Acceptance Speech – Bern, 18.11.2011


Joseph Silk

2011 Balzan Prize for The Early Universe (From the Planck Time to the First Galaxies)

For his pioneering work on the early evolution of the Universe, studying the effects of various physical processes and phenomena such as dark matter and space curvature on the fluctuations of the Cosmic Microwave Background and the formation of galaxies of different types.

Federal Councillor,
Chairman of the Balzan Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

I cannot overstate the great joy that I felt when I heard the news that I had been awarded the 2011 Balzan Prize. My feelings were shared between my role and the contributions of my many collaborators without whom my work would have been far less significant. 

I began my studies of the early universe and predicted the imprint of galaxy formation on the fossil radiation as a graduate student at Harvard. My timing was impeccable, as the cosmic microwave background radiation had just been discovered. But the significance of my early work was greatly amplified in joint studies with my numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, who worked with me over many years when I was teaching at the University of California at Berkeley. I went on to the University of Oxford, to whom I am grateful for providing me with ideal conditions for research by establishing the Beecroft Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.

Research at the frontiers of knowledge is like planting a garden in arid land. It needs constant nurture and encouragement. Oxford provided a fertile environment, and New College a social and interdisciplinary spline that facilitated scientific interactions. 

I am delighted to acknowledge the hospitality of my current institutions, the Institut d’Astrophysique of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University, in providing a new and stimulating setting for my research. 
I finally wish to express my deepest gratitude to the Balzan Foundation and its General Prize Committee for this tremendous honour, and to my family for their continuing support and patience.

Joseph Ivor Silk

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