2017 Paul Dirac Medal and Prize

Professor Michael Duff of Imperial College London and Oxford University for sustained groundbreaking contributions to theoretical physics including the discovery of Weyl anomalies, for having pioneered Kaluza-Klein supergravity, and for recognising that superstrings in 10 dimensions are merely a special case of membranes in an 11-dimensional M-theory.

Throughout his career Professor Michael Duff has made groundbreaking advances in the areas of unified theories of the elementary particles, quantum gravity, Kaluza-Klein theory, superstrings, supermembranes, M-theory and quantum information theory.

Duff’s discovery of gravitational Weyl anomalies have wide-ranging implications and applications, including to quantum gravity, black holes, inflationary cosmology, conformal field theory, string theory/M-theory, and entanglement entropy. His quantization of gravity with a cosmological constant is pivotal to research on gravitational instantons and cosmology, especially since the discovery of dark energy.

His compactification of 11-dimensional supergravity to 4 dimensions on a 7-dimensional sphere was the prototype of Kaluza-Klein supergravities, and his K3 compactification was a 4-dimensional forerunner of the 6-dimensional Calabi-Yau manifold.

After Duff’s seminal work on the fundamentals of string theory, he then recognised that superstrings in 10 dimensions can arise from supermembranes in 11 dimensions – a current highly regarded candidate for unifying the fundamental forces – and discovered multi-membrane solutions to 11-dimensional supergravity.

He later applied mathematical techniques gleaned from string theory/M-theory to quantum information theory – on black hole entropy, three-qubit entanglement and four-qubit entanglement.

Latterly, Duff has also raised the possibility that gravity – a force traditionally associated with Einstein’s general relativity – may in fact be the product of two Yang-Mills gauge theories, traditionally associated with the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces. Preliminary results in this area are encouraging.

Duff holds a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship, is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the American Physical Society and the Institute of Physics and was awarded the 2004 Meeting Gold Medal, El Colegio Nacional, Mexico. He was recently appointed Visiting Professor in Mathematics at Oxford.