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Stanford visiting professor Daniel Freedman awarded Special Breakthrough Prize

Aug 7 2019
Categories: 
Awards, Department News

Daniel Freedman, a visiting professor at the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics (SITP), is a co-recipient of a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for his role in the invention of supergravity, a deeply influential theoretical blueprint for unifying all of nature’s fundamental interactions.

Freedman, who is an emeritus professor of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at MIT, shares the $3 million prize with Sergio Ferrara and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, who are at CERN and SUNY Stony Brook, respectively.

In 1976, the trio drew upon a recently developed principle in physics known as supersymmetry to propose a modified version of general relativity. This new version successfully integrates gravity with nature’s three other fundamental forces.

Despite recently turning 80, Freedman’s enthusiasm for physics shows no signs of abatement. Freedman received word of his Breakthrough Prize while at the Aspen Center for Physics, where he was attending workshops on new developments in quantum field theory and preparing for a new collaboration with colleagues from Princeton.

Freedman was informed of the news through a phone call from Stanford physicist Andrei Linde, who is a member of the Breakthrough Prize selection committee.

“I was overwhelmed,” Freedman recalled. “I just said, ‘Wow, wow, wow.’”

In a follow-up email to colleagues, Freedman wrote, “I still haven’t stepped down off cloud nine. Somehow I must get back to my calculations.” [Read more.]