In one way, Ezra Newman is the opposite of Stephen Hawking, another genius physicist.
Unlike Hawking, who is great at attracting attention, Newman is great at deflecting it. He didn’t even tell his kids he had won the Einstein Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in physics. They found out from their mother.
Newman is unassuming, but boy is he influential. Like the black holes he studies, he gets noticed through his effects on his surroundings.
Because of his work, other scientists learned that a black hole is fundamentally stable, holding together even when it collides with another black hole. They repeatedly benefited from Newman’s ability to discern simpler mathematical expressions within complex equations.
For instance, Einstein’s theory of general relativity relies on 10 highly complicated equations that usually take physicists months to work through. The Newman-Penrose version consists of several dozen vastly simpler mathematical expressions that together can be solved in about a half-hour.
“I discover things that are sitting right in the equations,” he says.
Sounds simple, right?
— Adapted from “A Humble Heavyweight in Physics Finally Gets His Due,” Paul Basken, The Chronicle of Higher Education.