Gary Hinshaw wins 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

The detailed, all-sky picture of the infant universe created from nine years of WMAP data. Image: NASA / WMAP Science Team.

UBC professor of physics & astronomy, Gary Hinshaw, is one of the recipients of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

He and colleagues from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) team, including UBC physics & astronomy colleague Mark Halpern, were awarded the prize for their work on mapping the early universe. Their findings cemented the “standard model” of cosmology: a flat universe dominated by dark matter and dark energy.

“It was a complete surprise to learn I was awarded the Breakthrough Prize,” said Hinshaw, who was instructed to keep the news secret even from his children.

The WMAP team was recognized for their accurate measurements of several key cosmological parameters, including the age of the universe at 13.77 billion years; the fact that more than 95 per cent of the energy in the universe resides in the form of dark matter and dark energy; and the notion that our universe likely began with a burst of “cosmic inflation.”  Taken together, these results establish the Standard Model of cosmology. The publications stemming from this work are among the most highly cited physics and astronomy papers ever published.

The $3 million prize will be split among the team members.

The WMAP team was previously recognized in 2012 with the Gruber Prize in Cosmology. Earlier this year, Hinshaw was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

To watch the 2018 Breakthrough Prize ceremony, visit:

About Breakthrough Prize 

For the sixth year, the Breakthrough Prizes will recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences (up to five per year), Fundamental Physics (up to one per year) and Mathematics (up to one per year). In addition, up to three $100,000 New Horizons in Physics and up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes are given out to early-career researchers each year. Laureates attend a televised awards ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions. The Breakthrough Prizes were founded by Sergey Brin, Yuri and Julia Milner, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Anne Wojcicki. Selection Committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates choose the winners.

Alex Walls
Media Relations Specialist, UBC Media Relations