Neil Turok 2014


Neil Geoffrey Turok was born in Johannesburg on 11 June 1958. He is the son of noted anti-apartheid activist and Member of Parliament, Ben Turok. He graduated from Churchill College Cambridge and followed this with a PhD from Imperial College, London.

He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Santa Barbara, and then became an associate scientist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois. After that he moved to Princeton, where he became Professor of Physics in 1994. Three years later he was appointed to the Chair of Mathematical Physics in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge. In 2008, be became Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, the post which he currently holds.

Professor Turok has worked in various areas of mathematical physics and the physics of the early universe. He has collaborated with many illustrious colleagues and together with Prof Stephen Hawking, developed the so-called Hawking-Turok Instanton Solutions which, according to the no-boundary proposal of Hawking and James Hartle can describe the birth of an inflationary universe. Recently, he collaborated with Paul Steinhardt at Princeton to develop a cyclic model.

He has over 100 publications in journals of high quality and has been cited over 600 times. Not only has he produced scientific research of the highest quality, he has also been very active in the promotion and popularisation of science. Together with Steinhardt, he authored the popular science book Endless Universe in 2007. In 2012 he was invited to give the CBC Massey Lectures, and these were published in the book, The Universe Within – from Quantum to Cosmos.

Professor Turok is the recipient of numerous honours and awards for his work. He is the recipient of the James Clark Maxwell Medal, a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship. He has been elected a Senior Fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto. In addition, he has received a Lane Anderson Award for Science Writing.

Despite spending his entire working life in foreign countries, Neil Turok has not forgotten his African roots. On the occasion of receiving a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) prize in 2008, he expressed the hope that the next Einstein would come from Africa. He also received a "Most Innovative People Award," for Social Innovation, at the World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (WSIE) in the same year.

He was instrumental in the founding of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town, a facility which provides hands-on mathematical training to promising students from around the continent. For this excellent contribution, he was honoured in 2010 with the Advancement in Mathematics award of the South African Mathematical Society.

Professor Turok received a prize from the World Innovation Summit for Education in Qatar in 2010 and was selected to deliver the Massey Lectures for the 2012 season which involves five separate lectures delivered in various locations across Canada and then aired on CBC's Ideas.

Recognising his significant and ground-breaking contributions in theoretical physics and his support for mathematical sciences in South Africa, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to confer the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on Neil Geoffrey Turok.