Stephen Hawking wins £1.8m physics prize

 

Professor Stephen Hawking has been named as one of the first recipients of the most lucrative science prize in the history of time.

The £1.8 million Special Fundamental Physics Prize was established earlier this year by a Russian billionaire.

Britain's most famous theoretical physicist, who is used to grappling with large sums, says he plans to spend his windfall on his daughter's autistic son and "maybe" buying a holiday home.

Prof Hawking and a team of scientists who led the hunt for the Higgs boson mass particle received separate prizes worth three million US dollars (£1.8 million) each.

The former Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, who is severely disabled with motor neurone disease, earned his prize for a lifetime of achievement unravelling the mysteries of quantum gravity and the early universe.

In particular, the award recognised his discovery of Hawking radiation, a quantum effect that allows black holes to "evaporate" by emitting particles.

The Special Fundamental Physics Prize is one of several awards set up by Yuri Milner, a Russian internet mogul who abandoned his PhD in physics to make a fortune from the web.

In an email sent to the Guardian newspaper last night, Prof Hawking - whose book "A Brief History of Time" became a best-seller - said he was "delighted and honoured".

He added: "No-one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no-one knew before.

"Nevertheless, prizes like these play an important role in giving public recognition for achievement in physics. They increase the stature of physics and interest in it."

On the thorny question of what to do with the money, Prof Hawking added: "I will help my daughter with her autistic son, and maybe buy a holiday home, not that I take many holidays because I enjoy my work in theoretical physics."

Prof Hawking turned 70 in January but was unable to attend public celebrations of his birthday because of illness.

British scientists were among the team of seven attached to Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research based in Geneva, who shared the second Special Fundamental Physics Prize.

All were involved in the design, construction and operation of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the vast particle accelerator used to track down the Higgs boson.

In July, scientists at the LHC believed they caught a glimpse of the particle that had eluded physicists for nearly five decades.

Nicknamed the "god particle", the Higgs is theoretically responsible for mass, one of the most vital properties binding together the universe.

The British LHC prize winners include Professor Tejinder (Jim) Virdee, from Imperial College London, and Dr Lyn Evans from Cern.

Prof Virdee, who worked on CMS - one of the giant LHC detectors where subatomic particles are smashed together - said: "The prize not only celebrates fundamental science but also recognises the audacious undertaking of the many scientists, engineers and technicians from around the world who, over many years, came together to build a powerful detector, one that will still have the potential to produce remarkable physics for years to come."

Dr Evans, who was project leader of the LHC during its construction, said: "It's fantastic news. We have been acknowledged as the team that led the design, construction and commissioning of the LHC project.

"In the LHC collider, the accelerator, and the Atlas (another detector) and CMS experiments are so inter-related that it has required close co-operation throughout the whole 16 years of construction. During that time, we have faced many challenges that we have overcome together.

"The tremendous performance of Atlas, CMS and the LHC is witness to the skill and dedication of our many collaborators, which we are very proud to represent."

Professor John Womersley, chief executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which funds the scientists, said: "The United Kingdom has been one of the leading partners in the construction both of the LHC and the instruments and detectors linked to it.

"The UK is a world leader in particle physics and has played a central role in the research coming out of Cern, from the theorists who formulated the model known as the Higgs mechanism, to the engineers and scientists who have designed, built and exploited the LHC.

"We're really pleased that this award has recognised some of these UK scientists and engineers whose major contributions to the project have helped answer some of the most complex questions being asked about the formation of the universe."

The other scientists sharing the prize were Dr Peter Jenni and Dr Fabiola Gianotti, both from Cern, Professor Guido Tonelli, from the University of Pisa, Professor Joe Incandela, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and French physicist Dr Michel Della Negra, who is based at Imperial College London.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'