Peter Higgs

May  29th, 1929 April  8th, 2024
Edinburgh
Peter Higgs

Obituary

The University of Edinburgh remembers renowned physicist Professor Peter Higgs, who has died after a short illness. Professor Higgs is best known for predicting the existence of a fundamental physical particle that came to bear his name – the Higgs boson. He was a researcher at the University in 1964 when he predicted the particle, which enables other particles to acquire mass. His idea was validated by experiments almost 50 years later, in 2012, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. The discovery was followed by the award of a Nobel Prize for Professor Higgs in 2013. 

Read our full obituary: https://edin.ac/peter-higgs

The School of Physics and Astronomy has also published a tribute to Professor Higgs: https://edin.ac/peter-higgs-tribute

Memory wall

Post your condolences or share your memories.


May 5, 2024
Hi Chris and Jonathan just to pass on our condolences and let you both know you are in our thoughts and prayers. A many years have passed from when we were kids but still have many happy memories
Charles Baillie
April 25, 2024
I have many warm memories from Mathematical Physics 1976 and Peter’s many achievements have been an inspiration to students throughout my career teaching Secondary Physics
Lesley Slator
April 25, 2024
We have both known Peter for more than 50 years, coming to him through different aspects of his life. He will always be remembered for his signature contribution to physics, but as importantly as a gentle, thoughtful, and caring person. He was always good company, and will be sadly missed. Our thoughts are with his family.

After the CERN Council approved the construction of the LHC, we held a Press Conference in Edinburgh with Peter. I had asked him to talk about what is was like to invent a particle, which he did. Afterwards, one of the journalists (I think from the Scotsman) asked to borrow my mobile phone (one of the early "bricks"). I overheard him saying "I need a photographer here right away. I have just heard Peter Higgs: I didn't understand a word he said, but he looks fantastic." The following day, there was a wonderful photo of Peter shot against a white blind with the sun shining through, truly "looking fantastic".
Liz and Ken Peach
April 23, 2024
Very sad to hear of the passing of Professor Higgs. I had the great honour to serve as his Nobel attendant when he was awarded the Nobel prize in 2013. It was such a pleasure to spend the Nobel week together with him and see him receive the very well-deserved award. Professor Higgs was a true gentleman, humble and very friendly with everyone. It is a privilege to have known him. Rest in peace!
Ola Pihlblad
April 22, 2024
Peter was an inspiration to us all in Edinburgh. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh I gave a talk on the then recent discovery of the top quark. I was very surprised and honoured that Peter came to listen to my talk. I was so nervous that when it came to the part of my talk about the Higgs boson I momentarily forgot what I wanted to say and I knew he was listening intently. Fortunately it all came back to me. It was my first ever talk and in the days of plastic transparencies..

Many years later we created a new group on the ATLAS experiment in Edinburgh, and we were very lucky to be involved in one of the two key discovery channels (H->ZZ*->4l). When we first discovered the boson, we weren't sure of its spin and CP, and didn't immediately call it the Higgs boson. To this day I feel a little bit uncomfortable that I warned Peter when he came to CERN for the 2012 discovery seminar that we still had to fully check all its properties to be sure. He rightly seemed pretty confident.

I was later honoured to be present with Peter when Alan Walker gave him the official letter to open inviting him to Stockholm. It was a very small event, a few of us gathering in the New Town for a meal, but it spanned several generations of people who were inspired by him. I recall Peter said that he often gets these invitation letters, and has to turn them down, but that this time he thinks he would be accepting this one. I recall that he didn't know what a USB stick was at the time and gave it to Alan to print out for him. It contained logistical details of the ceremony.

I am very grateful to Alan Walker, Peter's good friend, who helped Peter in many ways, and supported him for a very long time. We will all miss Peter tremendously. It is an honour and privilege to have known him.
Philip Clark
April 21, 2024
I write about Peter Higgs here: https://njr.prose.sh/peter-higgs

I'd have pasted it in, but apparently it's too long...unlike his time.

