Professor Peter Higgs profile: Grandfather is now global celebrity as creator of theory behind 'God particle'
Tuesday 08 October 2013
Professor Peter Higgs has journeyed to prominence along with the famous particle that bears his name.
Now at the age of 84, he is fast becoming a global celebrity as creator of the theory behind the "God particle".
But recognition was a long time in coming: the quiet physicist has been waiting for science to catch up with his ground-breaking ideas since 1964.
It was in that year he dreamed up the concept after a moment of inspiration while walking in the Cairngorms.
Two scientific papers followed, the second of which was initially rejected and then finally published in the respected journal Physical Review Letters.
Prof Higgs's groundbreaking proposal was that particles acquire mass by interacting with an all-pervading field spread throughout the universe. The more they interact, the more massive and heavy they become.
A "boson" particle was needed to carry and transmit the effect of the field.
His concept sparked a 40 year hunt for the Higgs boson which culminated last July when a team from the European nuclear research facility at Cern in Geneva announced the detection of a particle that fitted the description of the elusive Higgs.
Scientists used the world's biggest atom smashing machine, the £2.6 billion Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border, to track down the missing particle.
Peter Higgs was born in Newcastle in 1929, the son of a BBC sound engineer.
After his family moved to Bristol, he proved a brilliant pupil at Cotham Grammar School before going on to read theoretical physics at King's College London.
He was awarded first class honours in 1950, and after failing to secure a lectureship at King's College, set off for Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.
Prof Higgs retired from this post in 2006 and assumed the title of emeritus professor.
His contribution to physics has long been recognised within the scientific world - with eight honorary degrees and dozens of academic prizes since the 1980s.
Never one to blow his own trumpet, the scientist is described by friends and colleagues as "very unassuming" and shy.
Some believe his retiring nature may even have held back his career.
But despite his best efforts to keep a low profile, he now finds himself in the spotlight: autograph hunters have even started to approach him in the street.
Last year he missed out on a Nobel prize but the professor was made a Companion of Honour in the New Year Honours list.
The accolade confers no title but only a select group are rewarded with it for achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry, or religion.
Prof Higgs remained typically humble when his honour was announced. "It's very nice to be right sometimes," he said.
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 4 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Russell Brand opposes anti-Semitism after death threats: 'We must disavow all forms of prejudice that lead to exclusion and execution'
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – as hunt begins for killer
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Microbial life found living on the exterior of the International Space Station, say reports
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...