Edinburgh Professor of "God Particle" Fame Wins Edinburgh Award

Submitted by edg on Fri, 23 Dec '11 11.20am

Professor Peter Higgs whose theory about the existence of an elusive particle – or boson – came in a moment of inspiration while walking in the Cairngorms in 1964, has been named the recipient of the Edinburgh Award 2011.

The Higgs Boson, sometimes dubbed the "God particle", is purported to be the means by which everything in the Universe obtains its mass. Many of the experiments which have been carried out in the  £2.6bn Large Hadron Collider, which was switched on three years ago at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, are aimed at proving the existence of the Higgs boson.

CERN recently reported that after gathering a huge amount of data there were tantalising hints that the Higgs boson exists although more work was needed to claim that it had been "discovered."

First launched in 2007, the Edinburgh Award is a way for local citizens to pay a lasting tribute to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the city through their achievements. Previous winners have included Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, Rebus author Ian Rankin, and "Mr Judo" George Kerr.

Peter Higgs, a retired University of Edinburgh professor in his eighties, will be presented with an engraved Loving Cup at a ceremony in early 2012 where previous award winners and young achievers from across the city will be invited to attend.

He will have a mould of his handprints taken, which will be engraved – and immortalised – on a flagstone in the City Chambers quadrangle.

Lord Provost George Grubb said: "The Edinburgh Award enables the people of Edinburgh to pay a lasting tribute to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the city through their work or achievements in recent years. I am delighted to present this year’s award to Professor Peter Higgs whose discovery of the Higgs boson has not only made him an international success, but has also significantly advanced the study of particle physics."

He added: “His work with the University of Edinburgh has put this city on an international stage and as such he has undoubtedly proven to be a most deserved winner of one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious civic awards.”

Professor Higgs was chosen as the winner of the 2011 Edinburgh Award by a judging panel chaired by the Lord Provost, with representatives from all political groups on the City of Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council and Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

Timeline of Professor Peter Higgs’ life

  • 1929 Born in Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 1950 Awarded first class honours degree in Theoretical Physics at King's College London
  • 1954 Comes to the University of Edinburgh as a Royal Commmission for the Exhibition of 1851 Senior Student and stayed for a further year as Senior Research Fellow
  • 1960 Returns to Edinburgh as Lecturer in Mathematical Physics (promoted to Reader in 1970)
  • 1964 Publishes landmark research which defines what will become known as the Higgs boson
  • 1996 Becomes Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh
  • 1997 Awarded Dirac Medal and Prize for outstanding contribution to theoretical physics by the Institute of Physics
  • 1997 Awarded High Energy and Particle Physics prize by the European Physical Society
  • 2004 Awarded Wolf Prize in Physics by the Wolf Foundation
  • 2006 Retires from the University of Edinburgh
  • 2008 Large Hadron Collider switched on at CERN with the goal of confirming or rejecting the existence of the Higgs boson
  • 2010 Awarded JJ Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics by the American Physical Society

Previous recipients of the Edinburgh Award are: