Nobel Prize for Wadham Fellow

6th October 2020

News, Student news, Alumni news

The 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics has been jointly awarded to Wadham Emeritus Fellow, Sir Roger Penrose.

  • Sir Roger Penrose with maths masterclass students at Wadham

    Sir Roger Penrose with maths masterclass students at Wadham

  • Teaching at Wadham

    Teaching at Wadham

  • Sir Roger Penrose

Sir Roger has been awarded half the prize for "the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.”

Roger Penrose used ingenious mathematical methods in his proof that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Einstein himself did not believe that black holes really exist but Penrose demonstrated that, at their heart, black holes hide a singularity, a boundary at which all the known laws of nature break down.

To prove that singularity formation is a stable process, Penrose needed to expand the methods used to study the theory of relativity – tackling the problem with an ingenious and novel application of ideas from differential topology and differential geometry. His ground-breaking article was published in January 1965 and is still regarded as the most important contribution to the general theory of relativity since Einstein.

Warden of Wadham College, Ken Macdonald QC responded with delight to the announcement: “The whole College is bursting with pride at Roger’s achievement, which is so hugely deserved after his remarkable lifetime of scholarship, learning and discovery, and he has our very heartiest congratulations at this wonderful news, which will be so well received throughout the University.”

Reinhard Genzel, (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany and University of California, Berkeley, USA) and Andrea Ghez (University of California, Los Angeles, USA) share the other half of the prize “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.”

Roger Penrose, born 1931 in Colchester, Ph.D. 1957 from University of Cambridge, and Professor at the University of Oxford wins half of the 10 million Swedish kronor prize money. He was appointed as Rouse Ball Professor at Oxford with a Professorial Fellowship at Wadham from 1973–1999 and was knighted in 1994 for services to science. He was appointed to the Order of Merit in 2000.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739, is an independent organisation whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavours to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.

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