Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Kiwi scientist Roy Kerr receives coveted honour from King of Sweden

Roy Kerr, centre, along with Professor Roger Blandford of Stanford University, receive the Crafoord Prize from the King of Sweden, HM King Carl XVI Gustaf, right.  Photo / Laura Pishief
Roy Kerr, centre, along with Professor Roger Blandford of Stanford University, receive the Crafoord Prize from the King of Sweden, HM King Carl XVI Gustaf, right. Photo / Laura Pishief

An internationally-renowned Kiwi professor has been presented one of science's most coveted honours by the King of Sweden.

In a ceremony held at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm yesterday, Emeritus Professor Roy Kerr, 82, was handed the million-dollar Crafoord Prize by HM King Carl XVI Gustaf.

The prize, which was shared with Stanford University theoretical astrophysicist Professor Roger Blandford, is intended to promote international basic research in the disciplines astronomy and mathematics, geosciences and biosciences, with particular emphasis on ecology and olyarthritis (rheumatoid arthritis).

The honour came after Professor Kerr, widely known for his influential studies of black holes and the significant contribution it has made to the field of general relativistic astrophysics, became the first New Zealander to receive the Einstein Medal, in 2012.

One of the world's foremost theoretical physicists famous for his work on black holes, Stephen Hawking, noted Kerr's discovery in his celebrated book, A Brief History of Time.

Much of the work under-pinning the recent discovery of so-called "gravitational waves" could also be traced back to his seminal theoretical work more than 50 years ago.

The team of physicists that confirmed the existence of gravitational waves -- ripples thorough our universe that have only been theorised until now -- concluded that they were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole.

This collision of two black holes had been predicted by Professor Kerr, but had never observed.

Professor Kerr, who now lives in rural Bay of Plenty, retired as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Canterbury in 1993 after 22 years, including a decade as the head of the university's mathematics department.

Earlier this year, he was also awarded the University of Canterbury's rare honour of Canterbury Distinguished Professor.

The academic title awarded to Emeritus Professor Kerr was the highest that can be awarded by the university's council and has been conferred just twice in its near 150-year history.

- NZ Herald

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