Hawking wins £1.8m physics prize

Professor Stephen Hawking has been named as one of the first recipients of the most lucrative science prize in the history of time.

The £1.8 million Special Fundamental Physics Prize was established earlier this year by a Russian billionaire.

Britain's most famous theoretical physicist, who is used to grappling with large sums, says he plans to spend his windfall on his daughter's autistic son and "maybe" buying a holiday home.

Prof Hawking and a team of scientists who led the hunt for the Higgs boson mass particle received separate prizes worth three million US dollars (£1.8 million) each.

The former Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, who is severely disabled with motor neurone disease, earned his prize for a lifetime of achievement unravelling the mysteries of quantum gravity and the early universe.

In particular, the award recognised his discovery of Hawking radiation, a quantum effect that allows black holes to "evaporate" by emitting particles.

The Special Fundamental Physics Prize is one of several awards set up by Yuri Milner, a Russian internet mogul who abandoned his PhD in physics to make a fortune from the web.

In an email sent to the Guardian newspaper, Prof Hawking - whose book A Brief History of Time became a best-seller - said he was "delighted and honoured".

He added: "No-one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no-one knew before. Nevertheless, prizes like these play an important role in giving public recognition for achievement in physics. They increase the stature of physics and interest in it."

On the thorny question of what to do with the money, Prof Hawking added: "I will help my daughter with her autistic son, and maybe buy a holiday home, not that I take many holidays because I enjoy my work in theoretical physics."