Working on the 'God particle' saved my life, says Peter Higgs
The Nobel prize-winning physicist Peter Higgs has described the fame he has endured since the discovery of his “God particle” as “a bit of a nuisance” – but admitted that it his was his work that “kept him alive” during the breakdown of his marriage.
The scientist, whose theory on the Higgs boson named after him is widely regarded the most significant development in particle physics for generations, was speaking about how the stress of his research led to the breakdown of his marriage to Jody, an American linguist, in 1972.
“When my wife and I got married, she thought of me being an easygoing person and I warned her I wasn’t,” said the 84-year-old.
“I was easygoing in terms of being adaptable in my social life. But maybe I suffered a personality change in the mid-Sixties and became more dedicated to things involving work because it had become successful in some way.”
Professor Higgs has never been comfortable with the fame his theory brought him but fame would have seemed a far-off prospect in 1964 when he first proposed the theory of an invisible field strewn across space that gave mass to every object in the universe.
The idea was initially met with suspicion and even ridicule in certain circles. His first paper was rejected by a journal, and some peers accused him and some colleagues of failing to grasp the basic principles of physics.
“Nobody else took what I was doing seriously, so nobody would want to work with me,” he told BBC Radio Four. “I was thought to be a bit eccentric and maybe cranky.”
The son of a BBC sound engineer from Newcastle, Higgs graduated with a first-class honours degree in physics from King’s College London in 1950. He was denied a lectureship at the university, however, so became a researcher at Edinburgh University.
Upon publication of his work on the particle in 1964, he and his colleagues were widely dismissed as young pretenders, with some even suggesting they should abandon their research or risk “ professional suicide”.
It was 48 years later that his radical concept was finally proved correct by a team of physicists using the Large Hadron Collider at the Cern laboratory in Geneva.
After the discovery of the particle Higgs shared the Nobel prize with Belgian François Englert. But Higgs described the experience of suddenly becoming one of the best-known scientists in the world as “a bit of a nuisance”.
The notoriously shy professor retired in 1996 and became emeritus professor of physics at Edinburgh University. But old age has done nothing to avert the interest in his work from young people.
“If I go to something where there are lots of students, they all want use their mobile phones to take pictures of me,” he said.
“The discovery [of the Higgs boson] has led to a disturbance of my lifestyle,” he added in comments to be broadcast on Tuesday on The Life Scientific. “But it’s time to move on in particle physics now.”
- 1 Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 2 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 3 Lady al-Qa’ida: On the trail of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the world’s most wanted prisoner
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 It's not just the savagery of Isis that is shocking – its weaponry is too
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
Sir Paul McCartney makes his stance on Scottish independence known
PM sets out tough new anti-terror measures in response to heightened threat
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...
£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...