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Professor Peter Higgs

Peter Higgs

Professor Peter Ware Higgs is one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists. He is an alumnus and a fellow of King’s.

In 1964, with Robert Brout and Francois Englert, he explained how weak force elementary particles acquire mass, postulating the existence of the Higgs field and the ‘Higgs boson’; the primary object of enquiry for CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, Geneva.

Peter Higgs and King’s:

- 1947 - an undergraduate reading natural sciences in physics

- 1950 - graduated with a first-class BSc

- 1952 - achieved an MSc in physics

- studied for doctorate in molecular physics, supervised by Charles Coulson and Christopher Longuet-Higgins

- 1954 - awarded PhD for a thesis entitled ‘Some problems in the theory of molecular vibrations’.

Higgs’s thesis started his life-long interest in the application of the ideas of symmetry to physical systems. He had published four scientific papers by the time he left King’s.

Career progression

In 1954 Higgs took up a post at the University of Edinburgh, and subsequently held fellowships there and at University College London and Imperial College before returning to Edinburgh as a lecturer in 1960. He later became a reader and then, in 1980, professor of Theoretical Physics at Edinburgh. Since 1996 he has been Professor Emeritus.

In 1964 Higgs predicted the existence of the scalar particle that is crucial for our understanding of three of the four forces of nature, making a fundamental contribution to physics with major consequences for our understanding of the origins of the universe. Known as the Higgs boson or ‘God particle’, this proposition led to the standard model of elementary particle interactions which has been confirmed by decades of work at particle physics laboratories around the world.

Higgs has received many honours and awards in recognition of his achievements:

- Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1974

- Fellow of the Royal Society, 1983

- Fellowship of King’s in 1998 and an honorary doctorate, 2009.

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