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Plaudits for Higgs' Nobel Prize


Professor Peter Higgs has won the Nobel Prize for Physics

Professor Peter Higgs has won the Nobel Prize for Physics

Professor Peter Higgs has won the Nobel Prize for Physics

Professor Peter Higgs, who gave his name to the Higgs boson particle, has received congratulations from across the science community after being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Prof Higgs shares the prize with Francois Englert of Belgium for their work on the theory of the so-called "God particle" said to give matter its substance, or mass.

In the 1960s they proposed a mechanism that predicted the particle, which was discovered by a team from the European nuclear research facility (Cern) in Geneva, Switzerland, last year.

In a statement released through Edinburgh University, where Prof Higgs, 84, is an emeritus professor, he said: "I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy.

"I would also like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the discovery of this new particle and to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support.

"I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research."

The announcement was made at a Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences ceremony in Stockholm.

The awards were set up by businessman Alfred Nobel and were first given out in 1901 to honour achievements in science, literature and peace.

The Higgs-Englert award recognises the "theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles".

Cern director-general Rolf Heuer said he was "thrilled" that this year's Prize had gone to particle physics and Edinburgh University principal Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea said the accolade was "worthy recognition" of the significance of the particle find, which will underpin the next generation of physics research.

"Professor Higgs' work will continue to inspire scientists at Edinburgh and beyond," he said.

Prof Higgs hit upon the concept of a ''God particle'' during a walk in the Cairngorms national park in Scotland in 1964 when he started to consider why elementary particles, the basic building blocks of the universe, have mass.

He wrote two scientific papers on his theory and was eventually published in the Physical Review Letters journal, sparking a 40-year hunt for the Higgs boson.

Other researchers, including Professor Englert, were also working separately on the same idea as Professor Higgs and published papers around the same time.

Prof Higgs was given the Edinburgh Medal at a ceremony in March to recognise his contributions to the field of science and technology. Previous recipients have included three Nobel Prize winners.

He was also made a Companion of Honour in the New Year Honours list and the Higgs Prize was set up by the Scottish Government to recognise school pupils who excel in physics.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This brilliant achievement is richly-deserved recognition of his lifetime of dedicated research and his passion for science.

"It is also a credit to the world-leading British universities in which this research was carried out, including the University of Edinburgh, Imperial and Kings College London.

"It took nearly 50 years and thousands of great minds to discover the Higgs Boson after Professor Higgs proposed it, and he and all those people should be extremely proud."

The Princess Royal, in her role as chancellor of Edinburgh University, reflected on the Nobel announcement during a campus engagement today.

She said: "As chancellor, I'm delighted because I can claim all sorts of benefits for the university (which is) hugely proud to have that connection with Professor Higgs."

Professor Michael Duff, chair of theoretical physics at Imperial College London, said the Higgs boson theory will remain part of human understanding "for centuries" and the prize was " richly deserved".

"Their seminal contributions, along with those of Tom Kibble here at Imperial College, explaining how elementary particles acquire a mass, form a vital part of the Standard Model of particle physics, pioneered by Imperial Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam.

"Their ideas in theoretical physics, vindicated in 2012 by the discovery at Cern of the Higgs boson, will persist as part of human understanding of the physical universe for centuries to come, long after today's stars of politics, business and entertainment have been forgotten."