Congratulations Professor Roy Kerr

By Grant Jacobs 19/12/2012

News out today is that Professor Kerr, an Emeritus Professor at the University of Canterbury, is to be presented the 2013 Albert Einstein Award, given by the Albert Einstein Society in Switzerland for ‘to deserving individuals for outstanding scientific findings, works, or publications related to Albert Einstein’.

Previous Einstein Award winners include six Nobel Laureates. Names of previous winner that those who, like me, are not physicists might recognise include Stephen Hawking (inaugural award, 1979), Roger Penrose (1990, well-known for this popular science books) and Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann.

Professor Kerr has been cited for this work on ‘a solution to Einstein’s gravitational field equations relating to black holes’ in 1963.

His work is described in the popular science book, Cracking the Einstein Code by Fulvio Melia. The opening passages of Dan Falk’s review of the book in NewScientist in 2009 perhaps captures the essence:

Just as knowing the rules of chess does not, by itself, allow you to win tournaments, having Einstein’s field equations for general relativity does not immediately tell you what the gravitational field surrounding a real object is actually like.

Of particular concern was the gravitational field of a massive, rotating body – after all, nearly everything in the universe seems to rotate. It sounds deceptively simple, but as Fulvio Melia explains, it was actually a fiendishly complex problem, one that defied an answer for decades. New Zealand-born physicist Roy Kerr finally “cracked the Einstein code” in the early 1960s.

Great to see another Kiwi honoured on the international stage.

Professor Roy’s previous awards include the Companion of The New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011 and the Rutherford (RSNZ 1993), Hughes (RS London, 1982) and Hector (RSNZ, 1982) Medals.


More information can be found in this New Zealand Herald article. I’d be happy for physicists to step up and speak more of his work.

This book might make a timely last-minute Christmas present for some.

Other articles at Code for life:

Mad on Radium

Animating our DNA*

Loops to tie a knot in proteins?

Retrospective–The mythology of bioinformatics