A PROFESSOR who has helped provide vital clues to the origins of the universe has been awarded a prestigious prize.

Edinburgh University Professor John Peacock, of the School of Physics and Astronomy, was awarded the Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2014.

The prize from the Shaw Prize Foundation of Hong Kong, which is shared with two other scientists, recognises Prof Peacock's research in developing a technique to measure the expansion of the universe.

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The Professor of Cosmology at Edinburgh University shares the award, worth $1 million (£597,000), with Professor Daniel Eisenstein of Harvard University and Professor Shaun Cole of Durham University.

Prof Peacock said: "This work was made possible by many essential contributions from members of a big team.

"We all felt at the time that we were doing something revolutionary, and it's wonderful to see this work recognised."

The scientists used super computers for measurements of features in the large-scale structure of galaxies to constrain the cosmological model that describes the origin, evolution and fate of the universe. Their model is widely used as a benchmark.

Established by philanthropist Run Run Shaw and claimed to be the "Nobel of the East", the prize "honours individuals, regardless of race, nationality, gender and religious belief, who have achieved significant breakthrough in academic and scientific research or applications and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind".

Prof Martin Barstow, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: "I would like to congratulate John and Shaun on the award of this prestigious prize. It is a testament to their research leadership in the field and marks their significant contribution to ­astronomy in the UK and world-wide."

The astronomers' ground-breaking discoveries have helped shape science's understanding of the building blocks of the universe, without which there would be no life on Earth.

The prizes consist of three annual awards: Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences, each bearing the monetary award of one million US dollars.

The Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine was given "in equal shares" to Kazutoshi Mori, Professor of Biophysics, Kyoto University, Japan and Peter Walter, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA, for their work in advances in proteins and cell treatments.

The Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences was awarded to George Lusztig, Abdun-Nur Professor of Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his fundamental contributions to algebra and problem solving.

The honour for Edinburgh follows last year's Nobel Prize in Physics for Professor Peter Higgs.

He was recognised for his work at the university on the Higgs boson, nicknamed the God ­Particle, which provides mass to the most basic building blocks of matter.

Professor Higgs shared his prize with Francois Englert, a Belgian who arrived at the same theory almost simultaneously in 1964. Prof Higgs was thrust into the limelight after the elusive particle that bears his name was found by scientists at the Large Hadron Collider, the huge atom-smashing machine built to probe the origins of the universe.