He's the reason I came to Edinburgh 38 years ago, and I am terribly sad he's gone, even though he lived a long and good life.
Nick Radcliffe
April 18, 2024
Peter’s wonderful burst of concentrated work when he developed the ideas that will for ever bear his name is an object lesson to those who are loath to tackle really big problems for fear of failure. I first met him when we both lectured in the Scottish Universities Summer School at Middleton Hall in 1972. Then and later Peter demonstrated his generous nature in remarks he made about an intuitive way to understand the need for the eponymous boson that I had developed. I enjoyed his company on the relatively rare occasions when we met and will miss him. One anecdote. In the 1980s I introduced a talk he gave for a general audience at the Saltire Society. Peter started with what he called ‘something simple that everyone will understand’ – the effective potential for a scalar field!
Chris Llewellyn Smith
April 18, 2024
Peter Higgs passed. It is a tremendous loss for cosmology. I am beyond words.

He was such a private intellectual that no one could find him on the day he won his Nobel prize in 2013.
Having heard rumours that he might be award the Nobel that year he had wandered off to the woods around Edinburgh, that day. 

I had just arrived in Edinburgh. (Having been at Berkeley Lab when Saul Perlmutter won his Nobel Prize two years prior I was thinking Peter would give a speech as well.)

We were sitting in an empty room all day, waiting for him to show up and do his press conference thing. No one came. No one knew where he was.

I am not sure who was the first person to find him in the woods and congratulate him on the Nobel. 

I remember rumours that he was in a pub in the woods, and it was the bartender at the pub who saw him, and recognised him from the TV news. 

`Hey, you look like the person here on TV, who won the Nobel prize for Physics today. Are you Peter Higgs? Everyone is looking for you!'

I will actually confirm if I am remembering this correctly, but it is a testimony to the wonderfully independent, rebellious, and non-conformist, dear mind of Peter Higgs. Minds like these are one in a million.

He might have been 94 years old, but we still needed him a lot in physics. 

Now, more than ever, we need our role models to inspire us and uphold the standards on which our field (theoretical physics) rests. It is a tremendous, tremendous loss.
Marina Cortes
April 15, 2024
I was privileged to be a student of Peter Higgs about 60 years ago and I was very honoured when asked to take part in an "in conversation" event with him at the Orkney Science Festival in 2017. More recently I had the pleasure of visiting him when he was housebound and I enjoyed his company and conversation.We also shared a great love of the Highlands, especially Wester Ross. He will be remembered as one of the greatest mathematical physicists in the world but I shall also remember him as a very humble person. May he rest in peace.
Dennis Canavan
April 15, 2024
I shall miss our domestic afternoons - instituted when he could no longer manage the stairs - reminiscing over well-nigh sixty years of friendship. Peter was an original.
Leslie Hills
April 15, 2024
As a new PhD student at Imperial I was fortunate to attend what I believe was the only summer school Peter ever organised, at Edinburgh in 1981. He had managed to persuade Paul Dirac to attend which was very inspiring for us students. JC Taylor gave some very nice lectures on quantum gauge theories and I remember him referring to a nice paper of Peter's on the boundary conditions for path integrals in that context. Only later did I appreciate the remarkable line of theoretical physicists in the UK, among which were Peter, Tom Kibble and JC. All of them capable of elegantly simple yet groundbreaking work.

When I moved to Edinburgh recently it was a great privilege to visit Peter in his flat in the New Town. As others have emphasized, he was a wonderfully kind and generous person. As clever as he was, he was humble about his own contributions. As shy as he was, he was very chatty one to one and had a really remarkable memory. He had strongly held (and very interesting) opinions about which directions were most likely to be fruitful for theoretical physics (and which were not). He emphasized the importance of being broad and learning from other fields, specially those providing genuinely independent insights about the workings of nature.
Peter had neither a TV nor the internet at home and I think he was happy not to be distracted by them. He loved classical music and was very well read. His other great hobby was eating out. He showed me his list of the "Top 50" places to eat in Edinburgh which he revised regularly. I went to a few of these and found them to be the most friendly and welcoming places.

All of us at Edinburgh owe so much to Peter, including the Higgs Centre and the constant inspiration his work provides us, to "keep it simple!". His gentle, shy and even quirky personality reminds us that it is often unusual people who make the most unexpected, original and long-lasting contributions to science. Cudos to Edinburgh for providing an environment where someone like Peter could blossom.

We miss him deeply.


Neil Turok
April 15, 2024
I was saddened to hear the news that Peter is no longer with us. Like many others, I feel I have lost a teacher, friend and inspiration.

My first encounter with Peter came when as a Mathematical Physics student in Edinburgh in the early 1970s I took his 30 lecture course on Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Dynamics, elegantly crafted though not for the faint-hearted. Many people have recalled Peter's kindness, which is well illustrated by the following anecdote. At one point in the course, I had to miss two or three weeks of lectures and was away from Edinburgh. I wrote to Peter to ask if he could send me a copy of his notes for the lectures I was missing - hoping of course that he might agree to post some photocopies. A few days
later I received a package with 30 pages of specially prepared handwritten notes! I still have these pages, which remind me not only of Peter's individual kindness and generosity, but also of the excellent, personal education we received from everyone in Nick Kemmer's Mathematical Physics Department.

A year later when it was time to look into PhD possibilities, a couple of us unearthed a paper in the library called ``Spontaneous Symmetry Breakdown without Massless Bosons'', by Peter Higgs. I remember sitting in the coffee room of the newly-built JCMB
asking Ken Bowler if this was interesting and might be something worth working on! Well, that was my introduction to the Higgs Mechanism. (At that time, 1974, even in Edinburgh electroweak symmetry breaking had still not made it onto the Elementary Particles syllabus...)

Fast-forward a few years and, following an early outing of "My Life as a Boson", I remember Peter showing me the letters he received from Harvard's Walter Gilbert following his 1964 papers. This was quite an eye-opener. It is easy now to forget that Peter's crucial idea on how to circumvent the premises of the Goldstone theorem
in relativistic gauge theories was not instantly or universally accepted. This exchange no doubt prepared him for the scepticism he was to encounter a year or so later in his well-documented seminars in Princeton and Harvard. Well, history shows that Peter
prevailed, supported, I like to think, by the ultimate persuasive power of being right... (By then I had myself spent two years at Harvard and witnessed the sharp edge of seminars on that side of the Atlantic, though I should say my own memories of Harvard are of a welcoming, friendly and supportive environment.)

Amongst other more recent memories are the several visits Peter made to our theory group in Swansea, on one occasion to receive an Honorary Fellowship at our graduation ceremony in 2008, and later when he gave a lecture at the SEWM conference in the summer the Higgs boson was discovered.

In an earlier post in this collection of tributes, Richard Ball
commented that it is given to few theorists to produce an individual piece of research that not only makes a lasting impact on our field but also becomes a fundamental part of our understanding
of Nature. Peter was one of the few. It couldn't have happened to a nicer man.
Graham Shore
April 15, 2024
My deepest tribute to Prof. Higgs, a true legend in science, but more importantly, a wonderful human being.

Reflecting on my time at the University of Edinburgh while I was a PhD Student, I recall the days our paths crossed. Knowing that I am from Bangladesh, his face brightened with respect and appreciation as he spoke of Bengali Scientist Satyendra Nath Bose, highlighting the rich tapestry of his contributions to physics. His eyes further lit up with warmth and admiration for the work of Professor Lalit Mohan Nath, whom he mentored as a doctoral advisor, underscoring his dedication to nurturing the next generation of scientific minds.

Today, as we bid farewell to Professor Higgs, let us not only remember his profound scientific legacy but also his kindness, and passion for fostering collaboration across borders.
Dr. Athoy Nilima
April 15, 2024
I was privileged as an undergraduate & post graduate to have had Peter as a teacher/lecturer and I have fond memories of him as a result. Apart from the real & important content of his lectures we used to enjoy observing the symmetry of his matching socks & polo necks! I love the fact that he was the first person to congratulate me on my degree (BSc 1983 : we had to turn up to look at a board where the final results were posted, suspect not the same today). That encounter is an enduring memory for me. I often saw Peter about town in the years after I left UE and he always remembered me. A lovely man.
Catherine Chalmers
April 14, 2024
Peter's monumental contributions to particle physics are well known to everybody. Here I would like to pay a tribute to a very special person, sweet, gracious, caring, and a man of rare modesty. He was an inspiring figure for physicists across the world. An important piece of CERN’s history, and of my own professional life, is linked to him. We will sorely miss the physicist and the man.
Fabiola Gianotti
April 13, 2024
I was lucky enough to be taught by Professor Higgs during my Undergraduate years- my recollections were of a quiet gentle man trying patiently to help us understand what to him must have been so intuitive. If I remember his classes were on Monday mornings - never a good time if one had had a ‘busy’ weekend! I did try asking someone to take notes for me but quickly realised you had to be there to properly understand. Roll forward 30 odd years and I had the pleasure to meet up with Professor Higgs just before Covid - I was totally amazed at his memory of my year group and my own antics. It was lovely to meet with him and Alan again. I did not pursue a PhD but took a different course - which I’ve loved - but I occasionally wonder what if? I was even more in awe of him in my older years…. To have that creativity in one’s mind is truly special. For my own part, it was an inspiration and a privilege to have met him. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Alison Goligher
April 13, 2024
As a colleague of Tom Kibble in the Theoretical Physics Group at Imperial College, I was familiar with the Higgs-Kibble mechanism (as it was then called) for which Peter Higgs and Francois Englert later shared the Nobel Prize in 2013. But I got to know him personally when we were both frequent guests at the Summer Schools organized by Antonino Zichichi in Erice, Sicily. Peter was famously modest and embarrassed by all the attention he received. He disliked emails and among the most valued items in my physics memorabilia are seven hand-written letters dating from 1991 to 2007 including his 2001 lecture​``My life as a boson.''

