Saturday 24 March 2018

I might buy a holiday home: Stephen Hawking calm as he wins €2.3m science prize

Stephen Hawking. Photo: Getty Images
Stephen Hawking. Photo: Getty Images

John von Radowitz

PROFESSOR Stephen Hawking has been named as one of the first recipients of the most lucrative science prize in the history of time worth €2.3m.

The 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 $3m 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

The prize winners were selected by an independent committee of eminent physicists, including leading string theorist Professor Ed Witten and Professor Alan Guth, who proposed the idea of cosmic inflation after the Big Bang which gave birth to the universe.

Five other scientists were shortlisted for a third €2.3m award, the Fundamental Physics Prize, the winner of which will be announced at Cern in March next year.

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