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Professor Roy Kerr elected as Royal Society Fellow

The University of Canterbury’s Canterbury Distinguished Professor Roy Kerr is to become a Fellow of the Royal Society (UK), for his exceptional contributions to science, placing him among the world’s most eminent scientists.

Professor Kerr is an eminent mathematician, known internationally for discovering the Kerr solution, an exact solution to the Einstein field equation of general relativity. The Royal Society has described his work as of particular importance to general relativistic astrophysics, and all subsequent detailed work on black holes has depended fundamentally on it.

The Royal Society noted Professor Kerr’s contributions to science: “for the solution of Einstein's equations of General Relativity for rotating black holes, an epochal result now known as the Kerr metric, describing Kerr black holes. Other major contributions include prescient work on algebraically special solutions of reduced holonomy.”

UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey says this is well-deserved recognition for Professor Kerr’s seminal contribution.

“The University of Canterbury is proud to have such a long association with Roy Kerr, from his formative years as a Canterbury student, through his decades of teaching maths here, and today, as a Canterbury Distinguished Professor and now Royal Society Fellow, continuing to inspire generations to explore and change our view of the cosmos.”

Professor Kerr has been in the news this month after astronomers captured the first image of a black hole, proving his 56-year-old solution correct.

Back in 1963, before advanced computers existed, with pen and paper Professor Kerr achieved what had eluded others for nearly half a century, solving some of the most difficult equations of physics by hand. He found the exact solution of Albert Einstein's equations that describe rotating black holes.

Professor Kerr's discovery sparked a revolution in physics. At that time there was no consensus that such objects even existed; the term ‘black hole’ was only coined in 1967.

The 2016 discovery of gravitational waves (caused by colliding black holes) by researchers with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was made possible by Kerr's solution.

The Royal Society

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship made up of eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science. Each candidate is considered on his or her own merits and can be proposed from any sector of the scientific community.

There are around 1,600 Fellows and Foreign Members, including about 80 Nobel Laureates. Each year up to 52 Fellows and up to 10 Foreign Members are elected from a group of around 700 candidates who are proposed by the existing Fellowship. New Fellows are formally admitted to the Society at the Admissions Day ceremony in July, when they sign the Charter Book and the Obligation of the Fellows of the Royal Society.

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