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Professor Bernard Schutz

Professor Bernard Schutz

Gravity Exploration Institute


I hold a part-time professorship at Cardiff University in the School of Physics and Astronomy. My research is primarily on gravitational wave detection and astronomy, which I do as a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. I came to Cardiff as a lecturer in 1974, working on the astrophysics of relativistic systems like neutron stars and black holes, and on their gravitational wave emissions. From the mid-1980s I began to develop the signal-analysis techniques now used by LIGO and its partners Virgo and KAGRA to find weak gravitational wave signals in their data. I moved to Germany in 1995 to help set up the Albert Einstein Institute, where I expanded my research in data analysis and numerical relativity. I became interested in big data problems generally, and when I returned to Cardiff in 2014 I became the first director of the Data Innovation Research Institute.

I have long been interested in teaching relativity and explaining it to non-scientists, and have written two widely used textbooks. While in Germany, I established the open-access journal Living Reviews in Relativity, which has become the highest-impact open-access journal in the world; it is now published by Springer.

My work in gravitational waves has led to a number of honours. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and member of Germany's national academy Leopoldina. I have received the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the R. A. Isaacson Award of the American Physical Society, the Amaldi Gold Medal of the Italian Society of General Relativity and Gravitation, the Communitas Award of the Max Planck Society, and the honorary degree of DSc from the University of Glasgow.


I was born and educated in the USA, and came to Cardiff for my first academic teaching position as a lecturer in 1974. I had obtained my PhD in Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1971, supervised by Kip Thorne. I had also previously done postdoctoral work at Cambridge University (in the groups of Stephen Hawking and Martin Rees) and at Yale University (James Bardeen) before coming to Cardiff.

In 1995 I reduced my Cardiffl professorship to a part-time role in order to take a full time position as a Director of the new Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam, Germany. I joined Jürgen Ehlers as one of the two founding Directors. Since then the institute has grown to have 5 Directors and two sites: the second site in Hannover was set up to do experimental gravitational wave research. With over 300 staff, the AEI (as it is known) has become the biggest research institute in the world devoted to gravitational science. The AEI has made major contributions to the LIGO detector system, both in technologies and in data analysis, and is the lead institute for the LISA gravitational wave mission of the European Space Agency.

I retired from the AEI in 2014 and returned to my part-time Cardiff professorship to help set up the new Data Innovation Research Institute, one of several University Research Institutes at Cardiff University. I stepped down from the directorship in 2017 and took over the teaching of some of the general relativity modules in PHYSX. I have recently stepped back from teaching, but I retain a part-time involvement in the Gravity Exploration Institute.

Honours and awards

  • My research has been recognised by election to a number of learned societies,

    • Fellow, Royal Society of London (2021)
    • Member, National Academy of Sciences, USA (2019)
    • Fellow, Learned Society of Wales (2011)
    • Member, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (2006) – Germany’s national academy
    • Member, Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden (2005)

    and by other awards,

    • Richard A Isaacson Award for Gravitational-Wave Science of the American Physical Society (2020), shared with my AEI fellow-director Bruce Allen
    • Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (2019)
    • Honorary DSc, Glasgow University (2011)
    • Amaldi Gold Medal of the Italian Society for Gravitation (SIGRAV), 2006
    • Communitas Award, Max Planck Society (2013)
    • Fellow, International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation (2013)
    • Honorary Fellow, Royal Astronomical Society (UK, 2009)
    • Fellow, American Physical Society
    • Fellow, Institute of Physics (UK)

    In addition, as a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, I have shared a number of awards for the first detection of gravitational waves. These include 

    • Breakthrough Prize (2016)
    • Gruber Cosmology Prize (2016)
    • Bruno Rossi Prize (2017)
    • Royal Astronomical Society Group Achievement Award (2017)
    • Princess of Asturias Prize for Technical and Scientific Research (2017)
    • Einstein Medal (2017)

