Centre for Theoretical Cosmology News

Stephen W. Hawking Professorship in Cosmology approved

The University of Cambridge has approved the creation of a new Stephen Hawking chair in cosmology. Members of the governing Regent House voted in favour of accepting a $6 million (£3.6 million) donation from the Avery-Tsui Foundation.  

The Hawking Professorship is a major development for the University, establishing the first chair in cosmology and gravitation in Cambridge. For the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, it will ensure the continuity of our ambitious research programmes and allow us to attract world leaders to Cambridge.

Stephen Hawking with Sally Wong-Avery, Natasha Wong and members of the DAMTP faculty

The chair also honours Stephen Hawking himself, who has changed our perception of the universe and of black holes. His legacy will now be established within the University of Cambridge in perpetuity. This was all made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Dennis Avery and his wife Sally Avery Wong. When Dennis sadly passed away in the summer of 2012, cosmology in Cambridge lost a great friend and supporter. Nevertheless, the Avery family pressed on to ensure that Dennis’ vision for the chair became a reality.

Professor Hawking himself was delighted to learn of the decision by the Regent House, and made the following remarks:

“When I joined DAMTP in 1962, cosmology was regarded as an area in which wild speculation was unconstrained by any reliable observations. In those days we didn’t even know if the universe had a beginning, or if it had existed forever in a steady state. That we know more today is in a major part because of work done in this department. It is therefore fitting that the Avery-Tsui foundation has given a generous donation, to establish a chair in cosmology in the department.”

To mark the occasion, Sally Avery Wong and Nastasha Wong visited the department during the "New Frontiers in Dynamical Gravity" conference (see photo above). Natasha is a trustee of the Avery-Tsui Foundation, which oversees funds to support the Hawking Professorship. Peter Haynes, head of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, welcomed the visitors and noted that the chair marked a major development in the study of cosmology and gravitation in Cambridge.

Dennis Avery, Julian Revie, Sally Wong-Avery and Stephen Hawking in 2005

Dennis Avery, Julian Revie, Sally Wong-Avery and Stephen Hawking in 2005