His letters were always friendly and often witty, especially when reminiscing about his youth, for example his 1957 postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College where Theoretical Physics was still in its temporary home in the Maths Department . ''The group was housed in slum conditions in prefabricated cubicles behind a lecture theatre in the (old) Huxley Building. And Imperial College food was the worst in the whole (of London) University.''

After winning the Nobel with Englert, Peter Higgs remarked that Tom Kibble should have been the third person on the podium. Their explanation of how elementary particles acquire their mass will persist, as part of human understanding of the physical universe, for centuries to come.
Michael Duff
April 13, 2024
My namesake Chris Close refers to Peter and a bubble machine. Here is Peter with me at an Edinburgh Festival in 2012 showing us immersed in bubbles of bosons, apparently.
One of my cherished memories will be of the conversations we had on stage over several years as part of the attempt to popularise his science. I lilke this photo which shows Peter enjoying himself.
Frank Close
April 13, 2024
I was Peter’s PhD student at Edinburgh from 1960 to 1062. We soon became friends and talked about anything from elementary particle interactions to the creation of universe and existence of God. I was greatly impressed by his keen insight, and touched by his humility and humanitarian concern for the less privileged people.
My heartfelt feelings are with his family over their loss. May he be blessed with Eternal Peace.
Muhammad Jameel
April 13, 2024
My sincere condolences to Professor Higgs' family and friends. Being a theoretical physicist myself, I was deeply saddened to hear about this tragic news. Unfortunately, I have never had the chance to meet him in person, but I was lucky enough to experience the discovery that confirmed his theoretical prediction. I will always think of his work as one of the greatest achievements of the past century in our field, which, in turn, paved the way to many exciting questions for our community to work on.
Veronica Pasquarella
April 12, 2024
Lucky to have met you. Behind one of the greatest physicists in history there was an extraordinary friendly and humble man
Xavier Serra
April 12, 2024
I was Head of the UK Liaison Office at CERN when the hunt for the Higgs boson came to its spectacular conclusion in 2012. It was my great privilege to look after Peter and his great friend Alan Walker during their trip to CERN for the great reveal. A couple of months later we three met for lunch in Edinburgh, and a lovely adventure began. From inviting me to Asturias as his guest when he received the Prince of Asturias award, to coming to speak to Physics sixth form students and to the whole community in my Highland village of Plockton, in an event which involved all villagers and the Particle Physics exhibition from Edinburgh University, Peter's generosity and pleasure in giving of himself to others was inspirational. We took him out on the village seal trip and he drove the boat for a while. We called him the Higgs Bosun! A wonderful man, modest but fully aware of what he could make happen. The photos are of him driving the boat and of Alan, Peter and myself in our last lunch before lockdowns in 2019.
Jane MacKenzie
April 12, 2024
Everyone at the Institute of Physics would like to express our condolences to the family and many friends of Professor Peter Higgs, a true giant of physics.

A message from our President, Sir Keith Burnett:

"Professor Higgs' legacy as the proposer of the Higgs boson and as the joint winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics made him one of the most significant figures in world science and his life’s work is certain to continue to inspire, inform and advance our understanding of the universe for many generations to come."
Institute of Physics
April 12, 2024
Eventhough I have never formally studied Theoretical Physics, I can remember reading about the discovery of Higgs Boson or the 'God Particle' by the scientists at CERN using the Large Hadron Collider, when it first hit the mainstream news, as I've always been intrigued by the nature of the universe, questions like how it works? I can remember I even used to include this in cover-letters that accompanied my CV for job applications. There was atleast one company Founder/CEO who wanted to meet me having read such a cover-letter of mine.

