Peter Higgs, who proposed existence of God particle theory, dies at 94


Peter Higgs, the European scientist who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for describing the Higgs boson (God particle)—a theoretical particle that explains where mass comes from and advances man’s understanding of how the world is constructed—died on April 8 at the age of 94 after a short illness.

Confirming the death of the eminent scientist The University of Edinburgh posted on the microblogging platform X (formerly known as Twitter), “We are sad to announce the death of Professor Peter Higgs, who has passed away at the age of 94.”


Paying tribute to the pioneer physicist, the principal of the University Professor Peter Mathieson said, “Peter Higgs was a remarkable individual – a truly gifted scientist whose vision and imagination have enriched our knowledge of the world that surrounds us. His pioneering work has motivated thousands of scientists, and his legacy will continue to inspire many more for generations to come.” 

Here are 10 unknown facts about the Noble Laureate:

  • Peter Higgs discovered the existence of the God particle in 1964 when he was a researcher at the University. His idea was validated by experiments almost 50 years later in 2012, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. The discovery was followed by the award of a Nobel Prize in 2013.
  • According to BBC Higgs completed his PhD at King’s College in London but couldn’t find a job in the college as it was offered to his friend and he moved to the University of Edinburgh. His theory of the God particle struggled to find a place in scientific journals because few understood it. 
  • Higgs retired from the University of Edinburgh in 1996 and became Professor Emeritus. However, he continued to watch experiments at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva.
  • A plaque commemorating the Professor’s legacy can be found at Roxburgh Street in Edinburgh. 
  • As per the Guardian, Higgs’s father was a sound engineer with the BBC and was posted in Birmingham, where he spent his first 11 years. In 1941, during the Second World War, the BBC decided to transfer its operations to Bristol and the family moved there.
  • Higgs was very inspired by the collection of maths books by his father and this collection enabled him to become far ahead of the class.
  • According to the Guardian, Higgs was inspired by ‘spontaneous symmetry’ —the work of Japanese-born theorist and Nobel Prize laureate Yoichiro Nambu from the University of Chicago. Inspired by Nambu’s work, Higgs’ gave his own theory in 1964 with his explanation of how massless particles can give rise to particles with a mass (Higgs mechanism).
  • Higgs’s scientific paper describing a theoretical model (now called the Higgs mechanism), was rejected by the editors of Physics Letters saying that it was “of no obvious relevance to physics.”
  • Higgs suffered from asthma as a child. In an interview with BBC, he said “What kind of pupil was I? Well, I was a swot, but I was allowed to be without any ill effects by my contemporaries because I was excused from games, due to my asthma. So being a swot was something to compensate for not being to play football.”
  • Higgs disliked this theory to be called “The God particle”. In the interview with BBC, he said, “That name was a kind of joke, and not a very good one.” He later added, “…it’s so misleading.”




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Published: 10 Apr 2024, 04:40 PM IST


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