Peter Ware Higgs (1929- )

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Peter Higgs, portrait by Ken Currie, University of Edinburgh Art Collection (EU1249)

Peter Ware Higgs (1929- ) is Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at Edinburgh University and co-recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.


Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Higgs spent his childhood years in Birmingham and Bristol. After leaving school, he read Physics at King’s College, University of London, graduating in 1950. Higgs stayed on for post-graduate work, under the supervision of Charles Coulson and, later, Christopher Longuet-Higgins. His PhD thesis 'Some Problems in the Theory of Molecular Vibrations' (1954) was start of a life-long interest in the application of the ideas of symmetry to physical systems.

Higgs first came to Edinburgh University in 1954 as a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Senior Student. He stayed on for a second year as a Senior Research Fellow, before returning to London in 1956 as an ICI Research Fellow. He worked at both University College and Imperial College before being appointed a Temporary Lecturer in Mathematics at University College. In 1960 Higg's Edinburgh career resumed when he was appointed Lecturer in Mathematical Physics at the Tait Institute. Four years later, he published the ground-breaking article 'Broken Symmetries and the Masses of Gauge Bosons', which posited the existence of a new sub-atomic particle, subsequently known as the Higgs boson, responsible for imparting mass to elemental particles. Higgs was promoted to Reader in 1970 and to a Personal Chair of Theoretical Physics in 1980. Upon retiring in 1996, he was named Professor Emeritus.

Nobel Prize for Physics 2013

On 4 July 2012, CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) announced that data from its Large Hadron Collider (LHC)a new particle, analysed by the ATLAS and CMS research teams, had experimentally established the existence of a new particle, consistent with the Higgs boson. On 14 March 2013, CERN confirmed that the new particle had + parity and zero spin, two fundamental criteria of the Higgs boson. On 8 October 2013, Higgs was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics, jointly with Belgian scientist François Englert (who had proposed a similar theory) 'for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider'.

Other Awards and Recognition

Higgs has received numerous other awards for his scientific achievements, including the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society (1981), the Rutherford Medal of the Institute of Physics (1984) (both shared with Tom Kibble), the Saltire Society & Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Science Award (1990), the Royal Society of Edinburgh James Scott Prize Lectureship (1993), the Paul Dirac Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics (1997), the High Energy and Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society (1997) (shared with Robert Brout and François Englert), the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2000), Wolf Prize in Physics (2004) (shared with Brout and Englert), the Stockholm Academy of Sciences Oskar Klein Memorial Medal (2009), the American Physical Society J J Sakurai Prize (2010) (shared with Brout, Englert, Gerry Guralnik, Carl Hagen and Kibble), a personal medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2012), the Nonino Prize 'Man of Our Time' (2013), the Edinburgh International Science Festival Edinburgh Medal (2013) (with CERN), and the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research (2013) (with Englert and CERN).

Higgs has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1974), the Royal Society (1983) the Institute of Physics (1991), the Royal Scottish Society of Arts (2013), the Saltire Society (2013), and the Science Museum London (2013). He has received honorary degrees from 11 UK universities, including Edinburgh (1998), Swansea (2008), Cambridge (2012), St Andrews and Manchester (2013), as well as from the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati Trieste (2013) and ULB Brussels (2014).

In 2012 Edinburgh University opened the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics to support future research in theoretical physics. It was announced that a chair of theoretical physics would also be established in Higgs's name.

Related Pages

External Links


  • 'Peter Higgs: Curriculum Vitae' [[1], accessed 9 October 2014]