Frans Pretorius

2013 Regional Award Winner — Faculty

Frans Pretorius

Current Position:
Professor of Physics

Princeton University

Astrophysics & Cosmology

Recognized for: Contributions to numerical relativity, including the solution of the collision and merger of two black holes

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise:  General relativity, black holes, gravitational waves, scientific computation

Frans Pretorius


PhD, Physics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia
MSc, Physics, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia

Frans Pretorius’ research interests are focused on the theory of general relativity and its applications to astrophysics and cosmology. In 2005, he solved one of the fundamental problems in Einstein's theory of general relativity, the collision of two black holes, which for decades was regarded as unsolvable. Dr. Pretorius developed a novel mathematical reformulation of Einstein’s equations, created the necessary computational infrastructure, and obtained a numerical solution for this problem. His other major contribution relevant to both relativity and particle physics is describing the instability of the so-called black string, a higher dimensional analogue of a black hole.

Pretorius’ current research includes modeling sources of gravitational wave emission, such as the merger of binary compact objects, e.g., binary black holes, neutron stars, or black hole – neutron star systems. In theoretical physics, Pretorius studies gravitational collapse, ultra-relativistic particle collisions, higher dimensional black holes, spacetime singularities, and general relativistic applications of the gauge/gravity duality of string theory.

“My long term goal is to understand the nature of gravity in the most extreme environments, where space and time becomes so distorted that black holes form.”

Key Publications:

  1. Stephens BC, East WE, Pretorius F. Eccentric black hole-neutron star mergersAstrophys J. 2011;737:L5.
  2. Choptuik MW, Pretorius F. Ultrarelativistic particle collisionsPhys Rev Lett. 2010;104(11):111101.
  3. Pretorius F. Binary black home coalescence. In: Colpi et al., editors. Relativistic Objects in Compact Binaries: From Birth to Coalescence. New York: Springer-Verlag; 2009. p. 305-369.
  4. Pretorius F. Evolution of binary back hole spacetimes.Phys Rev Lett. 2005;95(12):121101.

Other Honors:

Simons Investigators Award, Simons Foundation, 2012
Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics, American Physical Society, 2010
NSF CAREER Award, 2008
Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, 2007