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Peter van Niewenhuizen Shares Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

Photo credit: John Griffin/Stony Brook University

Congratulations to Dr. Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, distinguished professor of physics in the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University, and long-time friend and collaborator with the SCGP. It was announced today that van Nieuwenhuizen shares the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics with Sergio Ferrara of CERN and Daniel Z. Freedman of MIT and Stanford University* for their “invention of supergravity, in which quantum variables are part of the description of the geometry of spacetime.”
* At the time of the discovery in 1976, Dr. Freedman was also on the faculty at Stony Brook University.

The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizes individuals who have made profound contributions to human knowledge. Though Breakthrough Prizes are awarded annually, “special” Breakthrough Prizes can be awarded any time and need not honor recent work.

Ferrara, Freedman and van Nieuwenhuizen are the architects of supergravity, a highly influential 1976 theory that successfully integrated the force of gravity into a particular kind of quantum field theory (a theory that describes the fundamental particles and forces of nature in terms of fields embodying the laws of quantum mechanics).

“When we think of the great works of the human imagination, we often mean art, music and literature,” said Yuri Milner, one of the founders of Breakthrough Prize. “But some of the most profound and beautiful creations are those of scientists. Supergravity has inspired physicists for decades and may contain deep truths about the nature of reality.”

The winners will be recognized at the 2020 Breakthrough Prize ceremony at NASA’s Hangar 1 on Sunday, November 3, 2019, where the winners of the annual Fundamental Physics prize will also be honored, along with the winners of the Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences and Mathematics.

Additional Resources:

Peter van Niewenhuizen speaks at the 50th Anniversary of the YITP Symposium on the discovery of supergravity: