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Math Prof wakes early to view black hole image


Astronomers have captured the first image of a black hole, proving the University of Canterbury’s distinguished Professor Roy Kerr’s 56-year-old theory correct.
Kerr said he set his alarm for 1am to see this exciting event.

“The event horizon telescope photo is just the beginning of a new phase in the understanding of our universe.

“The visual evidence will continue to get more and more sophisticated,” he said.

“I was surprised that the best image was not Sagittarius A* (compact astronomical radio source) but was a supermassive black hole 2000 times further away, and 2000 times larger.”

In 1963 before advanced computers existed Kerr achieved what had eluded others for nearly half a century with pen and paper – 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.

Kerr is an eminent mathematician known internationally for discovering the Kerr Vacuum, an exact solution to the Einstein field equation of general relativity. He began his long association with the University of Canterbury in 1951, earning a Bachelor of Science in 1954 and a Master of Science in 1955. He then went to Cambridge to research his PhD and was awarded his doctorate in 1959. From England he then moved to the United States where he worked with Professor Peter Bergmann, Albert Einstein’s collaborator.

Kerr returned to New Zealand and the University of Canterbury in 1971 where he became a Professor of Mathematics for 22 years until his retirement in 1993. Awarded the British Royal Society’s Hughes Medal in 1984 and the Rutherford Medal from the New Zealand Royal Society in 1993, he was also made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011, and was awarded the 2013 Albert Einstein medal by the Albert Einstein Society in Switzerland.

The University of Canterbury awarded the rare honour of the title Canterbury Distinguished Professor to Emeritus Professor Roy Kerr, who also received the prestigious Crafoord Prize in Sweden in 2016.

Canterbury Distinguished Professor is the highest academic title that can be awarded by the University and has been conferred only twice before in the University’s history.

Title recipients are Nobel Prize winners or equivalent, such as the Crafoord Prize, which is worth over $NZ1 million. (source: NZ Herald here)

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