Stanford physics Professor Andrei Linde, whose theories on the origin
of the universe have revolutionized the field of cosmology, has been
named co-recipient of the 2002 Dirac Medal by the Abdus Salam
International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy.

Linde will share the prize with physicists Alan Guth of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Paul Steinhardt of
Princeton University. In announcing the award, ICTP officials
credited the three scientists with developing the concept of
“inflationary cosmology” – the idea that the universe began not
with a fiery big bang but with an extraordinarily rapid expansion
(inflation) of space in a vacuum-like state.

“Although the history of the very early universe has not been firmly
established, the idea of inflation has already had notable
observational successes, and it has become the paradigm for
fundamental studies in cosmology,” ICTP officials said.

Inflationary cosmos

Linde helped lay the foundation for inflationary cosmology in the
1980s while working at the Lebedev Physical Institute in his native
Russia. According to inflation theory, the universe started out
smaller than a proton, then – in less than a billionth of a billionth
of a billionth of a second – expanded to a size trillions of times
bigger than our observable universe.

“If somebody had told me that 25 years ago, I would have thought he
was crazy,” Linde quipped, “but that`s what we’re getting this
medal for. It represents the acceptance of our theory by the general

According to ICTP, “Difficulties with the original inflationary
model were recognized by Guth and others, and were overcome with the
introduction of ‘new’ inflation by Linde and Steinhardt. Linde went
on to propose other promising versions of inflationary theory, such
as chaotic inflation.”

In 1986, four years before joining the Stanford faculty, Linde
published the theory of a self-reproducing inflationary universe –
the idea that ours is but one of many inflationary universes that
sprout from an eternal cosmic tree.

Paul Dirac

Founded in 1964 by Nobel laureate Abdus Salam, the ICTP is dedicated
to fostering the growth of advanced studies and research in the
developing countries. The center operates under the aegis of two
United Nations agencies – the U.N. Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA). Major funding for ICTP is provided by the Italian

The ICTP awards the Dirac Medal annually to individuals who have made
significant contributions to theoretical physics and mathematics. The
award is given in honor of English physicist Paul Dirac, recipient of
the 1933 Nobel Prize. Winners are announced on Aug. 8, Dirac’s
birthday. The first medal was presented in 1985 – a year after his
death. Helen Quinn, a theoretical physicist at the Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center, received a medal in 2000.

Linde and the other two recipients will receive medals and deliver a
lecture in Trieste next spring or summer. A $5,000 prize will be
shared by the three recipients.

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