Adam Riess, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and a professor in physics and astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University, today was awarded the 2011 Einstein Medal by the Albert Einstein Society, located in Bern, Switzerland. The Society recognized him for leadership in the High-z Supernova Search Team's 1998 discovery that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating, a phenomenon widely attributed to a mysterious, unexplained "dark energy" filling the universe.
The medal is awarded for outstanding scientific findings, works, or publications related to Albert Einstein. Physicist Stephen Hawking received the first Einstein Medal in 1979. The Albert Einstein Society was founded in 1977 to publicize Einstein's life and work during his years in Switzerland and especially in Bern. Riess will receive the medal at a ceremony in Bern in May 2011.
Riess, 40, shares this year's prize with Saul Perlmutter, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Perlmutter's Supernova Cosmology Project team published similar results shortly after those published by Riess and High-Z team member Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University. Both teams shared the Peter Gruber Foundation's 2007 Cosmology Prize – a gold medal and $500,000 – for the discovery of dark energy, which Science Magazine called "The Breakthrough Discovery of the Year" in 1998. The researchers also shared the 2006 Shaw Prize in astronomy for the same discovery.
Riess led the study for the High-z Supernova Search Team of highly difficult and precise measurements – across 7 billion light-years – that resulted in the remarkable 1998 discovery that many believe has changed astrophysics forever: an accelerated expansion of the universe propelled by dark energy.
Photo Credit: W. Kirk (Homewood Photographic Services)