Professional memberships

  • Institute of Physics (UK)
  • Royal Astronomical Society
  • American Physical Society
  • German Physical Society
  • Max Planck Society
  • International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation
  • International Astronomical Union
  • COSPAR (Fundamental Physics section)
  • Society of Sigma Xi (USA)

Speaking engagements

Named lectures:

  • 2020.04 Washington DC, APS meeting, Isaacson Award Lecture: The roots of GW data analysis and the GW pulsar challenge (online)
  • 2017.04 Potsdam Leibniz Lecture: Gravitationswellen!! Wir hören den Schwarzen Löchern zu
  • 2016.12 Grubb Parsons Lecture, Durham University: The awesome start to gravitational wave astronomy
  • 2016.06 Tübingen University, Johannes Kepler Lecture 2016: The start of gravitational wave astronomy
  • 2006.09 Amaldi Lecture, Torino
  • 2006.05 8th J L Synge Public Lecture, Dublin
  • 2005.04 Einstein Lecture, Vienna

Invited lectures (since 2016):

  • 2021.09 Urbino, SIGRAV meeting Amaldi Award presentation: The contributions to relativity of Professor Andrzej Trautman (online)
  • 2021.09 Lisbon, GWVerse collaboration meeting: Building the future of GW astronomy (online)
  • 2021.09 Humboldt University Berlin, H Gutfreund Celebration presentation: Science as a public good (online)
  • 2021.06 Napoli University postgraduate lecture: Gravitational-wave astronomy (online)
  • 2021.06 Parà University, Brasil seminar: The gravitational wave universe: our first view (online)
  • 2021.03 Southampton University conference presentation: Will gravitational waves help resolve the tension? (online)
  • 2020.12 IUCAA, Pune, India colloquium: GW astronomy: the landscape is beginning to take shape (online)
  • 2020.07 LISA Consortium Meeting presentation: The role and prospects of science in the post-pandemic world (online)
  • 2020.06 European Southern Observatory conference presentation: H0 from standard sirens (online)
  • 2019.12 Portsmouth, Texas Symposium presentation: Exploring the universe of black holes with gravitational waves
  • 2019.06 Santiago, Spain public lecture: How gravitational waves made human evolution possible
  • 2019.06 Santiago, Spain conference presentation: Cosmology with coalescing binary detections
  • 2019.05 Pennsylvania State University conference presentation: Gravitational Wave Astronomy: Future Prospects
  • 2019.03 Hebrew University Jerusalem physics seminar: GWs and the Hubble Constant problem
  • 2019.03 Jerusalem, Discussion meeting ‘Understanding Our Place in the Universe: Beyond the Legacy of Stephen Hawking’: Gravitational Waves and the Evolution of Humans on Earth
  • 2019.03 Cardiff, Cardiff Astronomical Society: Listening to Whispers: What We Are Learning From Gravitational Wave Signals
  • 2019.02 Rome, conference ‘On the Crest of a Wave’ (honouring Valeria Ferrari 60th birthday): Gravitational wave research 1990 to now
  • 2019.02 Glasgow, JimFest (honouring the knighthood of James Hough): The early days 1970-1995: the road to GEO and beyond
