Kiwi ‘Party Animal’ physicist awarded Einstein Medal

A New Zealand scientist has been awarded a prestigious medal in recognition of his furthering the work of Albert Einstein.

Prof Roy Kerr

The Einstein Medal will be awarded to Prof Roy Kerr from the University of Canterbury  for his “Kerr Solution” which puts to rest a gravitational field equation posited by Einstein.

The medal is awarded annually by the Einstein Society to deserving individuals for outstanding scientific findings, works, or publications related to Albert Einstein.

Emeritus Professor Roy Kerr discovered the solution, which mathematically describes space outside a rotating star or black hole,  in 1963. Physicists had been seeking a solution to the problem for 47 years.

The medal puts Prof Kerr in good company, with Stephen Hawking and 6 Nobel laureates among the 30 distinguished scientists recognised by the award to date. However, Prof Kerr doesn’t fit the stereotype of the awkward scientist. Writing in the Listener at the time of his 70th birthday in 2004, Marilyn Head described him thus:

 Far from being one of the worthy, but perhaps less appealing, “brown cardy and sandals” types of scientist, he is, in his own words, a “party animal”. Popularly credited with being “good-natured, good-looking and good at everything”, he has a reputation as a “wheeler dealer” businessman, bringing back American sportscars and Rolls-Royces (“terrible cars!”) from sabbaticals, that, coupled with his success as a sportsman and being a national representative and champion bridge player, would seem to invite notoriety rather than the opposite.”

The Einstein Medal will be awarded to Professor Kerr at a ceremony at the University of Bern in May next year.

You can read more in a media release from the University of Canterbury.

Media coverage of Prof Kerr includes:

New Zealand Herald: Canterbury professor first Kiwi to receive Einstein Medal Einstein Medal For NZ Professor Roy Kerr
MSN NZ News: Kiwi scientist to receive Einstein Medal
3 News: Kiwi scientist wins Einstein Medal