Werner Israel

Werner Israel, OC, FRS, FRSC, physicist (born 4 October 1931 in Berlin, Germany; died 18 May 2022 in Victoria, BC). Werner contributed new insights to the field of physics and is perhaps best known for his research on black holes. During his career, he collaborated with the English physicist Stephen Hawking.

Werner Israel, OC, FRS, FRSC, physicist (born 4 October 1931 in Berlin, Germany; died 18 May 2022 in Victoria, BC). Werner contributed new insights to the field of physics and is perhaps best known for his research on black holes. During his career, he collaborated with the English physicist Stephen Hawking.


Werner Israel, scientist

Early Life and Education

Werner Israel and his family fled Nazi Germany in 1936 and moved to Cape Town, South Africa. He was educated at the University of Cape Town where he completed his Bachelor of Science in 1951 and Master of Science in 1954. Werner undertook the remainder of his graduate research in Dublin, Ireland. Under the supervision of John Lighton Synge, Werner received his PhD from Trinity College in 1960.

Career and Research

While in Ireland, Werner Israel worked as a research scholar at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. He joined the University of Alberta as an assistant professor in the Mathematics Department in 1958. He was made a professor of physics in 1972. In 1996, Israel retired from the University of Alberta. That same year, he was appointed adjunct professor of physics at the University of Victoria.

Israel’s research encompassed several areas, including relativity theory, black holes, cosmology, relativistic thermodynamics and quantum gravity. He is well known for his pioneering work on gravitational collapse, the concept of event horizon and the uniqueness of static black holes. He also made important contributions to relativistic kinetic theory and the thermodynamics of black holes. (See also Cosmology.)

Israel collaborated with the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who invited Werner to Cambridge in the 1970s after learning about his work on black holes. Werner and Hawking continued to work together at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) where they were both Sherman-Fairchild Distinguished Scholars (1974-75). Later in their careers, they would co-edit General Relativity: an Einstein Centenary Survey (1979) and Three Hundred Years of Gravitation (1987). Hawking and the mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose would both nominate Israel for membership to the Royal Society (FRS), an honour that he would receive in 1986.

Werner Israel has been recognized internationally and received numerous prizes and fellowships for his contribution to the fields of relativity, gravitation, relativistic thermodynamics and cosmology.

Honours and Awards

  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada (1972)
  • Sherman-Fairchild Distinguished Scholar, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (1974-75)
  • Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics, Canadian Association of Physicists (1981)
  • University Research Prize, Sciences and Engineering, University of Alberta(1983)
  • Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Prize, Canada Council (1984)
  • Research Fellow, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (1985-97)
  • Fellow, Royal Society (1986)
  • Officer, Order of Canada (1994)
  • Inaugural Winner, CAP-CRM Prize in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics, Canadian Association of Physicists and the Centre de recherches mathématiques (1995)
  • Distinguished Fellow, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (2002)
  • Fellow, International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation (2013)