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Royal Society awards Hawking Copley medal

Took it to space, first

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Professor Stephen Hawking has been awarded the Royal Society's 275th Copley medal for his contribution to cosmology and theoretical physics.

Hawking said he was honoured to be in the same company as previous recipients of the award - including Darwin, Einstein, Pasteur and Faraday. It was first awarded to Stephen Gray in 1731 "For his new Electrical Experiments" - and pre-dates the Nobel prize by 170 years.

Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, said: “Stephen Hawking has contributed as much as anyone since Einstein to our understanding of gravity. This medal is a fitting recognition of an astonishing research career spanning more than 40 years."

The Royal Society summed up its choice of Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge,thus: "His work has been essential in understanding and classifying black holes. He has also made an exceptional contribution to the popularisation of his subject."

The Royal Society sent the medal into space before awarding it to the professor. British-born astronaut Piers Sellers carried the medal to the International Space Station on the Space Shuttle Discovery when it flew in July this year.

Hawking wants to "express his gratitude" to Sellers and the rest of the crew for the gesture.

Sellers said in a statement: “Stephen Hawking is a definitive hero to all of us involved in exploring the Cosmos. His contribution to science is unique and he serves as a continuous inspiration to every thinking person.

"It was an honour for the crew of the STS-121 mission to fly his medal into space. We think that this is particularly appropriate as Stephen has dedicated his life to thinking about the larger Universe." ®

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