Never had the opportunity to delve in to Peter Higgs's work in depth, but it would be interesting to do so if the opportunity presents itself in the future, especially in comparison with, orchestrated objective reduction theory put forward by Roger Penrose, and Stuart Hameroff.

That said I wonder if anyone else noticed that Professor Higgs is the second Nobel Prize laureate to pass away within the last two weeks? The first being Daniel Kahneman who died on 26th March - who has won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his contribution to Behavioural Economics. He was 90.

Does anyone knows if the average life span of Nobel laureates is higher than that of the general population? It would be interesting to find out!

Finally let me wish that Professor Higgs's soul rest in peace. His contributions to the advancement of science would surely remain appreciated for many years to come.
Ruchira Kitsiri
April 11, 2024
I have had the opportunity to correspond and visit with Peter over the years since the death of my husband, Robert Brout, in 2011. I appreciated Peter's openness about his interactions with Robert, and his dedication to support and recognize Robert's contributions posthumously. Peter's actions, to acknowledge the confusion associated with the naming of the Brout Englert Higgs field and the implied particle, have given me a glimpse into the nature of a very special man. Peter addressed the media frenzy associated with the discovery of the Higgs boson with honesty, integrity, and an exceptional calm and humility- acknowledging that it was in great part thanks to Alan. I hold fond memories of conversations and visits with Peter . He will be missed.
Katherine Graham (Mme. Brout)
April 11, 2024
Portrait of Peter Higgs at home.
Chris Close
April 11, 2024
It was a pleasure to have met and photographed this wonderful man. My first meeting with Peter involved a bubble machine and a man called Close, another Close, whom latterly Peter left a message for on my phone instead of his. I miss seeing him waiting at the bus-stop outside my gallery and now I shall miss walking home where I would gaze up at his flat where I was lucky enough to have spent a few hours taking his picture whilst discussing music, food, science and art. When he said he liked my portaits, well that was something.

He left his mark.
Chris Close
April 11, 2024
I was privileged to be lectured by Peter Higgs in 1994 after joining UoE for PHD, on both Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking - his wonderful lecture course covering his Abelian Higgs mechanism.
He was both a wonderful, insightful physicist who took an interest, surprising me by already knowing my name prior to introduction.
He was always humble, shy even, but absolutely lit up when asked a question. Later, I learned he also had a firm moral compass, with compassionate views on life outside physics and was a wonderful all round human being. A wonderful man.
Peter Boyle
April 11, 2024
I have fond memories of my encounters with Peter Higgs. Rarely have I met a theoretical physicist of such modesty and politeness. During conversations, he would ask questions about CERN and news of the experimental results from its colliders. He was always curious about what was happening in the world of theoretical physics as well. Often the subject of conversation turned to research concerning the electroweak breaking sector, and I noticed that he was never using the term `Higgs boson’. He always preferred to listen to others pensively, rather than expressing strong opinions. His name will be forever linked to the history of CERN, since the Higgs boson has been a driver of past research at LEP and LHC, and will continue to be the focus of CERN’s scientific activity in the years to come. On behalf of all my colleagues at the CERN Department of Theoretical Physics, I want to express our deep sorrow for the loss of one of the protagonists of the Standard Model’s history.

Gian Francesco Giudice
Head, Theoretical Physics Department, CERN
Gian Francesco Giudice
April 11, 2024
To Higgs
There once was a Physicist called, Higgs
Who hypothesized, for the Universe, new digs
So, they all put the new cloths-on
flipped the switch, and out popped the new Bos-on
and now, with the Universe, all is quite jiggity-jig
 
