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Stephen Hawking wins 1.8m from science's most lucrative prizeCambridge scientist is the latest winner of the Fundamental Physics PrizeHe says he will help autistic grandson and maybe buy holiday home
Top scientists from CERN also share special prize of the same value
12:45 GMT, 11 December 2012
In the money: Physicist Stephen Hawking has been handed a 1.8million prize in recognition of his lifetime's contribution to theoretical physics
Stephen Hawking says he might splash out on a holiday home after he was handed 1.8million in recognition of his lifetime contribution to theoretical physics.
The former Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University is one of the latest winners of the most lucrative science prize ever established.
The Fundamental Physics Prize awarded the huge sum to Professor Hawking, 70, for his discovery that black holes emit radiation, and his 'deep contributions' to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe.
An identical prize was shared between the seven scientists who led the effort to discover a Higgs-like particle at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.
Set up in July by Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner, the Fundamental Physics Prize aims to recognise scientific breakthroughs that have advanced our knowledge of the Universe at the deepest level.
The winners were chosen by an independent committee of physicists, including Nima Arkani-Hamed, the Iranian-American physicists renowned for his work on dimensional deconstruction, and Ed Witten, the string theorist.
Further prizes were awarded to other physicists in two categories in recognition for their achievements in the advancement of our understanding of fundamental physics.
Professor Hawking told the Guardian he was 'delighted and honoured' to receive the $3million prize.
'No one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize,' he wrote in an email. 'It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before.
'Nevertheless prizes like these play an important role in giving public recognition for achievement in physics. They increase the stature of physics and interest in it.'
He added that he had not settled on how to spend his new-found wealth, but said at least some of the cash would go to helping his daughter with her autistic son and that he might put the rest towards a holiday home.
A second $3million prize was shared between the scientists who led the team at the Large Hadron Collider who discovered what could be the long-predicted Higgs Boson particle.
One of the recipients, Lyn Evans, head of the LHC, told the Guardian he was 'gobsmacked' to learn he had won the cash and would immediately go out and buy himself a new iPad.
Another of the winners, Fabiola Gianotti, head of the Atlas group at CERN, said she plans to use her $500,000 share to set up a fund to help out young physicists that she works with.
CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said: 'It is a great honour for the LHC’s achievement to be recognised in this way.
'This prize recognizes the work of everyone who has contributed to the project over many years.
'The Fundamental Physics Prize underlines the value of fundamental physics to society, and I am delighted that the Foundation has chosen to hold its first award ceremony at CERN.'
Breakthrough: A second prize of the same value was awarded to the scientists who led the discovery of what could be the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN earlier this year
Mr Milner, whose Milner Foundation will pay out the prize money, holds an advanced degree in theoretical physics from Moscow State University, but abandoned his PhD to study for an MBA and went on to make a fortune investing in social media.
HAWKING'S STRING OF ACCOLADES1975 Eddington Medal
1976 Hughes Medal of the Royal Society
1979 Albert Einstein Medal
1981 Franklin Medal
1982 Commander of the Order of the British Empire
1985 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society
1986 Member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
1988 Wolf Prize in Physics
1989 Companion of Honour
1999 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society
2003 Michelson Morley Award of Case Western Reserve University
2006 Copley Medal of the Royal Society
2008 Fonseca Prize of the University of Santiago de Compostela
2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom
He said he hopes the prizes will help to bring recognition to the achievements of physicists and help support them to future breakthroughs.
Along with the two special prizes for Professor Hawking and the Cern team, the prize committee named a handful of other scientists who will be shortlisted for the $3million Fundamental Physics Prize to be announced next March.
Their work ranged from breakthroughs in quantum field theory, the development of exotic materials known as topological insulators, and discoveries in string theory.
Three further physicists under 35 were awarded $100,000 prizes for breakthroughs in other areas of physics.
Commenting on the selections, Nima Arkani-Hamed, a member of the committee, said: 'Choosing this year's recipients from such a large pool of spectacular nominations was a very difficult task
'The selected physicists have done transformative work spanning a wide range of areas in fundamental physics. I especially look forward to future breakthroughs from the first recipients of the New Horizons in Physics Prize.'
Mr Milner added: 'I am very much pleased with the decisions of the Selection Committee.
'I hope that the prizes will bring further recognition to some of the most brilliant minds in the world and the great accomplishments they have produced.'