The Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2016 is awarded in equal shares to Ronald W P Drever, Kip S Thorneand Rainer Weiss for conceiving and designing the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), whose recent direct detection of gravitational waves opens a new window in astronomy, with the first remarkable discovery being the merger of a pair of stellar mass black holes.
The discovery reported in 2016  ranks among the most significant ever made in astronomy, and its importance can be viewed from a number of distinct points of view. Most simply, LIGO has added a third strand to the means by which we can observe the universe, which could previously only be carried out via electromagnetic radiation or energetic particles. LIGO has thus established an entirely new branch of astronomy, allowing us to study phenomena where signals from existing astronomical messengers are entirely lacking. The impact of this new tool seems likely to be as revolutionary as, for example, the opening up of radio astronomy and its discovery of pulsars and quasars.