2012 Isaac Newton medal of the Institute of Physics

Professor Martin Rees, Lord Rees of Ludlow, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University. For his outstanding contributions to relativistic astrophysics and cosmology.

Martin Rees is responsible for paradigm-shifting papers in galaxy formation, active galactic nuclei and cosmic explosions. His papers are direct, graceful and accessible to theorists and observers, students and professors. He first attracted astronomical attention with a 1967 prediction that rapidly varying radio sources would show structural changes seemingly faster that the speed of light. This was confirmed in 1973. A second major prediction (with P. Meszaros) of long-wavelength afterglows to gamma ray bursts was also rapidly confirmed.

His major contributions include: fitting quasars into the history of the universe, showing that their numbers evolve (with D. Sciama), that their observed properties follow if the basic energy mechanism is the expulsion from near a black hole of two, oppositely-directed, relativistic jets (with R. Blandford), and the prediction that every large galaxy should have a central supermassive black hole; predicting properties of the 3K background radiation, including its polarization (seen 38 years later) and secondary anisotropies introduced between us and the last scattering surface (the Rees-Sciama effect); fundamental work on galaxy formation and cold dark matter (with S. White) and how the processes could be probed using highly red-shifted 21 cm radiation from neutral hydrogen (with D. Scott and H. Couchman); radiation mechanisms and physical processes near black holes in Active Galactic Nuclei and x-ray binaries, and many other topics including star formation, origin of the x-ray background, fine-tuning and implications for multiverses, origin of cosmic magnetic fields, and sources and effects of gravitational radiation and cosmic strings.

In addition to the significance of his own research and the mentoring of more than 40 students and postdocs, he has made an enormous impact on public understanding of science through his non-technical books and many articles for newspapers and magazines. He has also provided leadership for the Royal Society, the Institute of Astronomy and Trinity College, Cambridge, and as board member or trustee for many other organisations.