Professor Neil Turok scoops international prize

6 December 2007

A Cambridge professor has won a prestigious international prize for his contributions to science and education.

Neil Turok, Chair of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, and an alumnus of Churchill College, was awarded the prize in recognition of his work in the field of theoretical cosmology and his efforts as an education activist.

Professor Turok is best known for his pioneering work developing and testing fundamental theories of the very early universe through a combination of advanced mathematics and clever observational checks. Several predictions made by his group in the mid-1990's helped to establish today's standard model: their calculations also ruled out a number of competing theoretical ideas.

Recently, using the latest theoretical ideas on the unification of fundamental particles and forces, he has developed an explanation of the big bang itself, not as the beginning of time but rather as a violent event in a pre-existing universe. With Professor Paul Steinhardt at Princeton, he has elaborated this into a 'Cyclic Universe' model, according to which our big bang is only the latest in an endless cosmic cycle. The conventional viewpoint and the cyclic picture are contrasted in their recent popular science book, Endless Universe.

In 2003 Professor Turok founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town, South Africa. The Institute has been widely recognised as a outstanding innovative model for postgraduate education and research, and it is playing a key role in pan-African efforts to develop capacity in science and technology.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) began as a conference in 1984. It has now expanded, with innovations such as downloadable talks from eminent public figures and academics. Their annual conference attracts over 1000 attendees (with a waiting list of 3,500) and features 50 speakers.

The TED prize is awarded annually to three individuals whose work is considered to have extraordinary potential for positive influence on mankind. They each receive $100,000 and the granting of "One Wish to Change the World". The wishes are announced at the award ceremony and often lead to influential collaborative initiatives. Previous winners include former US president Bill Clinton and eminent biologist E.O. Wilson.