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2001 Gruber Cosmology Prize Press Release

Martin Rees


Recipient of Second Annual Peter Gruber Foundation Award Honored for Advancing Our Understanding of the Universe

ST. THOMAS, V.I., November 2001 – One of the world's most far-ranging scientists who has made important contributions to human understanding of the formation of galaxies, the nature of the cosmic microwave background, quasars, black holes, and gamma-ray bursts, has been awarded one of the leading international prizes in cosmology. Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University, has been named the recipient of the 2001 Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation by its distinguished international Advisory Board.

Professor Rees, one of the world's leading theoretical astrophysicists, accepted the prize at ceremonies in Bern, Switzerland, at one time the home of Albert Einstein. The award was made on November 2, 2001. The Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation was created to honor scientific advances in our perception and understanding of the universe. It carries a cash award of $150,000. The prize is given annually to a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist, or scientific philosopher in recognition of groundbreaking theoretical, analytical, or conceptual discoveries.

Professor Rees is a leader in understanding the structure and evolution of the universe. He contributed many of the foundational ideas about galaxy formation, particularly regarding the important role of gas and dissipation. In his quest to explain how the universe emerged from the cosmic "dark ages'', he has examined how the first generations of stars, galaxies, and quasars formed and then ionized much of the universe. He made the first predictions about polarization and other detailed features of the cosmic microwave background.

Both within and beyond astrophysics proper, Professor Rees has had broad impact on how humans think about the universe. He has thought deeply about questions on the border between science and philosophy, why the universe has the characteristics that it has, and how humans as sentient beings fit into this universe. Through his books, papers, and his students, he has been tremendously influential in setting the research agenda and stimulating investigations in all the many fields he has worked in.

Sir Martin's newest book, Our Cosmic Habitat, will be published next month by the Princeton University Press.

More information about Sir Martin Rees

The official award citation reads:

Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Royal Society Research Professor at Cambridge University, is renowned for his extraordinary intuition in unraveling the complexities of the universe. He has been a leader in the quest to understand the physical processes near black holes and is responsible for major advances in our understanding of the cosmic background radiation, quasars, gamma-ray bursts, and galaxy formation. He has contributed to almost every area of cosmology and astrophysics and has been an inspiring leader, eloquent spokesperson, and patient guide for astronomers all over the world. Through his public speaking and writing he has made the Universe a more familiar place for everyone.

Peter Gruber, founder of the Peter Gruber Foundation, said, "We are pleased to recognize and honor Sir Martin Rees – one of the world's best known and most creative astrophysicists. It is particularly exciting to honor him in Bern, Switzerland, where Albert Einstein was an employee of the Swiss patent office, during which time he wrote his special theory of relativity and taught occasionally at the University. This continues our tradition of presenting the awards in places notable to the history of cosmological science."


The Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation is the world's only award that recognizes individuals who have contributed to fundamental advances in the field of cosmology.

The Cosmology Prize recipient for 2001 was chosen by a distinguished Advisory Board after a worldwide solicitation of candidates. Members of the Advisory Board are: Professor V. Radhakrishnan of the University of Bangalore; Professor Vera Rubin of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; Professor Lodewijk Woltjer of France's St. Michel l'Observatoire; Professor Simon Kirwan Donaldson of the University of London; Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of Istanbul's Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA); Professor Virginia Trimble of the University of Maryland and the University of California at Irvine; and Professor John D. Barrow of Cambridge University. Additional advisors to the Peter Gruber Foundation on the Cosmology prize are Dr. George V. Coyne of The Vatican Observatory and Dr. Owen Gingerich of Harvard University.

Past recipients of the Cosmology Prize are Allan R. Sandage, Staff Astronomer Emeritus, The Observatories (Pasadena, California) Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Phillip J.E. Peebles, the Albert Einstein Professor of Physics at Princeton University.

Affiliation with International Astronomical Union

In 2000, the Peter Gruber Foundation and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced an agreement by which the IAU provides its expertise and contacts with professional astronomers worldwide for the nomination and selection of Cosmology Prize winners. Under the agreement, the Peter Gruber Foundation also funds a fellowship program for young astronomers, with the aim of promoting the continued recruitment of new talent into the field. The first $37,500 fellowships were awarded in May 2001 to Sergey Sazonov from Russia for study at Germany's Max Planke Institute Astrophysik and to Anshu Gupta from India for study at Italy's University of Pisa.

The International Astronomical Union, founded in 1919, organizes professional astronomers worldwide. Its current membership includes more than 8,000 individual astronomers from more than 70 countries. The IAU maintains a large program of international scientific, educational, and standardizing and coordinating activities.

The Peter Gruber Foundation was founded in 1993 and established a record of charitable giving principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it is located. Last year, the Foundation expanded its philanthropic focus to the creation and awarding of a series of international awards recognizing discoveries and achievements that produce fundamental shifts in human knowledge and culture.