Peter Higgs: There could be no more gracious or deserving winner of a Nobel Prize

The lectures he gave at university were as inspiring as what has happened today

Share
Related Topics

It was some time during my Mathematical Physics degree at the University of Edinburgh that I first encountered Peter Higgs. Wandering through the musty corridors, one of my fellow-students elbowed me and whispered: “That’s Professor Higgs; he invented a particle!” A few years later I was sitting in Higgs’s lectures. The lecturers were challenging, but then again he was teaching some of the most advanced material we learned as undergraduates: Einstein’s theory of general relativity and symmetries.

The lectures were also inspiring, as has what has happened today: the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Physics jointly to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert of the Free University of Belgium, for their part in developing the Higgs mechanism - the theoretical underpinning which allows the fundamental particles - the particles that make up you and me - to have a mass.

These days I am back at the University of Edinburgh as a Higgs boson researcher, working with the Atlas experiment at Cern. Last year, on the 4 July 2012, the Atlas and CMS experiments announced the discovery of a new particle, a particle that looked very much like the Higgs boson.  By March this year, and with more data analysed it was clear that the new particle was one predicted by Englert, Higgs, and Englert’s late colleague Robert Brout. Which is good.  Because without the Higgs mechanism and the Higgs boson predicted by the theory, there would be no way to explain why fundamental particles have a mass, and without that there’s no way to explain why these particles stick together to form atoms, molecules and hence all the structure of the universe.

These days Peter Higgs is enjoying his retirement.  Excited students and colleagues tell me how they have spotted him on the bus, in the supermarket, having coffee and cake in a local cafe and attending events at the Edinburgh Festival. He also does a public speaking, inspiring the next generation of scientists. He is, to a fault, a modest man. Last year at the Cern seminar announcing the Higgs boson discovery, he said he felt overwhelmed. Not for his effort; but for the efforts of the huge number of experimentalists running the Cern experiments.

Personally, I think today’s choice of recipients was the correct one. It’s harder to think of a more gracious or more deserving recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics than Peter Higgs.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn