-scale structure, which came from the closely related proposal that there would be Hawking radiation from the cosmological horizon during inflation (like that from the black hole horizon)
  • his ambitious proposal for understanding the quantum state of the universe as a whole, based on Euclidean path integral methods 

The observational evidence for black holes is compelling and unequivocal and, since COBE and WMAP, there is now excellent evidence for nearly scale-invariant primordial fluctuations. Professor Hawking has contributed more than anyone else to our fundamental understanding of black holes and their unique properties, and his closely related contributions to Big Bang cosmology and the primordial seeds for large-scale structure are similarly foundational.  Moreover, this grand vision of our place in the Universe has been communicated to the wider public more successfully by Hawking than anyone else before him.  His life has been characterised by unparalleled intellectual achievement and physical insight, as well as tremendous courage in the face of many challenges; he offers a singular inspiration to us all.

Stephen Hawking and colleagues

Stephen Hawking and colleagues (Copyright © 2012 by Johannes Hjorth, all rights reserved)