W. Lloyd MacIlquham, Nanaimo, BC, Canada, 9 Apr.’24
W. Lloyd MacIlquham
April 11, 2024
As I was told Oct 1960, I’d passed my MSc by Dr Tom Kibble,
Peter Higgs rushed in to tell Tom his latest dream, beginnings of Black holes, I was thrilled later to realise what I’d heard. Peter gave many Seminars, and asked many Questions. Years later a little rare fact Nov 67, he came for an interview at UKC Canterbury, we met him as he wandered through city, en route to train returning to Edinburgh. Was back-in 69 for our first Summer school, in Clifford Algebra’s. photo, a friendship and subject to follow. RIP and condolences to his Family. We’ll also remember the bark of Ray Chester, and her “boys”.
John McEWAN,
April 11, 2024
Meeting Peter Higgs was one of the most privileged experiences in my life and an honor for the Carla Fendi Foundation that hosted him back in 2018 when he was awarded the Carla Fendi STEM Prize, together with Francois Englert and Fabiola Gianotti, during Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi, a multidisciplinary event of highly regarded tradition supported by the Foundation in the small Italian art town of Spoleto, in the Umbria region.
A genius but also an incredibly lovable person. I remember those nice days and our strolls around the art spots of the center, eating ice-cream with Fabiola and Alan, telling stories of our personal and working life. I can't forget how much he seemed to be loved by people and I was impressed to learn of the hundreds of drawings he received from primary school children that every year celebrated his birthday and his work.
He was a scientific mastermind and a man of extraordinary kindheartedness and humanity.
Goodbye Peter.

Maria Teresa Venturini Fendi
President Carla Fendi Foundation
Maria Teresa Venturini Fendi
April 11, 2024
I have especially fond memories of Peter from 1981, when he
organized an excellent summer school in Edinburgh, at which
I was a tutor. He did this with gentleness and good humour,
ensuring that everyone was happy and relaxed. I recall
congratulating him on his recent appointment to a personal
chair. With a twinkle in his eye, he told that me that there
was a potential difficulty about this. "Suppose that the
head of department is on sabbatical and the acting head gets
sick. Then I might be asked to administrate. That would not
be good for me and would be worse for the department."
Later, Peter was the external advisor on a panel for my
promotion to a readership. I told my head of department that
I was pleased that they had chosen Peter, since he and I
held similar opinions about the balance between
administration, teaching and research.

David Broadhurst
David Broadhurst
April 11, 2024
I didn't know Peter well, but I shall always remember the event at which I first met him. I was particularly struck that Peter spent longer talking with the undergraduate students present than he did with the various dignitaries. His warmth and connection with them was obvious, and inspiring; a great example to us all.
Ross Galloway
April 11, 2024
Ricordiamo con affetto e stima il grandissimo Peter Higgs che abbiamo avuto l'onore di premiare come Premio Nonino a un Maestro del Nostro Tempo a gennaio 2013 a Ronchi di Percoto in Friuli - Italia .
La sua lezione privata sul bosone resterà sempre impressa nel nostro cuore e nella nostra mente insieme alla sua gentilezza d'animo .
Grazie Professor Higgs
Giannola Benito Antonella Cristina Elisabetta , la Giuria e tutta la grande famiglia del Premio Nonino

We remember with affection and esteeme the great Peter Higgs who we had the honour to award with the Nonino Prize to a Master of our Time in January 2013 in Ronchi di Percoto - Friuli - Italy .
His private lesson on the boson will always be impressed in our heart and in our mind together with his kindness.
Thank you Prof Higgs
Giannola, Benito, Antonella, Cristina, Elisabetta , the Jury and all the great Family of the Nonino Prize .


Percoto April 11th 2024


Famiglia Premio Nonino
April 11, 2024
Desde Chile (Latin-America) le agradezco y admiro su trabajo por la ciencia.

Un abrazo enorme a su familia y seres queridos que extrañan su partida, pero que el consuelo de su persona, gratitud y conocimientos permanezcan para la humanidad.

Marcelo Pérez
April 11, 2024
In Spain we remember with great emotion his visit to Asturias to collect the 2013 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research.

Young people, schoolchildren, physics students, scientific experts from different disciplines and the general public supported the visit of Peter Higgs and made this award an unforgettable recognition of the discovery of the Higgs boson which constitutes, in the words of the jury that awarded the Prize, “a prime example of how Europe has led a collective effort to solve one of the deepest mysteries of physics.”

Photos: Peter Higgs receives the Award from His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain, then Prince of Asturias, and other images taken during his visit.

