Riddell Family Charitable Foundation deepens commitment to fundamental science
The late Clay Riddell was a Canadian entrepreneur whose passion for scientific exploration continues through his family foundation’s support of path-breaking science at Perimeter Institute.
The Riddell Family Charitable Foundation has renewed and elevated its support of the Clay Riddell Paul Dirac Chair in Theoretical Physics; a position held by Perimeter scientist Pedro Vieira.
The $5 million gift transforms the position, which was established in 2015, into an endowed Senior Research Chair, and will fuel Vieira’s research at the forefront of quantum field theory (QFT), the modern theoretical framework through which we understand matter and energy. Vieira’s work has solved long-unanswered questions and opened new lines of investigation now pursued by researchers worldwide.
The Riddell family has elevated its support of Perimeter research in part to honour Clay, who was captivated by the pursuit of fundamental physics breakthroughs. Sue Riddell Rose, one of his three daughters, says Clay was inspired by Perimeter and was struck by the “humility of the researchers as they seek answers to the universe’s biggest questions. He loved what can happen when you bring smart people together.”
He contributed to that mission first in 2015 with a gift of $1 million, which was matched by Perimeter, to establish the Clay Riddell Paul Dirac Chair in Theoretical Physics. At the time, inaugural chairholder Pedro Vieira was a promising rising star. This Chair’s namesake, Paul Dirac, was a remarkable young physicist of the early 20th century who developed some of the laws of quantum mechanics.
Vieira is excited about the research directions he can pursue thanks in part to Riddells’ continued support, including new instigations into the interactions of black holes.
“We are studying how the smallest possible black holes – we could call them black molecules – would behave, and what those behaviours tell us about the rules of nature,” says Vieira. “How amazing it is to have the best job in the world trying to figure such things out.”
Vieira has already made significant contributions to QFT, which have earned him recognition from the scientific community including the European Physical Society Gribov Medal (2015), the Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Physics (2018), and the prestigious New Horizons in Physics prize (2020). Vieira is also a leader in the ongoing partnership between Perimeter and the South American Institute for Fundamental Research (SAIFR) at São Paulo State University, enabling a pipeline of top talent between continents.
The Riddell family’s ongoing dedication to fuelling fundamental science shone in 2020 with a $10 million gift to establish the Clay Riddell Centre for Quantum Matter at Perimeter, in honour of Clay. The Centre is a research hub where scientists study the intrinsic properties of quantum mechanics to understand and uncover new states of matter expected to spark important technological advances.
"We have no doubt that important breakthroughs will happen through the collaboration of brilliant minds with bold ideas facilitated through the Centre for Quantum Matter and the Clay Riddell Paul Dirac Chair held by Pedro Vieira,” said Sue Riddell Rose, on behalf of the family. “We are convinced that an investment in Perimeter Institute is a smart investment that will pay high dividends for the future of all Canadians and all of humanity.”
Perimeter Institute Director Robert Myers said the support of the Riddell Family and visionary supporters like them empowers scientists to dedicate themselves wholly to the pursuit of breakthroughs.
“Clay Riddell understood that the breakthroughs in fundamental physics, like those pursued by Pedro Vieira, will help shape the world for generations to come,” said Myers.
“He championed the importance of investing in foundational research and supporting brilliant, early-career scientists. The entire Perimeter community is grateful for Clay’s vision, we are proud to honour his legacy with the support of his remarkable family.”
Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.