Peter Higgs dies aged 94 as tributes pour in for Nobel-prize winning physicist

Peter Higgs

Peter Higgs, who has died aged 94

James Saunders

By James Saunders

Published: 09/04/2024

- 17:22

Updated: 09/04/2024

- 18:55

The University of Edinburgh's principal called Higgs 'a remarkable individual' and 'a truly gifted scientist'

Professor Peter Higgs, the physicist and Nobel prize-winner who discovered the 'God particle' - the Higgs boson - has died aged 94.

Prof Higgs, who died at home in Edinburgh on Monday, had been handed the gong in 2013 for his 1964 work which proposed how the Higgs boson particle gave other particles their mass - binding the universe together.

Experiments on his work began in 2008, and his theories were finally proved in 2012 by scientists at Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

A year later, he shared the Nobel prize for physics with the Belgian theoretical physicist François Englert, whose work - also in 1964 - contributed to the Higgs boson's discovery.

Higgs and Englert

Higgs (right) shared the Nobel prize for physics with Belgian theoretical physicist François Englert (left)


Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, where Higgs spent the majority of his career, 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."

Higgs was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1929, before his family moved to Bristol when he was a child.

As a pupil at Cotham Grammar School, Higgs won a litany of prizes - though none for physics. He became inspired by theoretical physicist Paul Dirac, eventually leading him to pursue a PhD at King's College London before moving to Edinburgh to teach.


Higgs at Edinburgh

Higgs had spent the majority of his career at the University of Edinburgh, whose principal paid tribute to him following his death


It was in the Scottish capital that the now-Professor Higgs began his work on the particle which would one day bear his name - but other scientists looking to prove its existence did not begin the bulk of their research until the last few decades.

Researchers at Cern, the physics research centre in Geneva, Switzerland, had not been able to discover the Higgs boson at the LHC's forebear, the Large Electron–Positron Collider (LEP); its elusiveness soon made it one of science's most sought-after discoveries.

But in July 2012, physicists at the LHC announced the discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson - Higgs had been in Geneva to receive the news, which soon prompted calls for a Nobel prize and a knighthood.

Following the discovery, Prof Higgs told reporters: "It's very nice to be right sometimes."

Gian Francesco Giudice, the head of Cern's theoretical physics department, said: "We join the physics community in mourning the passing of Peter Higgs.

"Peter was a dear friend to many of us, an inspiring figure for Cern, and a model for any particle physicist. On behalf of the Cern Theory Department, I have sent our condolences to his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and to his family."

Prof Higgs is survived by his two sons, Chris and Jonny, and two grandchildren.

His wife, Jody, a linguistics lecturer from whom he was separated, died in 2008.

You may like