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Peter Higgs & François Englert win Nobel Prize for Physics

9 October 2013

Peter Higgs

Peter Higgs and François Englert have won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics, for their work in the 1960s that led to the concept of a mass-giving particle now known as the Higgs Boson. 

Early in his career, Peter Higgs undertook a year-long ICI Research Fellowship at UCL. He later became a temporary lecturer in mathematics at UCL, leaving in 1960 to return to the University of Edinburgh – where he remains to this day, now as Emeritus Professor of particle physics.

UCL also awarded Peter Higgs an honorary doctorate of science in 2010.

The Royal Swedish Academy awarded the prize 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."

UCL High Energy Physics is heavily involved in the Atlas experiment. UCL staff and PhD students are members of the collaboration, and data from the experiment has even been used in undergraduate projects.

Professor Jon Butterworth, Head of UCL Physics & Astronomy and member of the Atlas experiment said: “François Englert and Peter Higgs certainly deserve this. I, and the rest of Atlas, congratulate them wholeheartedly – and I hope Prof Higgs is enjoying his caravan holiday too!

The discovery of a Higgs Boson, showing that the theoretical ideas are manifested in the real world, was thanks to the work of many thousands. There are 3,000 or so people on Atlas, a similar number on CMS, and hundreds who worked on the LHC.

“But (and there is a "but") prizes only give one view of how science is done. They encourage the idea that the typical manner of progress in science is the breakthrough of a lone genius. In reality, while lone geniuses and breakthroughs do occur, incremental progress and collaboration are more important in increasing our understanding of nature. Even the theory breakthrough behind this prize required a body of incrementally acquired knowledge to which many contributed.

“The discovery of a Higgs Boson, showing that the theoretical ideas are manifested in the real world, was thanks to the work of many thousands. There are 3,000 or so people on Atlas, a similar number on CMS, and hundreds who worked on the LHC. While the citation gives handsome credit for all this, part of me still wishes the prizes could have acknowledged it too.”


Image: Peter Higgs Source: Wikimedia Commons


Links: Nobel Prize press release