Stephen Hawking, renowned British theoretical physicist, has just become the winner of most lucrative science prize in the world.
The 70-year-old author of A Brief History In Time (1988) — which remained on the UK’s Sunday Times best-sellers list for 237 weeks — and many other works, is the recipient of the “Special Fundamental Physics Prize.”
The award is one of several established in July by Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire. Milner, also has a PHD in physics and made a billion dollars from investment in social media sites and other companies.
The prize of $3 million was awarded to Hawking for a lifetime of seminal achievements. These include the discovery that black holes emit radiation as well as significant contributions to scientific thinking on quantum gravity and the “Big Bang.”
Speaking about the award, Hawking told the UK’s The Guardian that he was “delighted and honoured” to receive the prize.
“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.”
In answer to the question of what he would spend the money on, the professor said:
“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.”
Diagnosed with motor neurone disease (Lou Gehrig’s) when he was a 21-year-old undergraduate student at Cambridge University, Hawking later became the “Lucasian Professor of Mathematics” at Cambridge — a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton.
Today, as much known for his scientific brilliance as he is for communicating with the aid of a computer and voice synthesizer, the world famous physicist has appeared on television shows such as The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Nima Arkani-Hamed, a member of the selection committee, said: “In the case of Hawking, what can you say? This is an absolutely true giant of modern physics. He’s done massive, massive things.”
Also awarded prizes were the scientists detection groups at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, discoverers of the Higgs Boson, who share another $3 million prize. In addition, three physicists all aged under 35 picked up lesser monetary prizes for breakthroughs in physics.