Saul Perlmutter, a professor of physics at UC Berkeley and part of the Physics Division at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, has been awarded this year’s Einstein Medal, presented by the Albert Einstein Society. The medal was awarded for “discovering the acceleration of the universe” through the observation of very distant supernovae. Perlmutter shares the award with Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and John Hopkins University.
Perlmutter is the leader and cofounder of the International Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP), based at Berkeley Lab. In 1998 Perlmutter announced the SCP’s landmark finding that the expansion of the universe is not slowing, as virtually all scientists expected, but accelerating. The cause of the acceleration has been dubbed dark energy, and is estimated to constitute nearly three-quarters of everything in the universe. The nature of dark energy remains unknown.
The accelerating universe work has produced a string of prizes and recognition for Perlmutter, as well as for Riess and Brian Schmidt of Australian National University (Riess and Schmidt independently confirmed the accelerating universe findings in 1998). The three won the Shaw Prize in Astronomy in 2006, Perlmutter won the Antonio Feltrinelli Prize the same year, and Perlmutter and Schmidt shared the Gruber Cosmology Prize in 2007.
Perlmutter and Riess will receive their Einstein Medals at a ceremony at the Einstein Society’s home in Bern, Switzerland in May.