  • 2019.01 Pune, India, conference presentation: ‘Multimessenger Astronomy in the Era of LIGO-India’: LIGO-India Completes the Big-5 GW Observatory Network
  • 2018.11 Berlin, Heraeus Symposium: ‘The Hubble constant controversy: status, implications, and solutions’: H0 from gravitational waves
  • 2018.11 Berlin, Hubble pre-Symposium talk: Measuring Distances with Gravitational Waves
  • 2018.10 University of Illinois Astronomy CIRSS Seminar: Listening to Whispers: Digging for Gravitational Wave Signals
  • 2018.10 NCSA, Illinois, conference on Deep Learning for Astrophysics: DL-MMA Challenges and Opportunities for Real-time Signal Discovery
  • 2018.05 Royal Astronomical Society, London, Discussion Meeting: Gravitational Wave Astronomy and Cosmology
  • 2018.05 Cardiff Physics and Astronomy Seminar: Measuring the Universe with Gravitational Waves: the Hubble Constant
  • 2018.03 Erlangen, Germany, DOPPLERS winter school: Gravitational Wave Astronomy and Cosmology
  • 2017.12: Stockholm, Nobel Prize Discussion Meeting: Gravitational waves: Einstein and Schwarzschild 100 years later
  • 2017.12 Paris, Dark Matters (in honour of Joe Silk): Gravitational Wave Astronomy and Cosmology
  • 2017.10 EdFest, Mallorca: Ed at the AEI: the glorious challenge of numerical relativity
  • 2017.09 Royal Society, London ‘The promise of gravitational wave astronomy’: Gravitational Wave Astronomy: Delivering on the Promises
  • 2017.06 20th Capra Meeting on Radiation Reaction in General Relativity: Numerical Relativity for I/EMRI
  • 2017.05 Academy of Sciences, Hamburg: Gravitationswellen!! Wir hören den Schwarzen Löchern zu
  • 2017.05 Beijing, International Symposium on Gravitational Waves: The Exciting Future of Gravitational Wave Astronomy
  • 2017.04 Potsdam Leibniz Lecture: Gravitationswellen!! Wir hören den Schwarzen Löchern zu
  • 2016.12 Grubb Parsons Lecture, Durham University: The awesome start to gravitational wave astronomy
  • 2016.11 GSSI, Italy, colloquium: Gravitational Wave Astronomy
  • 2016.11 Leonard Grishchuk Memorial Conference, Moscow: What we are learning about the universe from gravitational wave astronomy
  • 2016.11 Bristol University Physics Colloquium: LIGO’s Detection of Gravitational Waves from Black Holes
  • 2016.10 IAU Symposium on Astro-informatics: Time-series deep search: First detection of gravitational waves by LIGO and Virgo
  • 2016.10 Zurich Physics Colloquium: The amazing start of gravitational wave astronomy
  • 2016.09 International LISA Symposium, Zurich: LISA Science after GW150914 and LPF
  • 2016.09 GEO Collaboration Meeting, Mallorca: History of GEO Data Analysis: 100 Hour Run, and The awesome start of gravitational wave astronomy
  • 2016.06 Tübingen University, Johannes Kepler Lecture 2016: The start of gravitational wave astronomy
  • 2016.05 MPI Astronomy colloquium, Ellenberg: The awesome start of gravitational wave astronomy
  • 2016.05 Binary Black Hole Mergers conference, Hanover: After GW150914: Meeting the Challenge of GW Astronomy
  • 2016.04 GSSI, Italy, colloquium: The awesome start of gravitational wave astronomy

