Notable Alumni - Roy Kerr

Doctor of Science

Mathematician

Roy Kerr

Professor Roy Patrick Kerr is an eminent mathematician, known internationally for discovering the Kerr solution, an exact solution to the Einstein field equation of general relativity.

Professor Kerr began his long association with the University of Canterbury in 1951, earning a Bachelor of Science in 1954 and a Master of Science in 1955. He then went to Cambridge to research his PhD, and was awarded his doctorate in 1959.

From England, Dr Kerr moved to the United States, where as a postdoctoral student in Syracuse, New York, he worked with Professor Peter Bergmann, Albert Einstein’s collaborator.

In 1963, while working at the University of Austin in Texas, Dr Kerr did something that had eluded scientists for 47 years – he discovered the solution to Einstein’s equations that define the space outside a rotating star or black hole. This was something many in the field doubted could be done.

Professor Kerr’s discovery triggered a revolution in the field of astrophysics, and is now known as the ‘Kerr geometry’ or 'Kerr solution’.

Dr Kerr returned to New Zealand and the University of Canterbury in 1971, where he became a Professor of Mathematics for 22 years until his retirement in 1993, when he was appointed an ‘Emeritus Professor’. Professor Kerr developed strong links with the department of physics and astronomy, where his seminal work on the Kerr Vacuum provided the basis of much research and teaching.

Professor Kerr was awarded the British Royal Society’s Hughes Medal in 1984 and the Rutherford Medal from the New Zealand Royal Society in 1993. He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011, and was awarded the 2013 Albert Einstein medal by the Albert Einstein Society in Switzerland.

The University of Canterbury awarded the rare honour of the title Canterbury Distinguished Professor to Professor Roy Kerr who also received the prestigious Crafoord Prize in Sweden in 2016. Canterbury Distinguished Professor is the highest academic title that can be awarded by UC and has been conferred only twice before in the University’s history. Title recipients are Nobel Prize winners or equivalent, such as the Crafoord Prize, which is worth over $NZ1 million

Learn more about Roy Kerr's life and work.