Prof. Bernard F. Schutz elected as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society

January 09, 2009

The Royal Astronomical Society honours Prof. Bernard F. Schutz by election as an Honorary Fellow for his distinguished leadership in stellar astronomy and gravitational wave research.

“We are delighted to honour Bernard F. Schutz for his early pioneering work on rotating stars that led him into the field of gravitational wave research, the prediction of gravitational wave signals and the implementation of new algorithms for detecting the signals using the current generation of gravitational wave observatories. Bernard enjoys an outstanding worldwide reputation because of his scientific work, his publications and his personal engagement for the interests of gravitational physics and its scientists.” Bernard F. Schutz is managing director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam/Germany and Professor at Cardiff University/Wales.

Bernard F. Schutz said: “I am honoured and delighted to be elected as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. It underlines the role of gravitational wave research as a major field in future astronomy that complements other astronomical methods. I am now looking forward to the very sophisticated upgrades of the German-British gravitational wave detector GEO600, the American LIGO observatories and the French-Italian Virgo detector in 2009, and to one of the most exciting near future projects: LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.”

Bernard F. Schutz has helped to coordinate fruitful collaborations among theoretical and experimental astrophysicists in Europe and in the USA. He was one of the key persons founding the field of gravitational wave astronomy, which, with the operations of the German-British gravitational wave detector GEO600, the American LIGO detectors, the Italian Virgo detector and with the space project „LISA“ in the near future, is now at the forefront of astronomical research.

Albert Einstein’s ideas had a strong impact on Bernard Schutz in his youth, so that already at the age of 16 he had decided to become a physicist and work, if possible, on relativity. He studied physics at Clarkson University, Potsdam (State of New York/USA) and got his PhD at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). At Caltech, in the 1960s, gravitational wave research was already a hot topic, and it caught his imagination. Since then, Bernard Schutz has specialized in studying the applications of General Relativity in astrophysics. Because of his work in theoretical astrophysics – among other things theoretical calculations of gravitational wave signals and development of methods for gravitational detector data analysis – he is one of the leading international experts in the field of General Relativity.

As a founding director (together with Prof. Dr. Jürgen Ehlers) of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam, Germany, Schutz has helped revitalize research in general relativity in Germany since 1995. Within the institute, he leads the Astrophysical Relativity Department, where scientists perform with supercomputer simulations of General Relativity, work on black holes, and analyze data from the world’s gravitational wave detectors. Schutz has retained his professorship in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University/Wales, which he held before moving to Germany. In addition he is an Honorary Professor at Potsdam University and at the University of Hannover.

Bernard F. Schutz is the Principal Investigator responsible for data analysis for the German-British GEO600 detector and is a member of the LISA International Science Team. LISA is a major joint project of ESA and NASA to detect gravitational waves in space from 2018 on.

Bernard F. Schutz is also a respected science communicator. A good example of this is his establishment of the e-journal Living Reviews in Relativity, a free accessible electronic journal with review articles from all research fields of General Relativity, whose authors maintain their articles up-to-date. He also works to explain gravitational physics from Galileo, Newton and Einstein, and up to the present day, to a broad public. For example, his book „Gravity from the ground up” published with Cambridge University Press, allows even 16-year-olds to connect with the concepts of general relativity. At a more advanced level, he is also the author of two influential textbooks, „A first course in General Relativity” and „Geometrical Methods of Mathematical Physics”. All his books are published by Cambridge University Press.

The Royal Astronomical Society was founded in 1820 and encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. With more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third of whom are based overseas, the RAS is one of the largest astronomical societies in the world. Its broad membership base includes scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others in related fields.

The Society represents UK astronomy and geophysics nationally and internationally and in recent months has lobbied actively against the cuts to research funding announced by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. The RAS also organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library and supports education through grants and outreach activities.

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