Brian Paul Schmidt AC, FRS (born February 24, 1967) is a Distinguished Professor, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and astrophysicist at The Australian National University Mount Stromlo Observatory and Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is known for his research in using supernovae as cosmological probes. He currently holds an Australia Research Council Federation Fellowship and was elected to the Royal Society in 2012. Schmidt shared both the 2006 Shaw Prize in Astronomy and the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics with Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess for providing evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
Schmidt, an only child, was born on February 24, 1967, in Missoula, Montana, where his father Dana C. Schmidt was a fisheries biologist. When he was 13, his family relocated to Anchorage, Alaska.
Schmidt attended Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, and graduated in 1985. He has said that he wanted to be a meteorologist "since I was about five-years-old" but "... I did some work at the USA National Weather Service up in Anchorage and didn't enjoy it very much. It was less scientific, not as exciting as I thought it would be-there was a lot of routine. But I guess I was just a little naive about what being a meteorologist meant." His decision to study astronomy, which he had seen as "a minor pastime", was made just before he enrolled at university. He earned his BS (Physics) and BS (Astronomy) from the University of Arizona in 1989. He received his MA (Astronomy) in 1992 and then PhD (Astronomy) in 1993 from Harvard University. Schmidt's PhD thesis was supervised by Robert Kirshner and used Type II Supernovae to measure the Hubble Constant.
At Harvard, he met his future wife, the Australian (Jenny) Jennifer M. Gordon who was a PhD student in economics. In 1994, he moved to Australia.
Schmidt was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (1993–1994) before moving on to Mount Stromlo Observatory in 1995.
In 1994, Schmidt and Nicholas B. Suntzeff formed the High-Z Supernova Search Team to measure the expected deceleration of the Universe and the deceleration parameter q0 using distances to Type Ia supernovae. In 1995, the HZT at a meeting at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics elected Schmidt as the overall leader of the HZT. Schmidt led the team from Australia and in 1998 in the HZT paper with first author Adam Riess the first evidence was presented that the Universe's expansion rate is accelerating. The team's observations were contrary to the current theory that the expansion of the Universe should be slowing down; on the contrary, by monitoring the brightness and measuring the redshift of the supernovae, they discovered that these billion-year old exploding stars and their galaxies were accelerating away from our reference frame. This result was also found nearly simultaneously by the Supernova Cosmology Project, led by Saul Perlmutter. The corroborating evidence between the two competing studies led to the acceptance of the accelerating universe theory and initiated new research to understand the nature of the universe, such as the existence of dark energy. The discovery of the accelerating universe was named 'Breakthrough of the Year' by Science Magazine in 1998, and Schmidt was jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics along with Reiss and Perlmutter for their groundbreaking work.
Schmidt is currently leading the SkyMapper telescope Project and the associated Southern Sky Survey.
In July 2012 Schmidt was given a three year appointment to sit on the Questacon Advisory Council.
Schmidt has received the Australian Government's Malcolm McIntosh Prize in 2000, Harvard University's Bok Prize in 2000, the Australian Academy of Science's Pawsey Medal Medal in 2001, and the Vainu Bappu Medal of the Astronomical Society of India in 2002. He was the Marc Aaronson Memorial Lecturer in 2005, and, in 2006, he shared the Shaw Prize in Astronomy with Adam Riess and Saul Perlmutter.
Schmidt and the other members of the High-Z Team (the set defined by the co-authors of Riess et al. 1998) shared the 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize, a $500,000 award, with Saul Perlmutter of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Supernova Cosmology Project (the set defined by the co-authors of Perlmutter et al. 1999) for their discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Schmidt, along with Riess and Perlmutter, jointly won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for their observations which led to the discovery of the accelerating Universe.
Schmidt was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in the 2013 Australia Day Honours.
Schmidt makes wine and enjoys cooking. He and his wife are owners of the winery Maipenrai, a winery in Sutton, New South Wales near Canberra which has been rated a four-star winery. At the 2011 Nobel Prize Ceremonies in Stockholm, he presented the King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden with a bottle of his wine.