Home Technology 'Pioneering' physicist who gave name to Higgs boson particle has died

'Pioneering' physicist who gave name to Higgs boson particle has died

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The physicist was thrust into the limelight at 83 after his theory was proved, confirming the existence of a ‘God particle’ that holds the universe together.
Tuesday 9 April 2024 19:17, UK
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Professor Peter Higgs, whose pioneering theory led to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, has died aged 94.
The „truly gifted” scientist predicted the existence of the new subatomic particle as far back as 1964.
His theory would not be confirmed until 2012, when experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern finally proved the particle’s existence.
The following year, Prof Higgs, emeritus professor at Edinburgh University, was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this work, along with Francois Englert.
A statement from the university said: „It has been confirmed that Professor Peter Higgs has passed away at the age of 94.
„He died on Monday 8 April peacefully at home following a short illness. His family has asked that the media and public respect their privacy at this time.”
Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, the university’s principal and vice-chancellor, 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.”
His theory suggested the existence of an invisible force field and associated subatomic particle permeating all things, working like glue to give form to stars, planets and even humans.
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Without the particle, the universe would have remained like a soup, according to the theory.
Higgs boson, or the ‘God particle’, explains why matter has mass and holds the universe together.
Prof Higgs wiped away a tear when the historic significance of the findings became apparent during an announcement at a seminar at the Cern headquarters near Geneva, Switzerland.
„I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall be asking my family to put some champagne in the fridge,” he said.
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The discovery thrust the theoretical physicist into the limelight when he was 83, but it was not a situation the unassuming scientist was comfortable with – describing his fame as „a bit of a nuisance”.
He once revealed he had turned down a knighthood in 1999 as he did not want any title, but he did accept recognition from the Queen in 2014 when he was appointed a Companion of Honour – which does not bring a title.
Speaking after the event, he said: „It was quite a surprise to find I was first on the list and first in line, so I didn’t have anyone in front of me to imitate and make sure I got the movements right.”
Described by colleagues as shy, he found himself being approached for autographs in the street in later life.
He was also uncomfortable with his name alone being linked to the particle, saying the publicity had „neglected” to give credit to the other people involved.
Particle physicist Brian Cox, a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester, said Prof Higgs’ name „will be remembered as long as we do physics”.
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