And The Winner Is

Australian scientist becomes Nobel physics laureate

Australia has its first winner of the Nobel Prize for physics since World War One, after Professor Brian Schmidt became the country's 12th Nobel laureate last night.

The ANU professor, who was born in the US, won the prestigious honour alongside fellow astrophysicists Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess.

Perlmutter will receive one half of the 10 million Swedish kroner ($1.5 million) prize, with lab teammates Schmidt and Riess sharing the other half.

The three were honoured for discovering the accelerating rate of the expansion of the universe by researching exploding stars, known as Type 1a supernova.

Schmidt, who works at Mount Stromlo Observatory, told Swedish public broadcaster SVT by phone from Australia he was "weak in the knees, really excited, and somewhat I guess amazed by the situation".

"It's extremely exciting, it's obviously pretty surprising to get the call,'' he said last night.

Australia's Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, said the award "could not have happened to a nicer bloke", according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"I am absolutely delighted for Brian and his people at Stromlo. They all endured a pretty traumatic time [during the 2003 bushfire] and have managed a slow and steady rebuild."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the award was a testament to the rigour and determination of Schmidt and his team.

"They stuck with their observations and made the theory fit the facts, however revolutionary and inconvenient," she said in a statement.

"It is another day on which Aussie researchers make Australians proud."

William Bragg and his son, Lawrence, were Australia's first Nobel laureates after they were jointly awarded the physics prize in 1915 for their analysis of crystal structures using X-rays.

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