Teresa Sanjurjo, Director of the Princess of Asturias Foundation
Teresa Sanjurjo
April 11, 2024
My deepest condolences on behalf of the entire DeWitt family to Peter’s family and closest friends and colleagues. I know my parents, Bryce and Cecile DeWitt, held him in the highest regard and enjoyed the time he spent with them in Chapel Hill at my dad’s invitation when I was a kid. May good memories of Peter soften this great loss.
Christiane DeWitt
April 11, 2024
The more I read about Prof Higgs's story and research the more fascinated I became with fundamental physics discoveries. Had a chance encounter with him at the Queen's hall after a classical music concert a few years ago. Could tell that he had a huge impressive, yet humble personality. Will be greatly missed.
Michael Merlin
April 11, 2024
Peter Higgs supported our research project from The Institute for Research in Schools - Higgs Hunting. Thanks to Alan Walker, Alan Barr and Laura Thomas we launched in the Royal Society of Edinburgh and it was fantastic to have Peter Higgs there speaking and talking to the students. A phenomenal experience for all of us and all the school students who took part. We so appreciated his time, kindness and humour. Thank you so very much.
Becky Parker
April 11, 2024
As a PhD student in the Higgs Centre particle theory group from 2013 to 2017, Peter Higgs was an inspiration to me. I only saw him at a few public occasions, but he always struck me as a very humble person, who had made a creative and brave prediction that turned out to be true many years later.
For me personally the creation of the Higgs Centre in 2012 also caused the creation of the Higgs Centre International Studentships, which allowed me to persue my PhD, for which I am very grateful.
Andries Waelkens
April 11, 2024
A truly gentleman, humble and notorious by his modesty, who contributed a milestone to physics across different fields. Proud to be in the same department, and share the echo of a great environment for discoveries. RIP Peter Higgs!
Elton Santos
April 11, 2024
You gave us so much, and enhanced all our lives: thank you, Peter.
David Wallace
April 11, 2024
I was a PhD student in the Edinburgh particle theory group in 2005-2008. Peter Higgs was well-retired by then but he would appear in JCMB from time to time. Despite working on the Higgs (boson) production cross-section, at that time, I didn't really know what Higgs (the person) looked like. I remember this one day walking with a fellow student to the sandwich shop, we crossed path with this old-looking person. It took us one or seconds, we stopped talking and told each other: "Wait, was that Peter Higgs??" The second time I met Peter Higgs instead was a much more formative experience. I attended the summer school BUSSTEPP and Peter gave a dinner speech titled "My life as a boson". It was a truly inspiring experience. We were 40-50 young theoretical physics students watching in awe a person telling the story of an idea that ended up in the books we were all studying, forming the scientific path so many of us will indeed follow. Thank you Professor Higgs!
Simone Marzani
April 10, 2024
Science is the fundamental driving force for the progress of human society. Surprised to hear that the famous physicist Mr. Higgs passed away, the hero of knowledge withered away, I would like to express my deep condolences and memory!
Kevin
April 10, 2024
I've been asked many times about Peter, what he was like as a physicist, what he was like as a person. In truth, I can only tell you what he was like to me.

I first really got to know Peter as a lecturer at the end of my Mathematical Physics degree. He lectured General Relativity and Groups & Symmetries - it was the final year of my undergraduate degree and his last year of teaching. Back then, we could attend all the lectures and then choose whether to attempt the exam or not - I didn't take the exam in GR, but I did take the G&S exam. I specifically remember the part in a G&S lecture when Peter's word's allowed me to visualise SU(3) symmetry - something that isn't fully possible in our 3D world; but in that moment, and still now, I can see into the fourth dimension.

As a PhD student I joined the experimental particle physics group in Edinburgh. Peter had retired, but I do remember bumping into Peter at the Portrait Gallery in Queen Street and him being happy to see me again and asking how my research was going.

Later again, now as a lecturer in Edinburgh in the experimental particle physics group, Peter's work was one of the motivations for us to join the ATLAS experiment at the LHC and, of course, to focus on the search for - and then the measurement of - the Higgs boson.

After the discovery in 2012, I was very fortunate to accompany Peter on several visits to Plockton, to Dublin. to Stockholm and all over Edinburgh. It was always a pleasure, and a great privilege, to be with him.

