Queen's University

Queen's physicist elected to UK Royal Society

 
2009-05-15

Queen's Physics professor Art McDonald is one of three Canadians elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth.

As one of 44 international recipients of this honour for 2009, Dr. McDonald joins the likes of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking. Founded in 1660, the Royal Society today has more than 1400 Fellows and Foreign Members worldwide, recognized for their exceptional contributions in the fields of science, engineering and medicine.

"Art McDonald's election as a Fellow of the Royal Society is another example of the tremendous international recognition of the outstanding science that has been conducted by the SNO team he has led, and an extremely well deserved honour for Art," says Vice-Principal (Research) Kerry Rowe. "This again highlights the outstanding research being conducted and led by Queen's researchers."

A native of Sydney, Nova Scotia, Dr. McDonald was attracted to Queen's from Princeton in 1989 to head up the university's new Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), located in a northern Ontario nickel mine. Working in the world's deepest underground laboratory, the SNO team discovered that neutrinos (sub-atomic particles considered the basic building blocks of the universe) change from one type to another on their journey to Earth from the sun.

This solved a 30-year-old scientific problem and confirmed that models of the energy generation in the sun are correct. The SNO measurements indicate that the basic laws of physics must be rewritten, and provide information that could lead to a more complete description of nature at the most microscopic level. The discovery was ranked the second most important scientific breakthrough in the world in 2001 by the international journal Science.

The Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics at Queen's, Dr. McDonald was co-recipient in 2007 of the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics. Among his other honours are: the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal as Canada's top scientist, presented by the NSERC in 2003; the Bruno Pontecorvo Prize from Russia, a prestigious award in particle physics (2005); and the Tom W. Bonner Prize, North America's top prize in nuclear physics (2003).

"Our new Fellows are at the cutting edge of science worldwide," said Royal Society President Martin Rees in making the announcement. "Their achievements represent the vast contribution science makes to society. They join an outstanding group of over 1400 Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society, and all rank among the international leaders in their field."

Dr. McDonald will be officially admitted to the Royal Society in a ceremony in London this July. The full list of new Fellows and Foreign Members is available on the Royal Society web site.

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