Committees and reviewing

  • 2003-19: Member, Executive Committee, LIGO Scientific Collaboration
  • 2012-18: Member, LISA project science working team with responsibility for theory and data analysis
  • 2011-2018: Member, Editorial Board, Physical Review X
  • 2007-16: Member, International Committee of the International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation
  • 2015-16: Member, ESA Gravitational-wave Observatory Advisory Team
  • 2012-15: Member, Program Advisory Board, KAGRA (Japanese gravitational wave interferometer project)
  • 2003-12: Member, LISA International Science Team (LIST), representing ESA.
  • 2004-08: Chair, ESA Fundamental Physics Advisory Group, and member, Space Science Advisory Committee, European Space Agency
  • 1998-2014: Editor-in-Chief, Living Reviews in Relativity
  • 1993-97: Member, Fundamental Physics Advisory Group, European Space Agency
  • 1994-95: Chairman, Astronomy Committee of the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), responsible for setting UK spending priorities in space and ground-based astronomy.  Previously chair and member of many grant-awarding panels of PPARC and its predecessors in the UK.
  • 1990-92: Member, Council of the Royal Astronomical Society 


We are currently unable to retrieve the list of publications. Visit our institutional repository.


For many years I have taught general relativity and gravitational wave science to undergraduates and MSc students in the School of Physics and Astronomy and its predecessors. My textbook, A First Course in General Relativity (Cambridge University Press) is one of the most widely used introductory texts in the subject worldwide, and its third edition will appear in 2022. My textbook on differential geometry, Geometrical Methods of Mathematical Physics (Cambridge University Press), is also widely used at the post-graduate level. My "semi-popular" book Gravity From the Ground Up is an introduction to modern relativistic gravity that is aimed at school and university students who want an intuitive understanding of the subject; it employs algebra but not calculus in its mathematical treatment.

As a part-time professor I no longer teach full modules, but I give occasional lectures in selected courses. 

My principal research over the last 40 years has been in the study of the physics and astrophysics of possible gravitational wave sources, including black holes and neutron stars; and in methods of analyzing data from gravitational wave detectors to discover and study gravitational waves.

With J Friedman, and building on work by S Chandrasekhar, I have shown that all rotating stars are vulnerable to instabilities that arise from their emission of gravitational waves. This "CFS" class of instabilities includes the r-mode instability, which is thought to limit the rotation speed of millisecond pulsars. With K Kokkotas, I discovered a new class of vibrations of relativistic stars, the w-modes, which arise from their coupling to gravitatonal waves. With T Futamase I worked on the foundations of the theory of gravitational radiation. With many members and visitors to my Cardiff research group I did some of the first numerical relativity studies of black holes, and pioneered the signal-analysis methods now used by gravitational wave detectors around the world.

In 1986 I discovered that binary star systems are gravitational wave "standard sirens" -- their signals allow us to measure their distance. Such distance standards are rare in astronomy. In the discovery paper I developed one important application: how gravitational waves can measure the expansion rate of the Universe by determining the value of the Hubble-Lemaitre Constant H0. LIGO and Virgo use my 1986 method to estimate the distance to each observed binary black hole and neutron star merger, and these distances underpin most of what we learn from these observations, such as the masses and spins of the components, the merger rates in a given volume of space, and models of how the systems were originally formed. The first observed binary neutron-star merger (GW170817) provided our first measurement of H0, and subsequent observations of both neutron-star and black-hole mergers are being used to improve the accuracy of the measurement. Methods used by optical and radio astronomers to measure H0 currently give values that disagree significantly with one another, so upcoming gravitational-wave observations may well inform us about the reason for the discrepancy, and permit us to pin down the value of this fundamental property of the Universe.

When I moved to Potsdam, Germany, in 1995 to help set up the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), I was able to broaden my research in data analysis and to establish an intensive research effort in numerical relativity. With M-A Papa I helped lay the foundations of the Hough transform method of looking for continuous signals from gravitational wave pulsars, which is the most challenging data analysis problem facing LIGO and its partners. With L Wen I developed the null-stream coherent method for data analysis in systems of three or more detectors, which will see more and more application in the future, particularly for the rejection of spurious noise and possibly for calibration. With P Jaranowski and A Krolak I developed the F-statistic, which is the optimum way to assess the significance of a candidate detection for a continuous signal.

In 1994 I was one of the team that proposed the LISA gravitational wave detector, which is now a mission adopted by the European Space Agency and is being developed for launch in 2034. Starting in the late 1990s, my group in Germany began to lay the foundations for the data analysis methods that LISA will use. Also in the 1990s, as a PI of the GEO gravitational wave collaboration (between British and German research groups), I negotiated GEO's alliance with the LIGO gravitational wave project, after which I served on the executive committee of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) until 2019. I continue to work within the LSC on gravitational wave detection and astrophysics and with the LISA Consortium on the scientific returns expected from the mission.

Finally I have a strong interest in issues of open access publishing, open data and Big Data in scientific research.