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Peter Higgs

Peter W. Higgs CH DSc PhD MSc BSc FRS FRSE FInstP

Peter Ware Higgs, CH, FRS, FRSE (born 29 May 1929) is a British theoretical physicist and emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh. He received Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013  "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"

He is best known for his 1960s proposal of broken symmetry in electroweak theory, explaining the origin of mass of elementary particles in general and of the W and Z bosons in particular. This so-called Higgs mechanism, which was proposed by several physicists besides Higgs at about the same time, predicts the existence of a new particle, the Higgs boson (which was often described as "the most sought-after particle in modern physics"). CERN announced on 4 July 2012 that they had experimentally established the existence of a Higgs-like boson, but further work is needed to analyse its properties and see if it has the properties expected from the Standard Model Higgs boson. On 14 March 2013, the newly discovered particle was tentatively confirmed to be + parity and zero spin, two fundamental criteria of a Higgs boson, making it the first known scalar particle to be discovered in nature. The Higgs mechanism is generally accepted as an important ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics, without which certain particles would have no mass.


Peter Higgs was born on 29 May 1929 in the Elswick district of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He graduated with First Class Honours in Physics from King’s College, University of London, in 1950. A year later, he was awarded an MSc and started research, initially under the supervision of Charles Coulson and, subsequently, Christopher Longuet-Higgins. In 1954, he was awarded a PhD for a thesis entitled 'Some Problems in the Theory of Molecular Vibrations', work which signalled the start of his life-long interest in the application of the ideas of symmetry to physical systems.

In 1954, Peter Higgs moved to the University of Edinburgh for his second year as a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Senior Student, and remained for a further year as a Senior Research Fellow. He returned to London in 1956 to take up an ICI Research Fellowship, spending a year at University College and a little over a year at Imperial College, before taking up an appointment as Temporary Lecturer in Mathematics at University College. In October 1960 Peter Higgs returned to Edinburgh, taking up a lectureship in Mathematical Physics at the Tait Institute. He was promoted to Reader in 1970, became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1974 and was promoted to a Personal Chair of Theoretical Physics in 1980. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983 and Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 1991. He retired in 1996, becoming Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh. He was awarded an Honorary Membership of the Saltire Society and a Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Society of the Arts in 2013.

Peter Higgs’ contribution to physics has been recognised by numerous academic honours: the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society (1981, shared with Tom Kibble), the Rutherford Medal of the Institute of Physics (1984, also 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), and the High Energy and Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society (1997, shared with Robert Brout and Francois Englert), Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2000), Wolf Prize in Physics (2004, shared with Robert Brout and Francois Englert), the Stockholm Academy of Sciences Oskar Klein Memorial Lectiure and Medal (2009) and the American Physical Society J J Sakurai Prize (2010), shared with RobertBrout, Francois Englert, Robert Guralnik, Carl Hagen and Tom Kibble). He received a unique personal Higgs medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 1 October 2012 and the 2013 Nonino Prize 'Man of Our Time'. He shared the award of the 2013 Edinburgh International Science Festival Edinburgh Medal jointly with CERN.

He has received honorary degrees from the Universities of Bristol (1997), Edinburgh (1998), Glasgow (2002), Swansea (2008), King's College London (2009), University College London (2010), University of Cambridge (2012) and Heriot-Watt University (2012).

In 2011 he was awarded the Edinburgh Award for his outstanding contribution to the city.

In the 2013 New Year Honours List he was appointed a Companion of Honour.


His Life and Works in short :

Date and Place of Birth

29 May 1929 at Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumbria, United Kingdom


• Birmingham 1930-1941
• Bristol 1941-1946

Secondary Education

• Halesowen Grammar School, Worcestershire 1940-1941
• Cotham Grammar School, Bristol 1941-1946
• City of London School 1946-1947

University Education

• King’s College, University of London 1947-1954


• BSc (First Class Honours) in Physics 1950
• MSc 1951
• PhD 1954

Professional Career

• Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Senior Student
–  King’s College London 1953-1954
–  University of Edinburgh 1954-1955
• Senior Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh 1955-1956
• ICI Research Fellow, University of London
–  University College 1956-1957
–  Imperial College 1957-Dec 1958
• Temporary Lectureship in Mathematics, University College Jan 1959-1960
• Lecturer in Mathematical Physics, University of Edinburgh 1960-1970
• (On leave University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) (1965-1966)
• Reader in Mathematical Physics, University of Edinburgh 1970-1980
• (On leave at CERN, Geneva) (Oct-Dec 1976)
• Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Edinburgh 1980-1996
• Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh 1996 -


• Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) 1974
• Fellow of the Royal Society, London (FRS) 1983
• Fellow of the Institute Of Physics (FInstP) 1991
• Fellow of the King's College London 1998
• Honorary Fellow of the Institute Of Physics 1999
• Honorary Fellow of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts 2013
• Honorary Member of the Saltire Society 2013


• Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013
• Hughes Medal, Royal Society (with T W B Kibble) 1981
• Rutherford Medal, Institute of Physics (with T W B Kibble) 1984
• Scottish Science Award, Saltire Society and Royal Bank of Scotland 1990
• James Scott Prize Lectureship, Royal Society of Edinburgh (delivered April 1995) 1993
• Paul Dirac Medal and Prize, Institute of Physics 1997
• High Energy and Particle Physics Prize, European Physical Society (with R Brout, F Englert) 1997
• Royal Medal, Royal Society of Edinburgh 2000
• Wolf Prize in Physics (with R Brout and F Englert) 2004
• Oskar Klein Memorial Lecture and Medal, Stockholm Academy of Sciences 200H
• J J Sakurai Prize, American Physical Society (with R Brout, F Englert, G S Guralnik, C R Hagen and T W B Kibble) 2010
• Higgs Medal, Royal Society of Edinburgh 2012
• Nonino Prize 'Man of Our Time' Prize 2013
• Edinburgh Medal of the Edinburgh International Science Festival (with CERN) 2013

Honorary Degrees

• DSc University of Bristol 1997
• DSc University of Edinburgh 1998
• DSc University of Glasgow 2002
• Honorary Fellowship, University of Swansea 2008
• DSc King’s College London 2009
• DSc University College London 2010
• DSc University of Cambridge 2012
• DSc Heriot-Watt University 2012


• “Theoretical Determination of Electron Density in Organic Molecules” (with C A Coulson, S L Altmann and N H March) Nature 168 1039 (1951)
• “Perturbation Method for the Calculation of Molecular Vibration Frequencies I” J. Chem. Phys. 21 1131 (1953)
• “A Method for Computing Zero-Point Energies” J. Chem. Phys. 21 1330 (1953)
• “Vibration Spectra of Helical Molecules” Proc. Roy. Soc. A220 472 (1953)
• “Vibrational Modifications of the Electron Density in Molecular Crystals I” Acta. Cryst. 6 232 (1953)
•  “Perturbation Method for the Calculation of Molecular Vibration Frequencies II” J. Chem. Phys. 23 1448 (1955)
• “Perturbation Method for the Calculation of Molecular Vibration Frequencies III” J. Chem. Phys. 23 1450 (1955)
• “Vibrational Modifications of the Electron Density in Molecular Crystals II” Acta. Cryst. 8 99 (1955)
• “A Method for Calculating Thermal Vibration Amplitudes from Spectroscopic Data” Acta. Cryst. 8 619 (1955)
• “Vacuum Expectation Values as Sums over Histories” Nuovo Cimento (10) 4 1262 (1956)
• “On Four-Dimensional Isobaric Spin Formalisms” Nuclear Physics 4 1262 (1957)
• “Integration of Secondary Constraints in Quantized General Relativity” Phys. Rev. Lett. 1 373 (1958)
• “Integration of Secondary Constraints in Quantized General Relativity” Phys. Rev. Lett. 3 66 (1959)
• “Quadratic Lagrangians and General Relativity” Nuovo Cimento (10) 11 816 (1959)
• “Broken Symmetries, Massless Particles and Gauge Fields” Physics Letters 12 132 (1964)
• “Broken Symmetries and the Masses of Gauge Bosons” Phys. Rev. Letters. 13 508 (1964)
• “Spontaneous Symmetry Breakdown without Massless Bosons” Phys. Rev. 145 1156 (1966)
• “Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking” two lectures at the 14th Scottish Universities Summer School in Physics (1973). Published in “Phenomenology of Particles at High Energy” R L Crawford, R Jennings (eds.) Academic Press (1974) ISBN 9780121971502
• “Dynamical Symmetries in a Spherical Geometry I” J. Phys. A12 309 (1979)
• “SBGT and All That”, International Conference "50 Years of Weak Interactions from the Fermi Theory to the W" Wingspread, Racine, Wisconsin (29 May-1 June 1984). Published in the conference proceedings by University of Wisconsin at Madison and reproduced in AIP. Conf. Proc. 300:159-163 (1994)
• “Inventing an Elementary Particle”, INFN Eloisatron Project 9th Workshop “Higgs Particles - Physics Issues and Experimental Searches in High-energy Collisions”, Erice, Italy (15-26 Jul 1989). Published in "Higg(s) Particle(s): Physics Issues and Experimental Searches in High-Energy Collisions" A Ali (ed.) Ettore Majorana International Science Series 50 1-5 Plenum Press (1990) ISBN 9780306435898
• “Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking 25 Years Ago”, 26th International Conference on Subnuclear Physics “Physics up to 200 TeV”, Erice, Italy (16-24 Jul 1990). Published in "Physics up to 200TeV" A Zichichi (ed.) The Subnuclear Series 28 439-444 Plenum Press (1991) ISBN 9780306439353
• Panel Session “Spontaneous Breaking of Symmetry” (with L M Brown, R Brout, T Y Cao, Y Nambu) 3rd International Symposium on the History of Particle Physics “The Rise of the Standard Model” (1992): published in “The Rise of the Standard Model”, L Hoddesdon, L M Brown, M Riordan, M Dresden (eds.) Cambridge University Press, (1997) ISBN 978052157165
• “My Life as a Boson: The Story of ‘The Higgs“ Inaugural Conference of the Michagan Center for Theoretical Physics “2001 A Spacetime Odyssey” Ann Arbor, Michigan (21-25 May 2002). Published in "2001 A Spacetime Odyssey" M J Duff, J T Liu (eds.) World Scientific (2002) ISBN 9789810248062 and reproduced in Int. J. Mod. Phys. A17S1 86-88 (2002)
• “Prehistory of the Higgs Boson” Comptes Rendus Physique 8 970-972 (2007)
[Courtesy : http://www.ph.ed.ac.uk/higgs/peter-higgs]

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