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The 2016 Prize in Astronomy

Ronald W P Drever,
Kip S Thorne,
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.

 

Learn More About the Laureate

Ronald W P Drever,<br/>Kip S Thorne,<br/>Rainer Weiss

The Contribution

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 [1] 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.

 

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An Essay on the Prize

Ronald Drever, Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss are the primary figures responsible for the conception and design of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). LIGO’s recent direct detection of gravitational waves represents the first probe of physics in the limit of strong gravity, where massive objects moving at velocities close to that of light drive nonlinear waves in spacetime.

 

LIGO’s discovery ranks among the most significant ever made in astronomy, and its importance can be viewed from a number of distinct perspectives. Most simply, LIGO has provided a third strand to the means by which we can observe the universe, in addition to 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 the subsequent discovery of pulsars and quasars.

 

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About the Laureate

Ronald W P Drever

Ronald W P Drever (1931 - 2017)

Ronald W P Drever was born in 1931 in Bishopton, Glasgow, UK and is Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA. He received his Bachelor of Science in 1953 and his PhD in Natural Philosophy in 1958 from the University of Glasgow, UK. He served as a Visiting Associate in 1977 and was successively Professor (1979–2002) and Professor Emeritus (2002– ) at Caltech. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.    

31 May 2016    Hong Kong


Professor Drever passed away in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, on 7 March 2017.

 

Autobiography

 

 

 

 

Kip S Thorne

Kip S Thorne

Kip S Thorne was born in 1940 in Logan, Utah, USA and is the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA. He received his Bachelor of Science in Physics from Caltech in 1962 and his PhD in Physics from Princeton University, USA in 1965. He returned to Caltech, first as a Research Fellow (1966–1967), and then successively as Associate Professor (1967–1970), Professor in Theoretical Physics in 1970, the William R Kenan, Jr. Professor (1981–1991), the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics (1991–2009), and the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus (2009– ). He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 


31 May 2016    Hong Kong

 

Autobiography

 

 

 

 

Simon D M White

Rainer Weiss

Rainer Weiss was born in 1932 in Berlin, Germany and is currently Professor Emeritus in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. He received his Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1955 and his PhD in Physics in 1962 from MIT. He was an Instructor and Assistant Professor of Physics at Tufts University, USA from 1960 to 1961 and from 1961 to 1962 respectively. He served as Research Associate in Physics at Princeton University, USA from 1962 to 1964. He then joined MIT, where in the Department of Physics he was successively Assistant Professor (1964–1967), Associate Professor (1967–1973), Professor (1973–2001) and Professor Emeritus (2001– ). He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


31 May 2016    Hong Kong

 

Autobiography

 

 

 

 

Feature Story

 

The Shaw Prize Lecture in Astronomy 2016

"Einstein's Gift to Us: Gravitational Wave Astronomy" by Professor Kip S Thorne and Professor Rainer Weiss

The Shaw Prize Public Forum 2016

“Meet The Shaw Laureates 2016 – the Challenges and the Joy of Doing Science”