Peter was always kind and gracious, knowledgeable and cultured. I enjoyed talking to him as much about art and culture as about physics, and I think so did he, I'll miss those chats for sure.
Victoria Martin
April 10, 2024
Peter Higgs’ role and impact in particle physics cannot be overstated, and the legacy of his work continues to inspire and shape the field. We feel this particularly strongly here in Edinburgh. I am enormously grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and speak with Peter in various circumstances over the years. As others have said, he was easy to talk to, despite his formidable reputation. I always enjoyed our encounters, even when I couldn’t answer a question about a specific detail or date! I heard him speak to others ranging from schoolchildren to undergraduates to senior physicists and treat them all the same. He was a truly remarkable man and it is a privilege to have known him in some small way.
Jenni Smillie
April 10, 2024
When I was a student, we all learned about the Higgs mechanism, supposed to give mass to leptons, quarks and vector boson, and predicting the existence of a mysterious scalar boson, called simply “the Higgs”. But did it actually exist?

I first visited Edinburgh in 1988, to give a seminar. But I never saw Peter. In 1995 I was appointed to a Lectureship in Edinburgh, a position created by Peter’s retirement. But still, I never met Peter. My first memory of Peter is from a year later, on the occasion when he gave up his office, so that I could move into it. He left behind several shelves of books, which I guarded for many years – in a sense he appointed me his librarian. And his postboy – he would call in every so often to pick up his mail. As the years went by these visits became less and less frequent. My impression of Peter at this time was of a shy man, who liked his privacy.

About ten years later, I organised the British Universities Summer School in Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics (BUSSTEPP) in Edinburgh. I wrote to Peter asking him to give an evening lecture to the students. Public appearances by Peter were very rare occasions, but he agreed to do this one, because, he explained, he had his own special memories of a school he had organised many years previously. He arrived on time, and delivered “My Life as a Boson.” It was very much appreciated by the students, and I guess many of them still remember it.

In 2012, with the discovery of the boson imminent, I was asked by Arthur Trew to create a fitting legacy for Peter, in the form of a Higgs Centre. We met with Peter, and it was decided early on that the centre should reflect, both in style and content, Peter’s own unusual career. Accordingly, it was to be an international centre, embracing all areas of theoretical physics, with a focus on developing novel ideas, and to include a strong pedagogical element. You can judge for yourself the extent to which we succeeded in this enterprise, but the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics was up and running within three months.

Our first big meeting was a “Higgs Symposium,” held shortly after the announcement of the Nobel Prize. We invited a stellar cast of international speakers, all in Edinburgh to honour Peter. He attended the first day of the meeting, but when it came to his own talk on the final day, he was nowhere to be seen. It seems to me that while Peter was delighted to know that his boson actually existed, he found the Nobel Prize, and all the fuss that went with it, a mixed blessing. In his own words, it “ruined my life.” Fame and fortune were not really Peter’s style.

I personally think the most remarkable aspect Peter’s story is that one man, thinking alone about theoretical physics, can have an idea that has a profound and lasting impact on the way we understand the world. Now very few people ever have such an idea – and of these most are not fortunate enough to have their contribution recognised, still less live to see their idea actually become reality. Yet Peter had all this – truly his life was blessed.

Get into a taxi, let slip you work at CERN, and the driver will soon be chattering about Higgs and his boson. However, I suspect very few people really knew Peter. My sincere condolences to his family, and all those who were his true friends.

Richard Ball, Professor of Mathematical Physics, University of Edinburgh
Richard Ball
April 10, 2024
Saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Higgs. My sincere condolences to his family. In addition to his remarkable work on symmetry breaking resulting in the ‘HIggs’ boson Peter was a wonderful person. He was self-effacing and very kind. I did my first PhD viva with Peter and benefited from his experience and advice on what was a very difficult viva. He kindly guided me through the process. I also remember the first time I met Peter as a PhD student when he gave summer school lectures computing the symmetry breaking mechanism and displaying the massive boson. We all turned to each other to ask ‘is this the HIggs boson’ - he was so shy and self-effacing that he only said at the very end that the boson carried his name! He was a wonderful colleague.
Anne-Christine Davis
April 10, 2024
It is one of the rarest of things to predict something and have it confirmed through experimental measurement. So many theories come and go never to stand against the test of time and experimentation. To predict something and have it confirmed nearly 50 years later is even rarer still. The Higgs Boson completes the most tested model in history, so well does it describe the observable universe we call it the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

I am filled with great sadness to see the passing of a giant of physics. I had the privilege to meet Peter three times and on each occasion I learned something new (not always physics related)!

We know there is physics beyond what we know today. But the Standard Model will always remain a key point in physics history and Peter Higgs will forever be remembered along with it.
XinRan Liu
April 10, 2024
Peter will have a special place in my recollections, - and here I don't have better words than already used by many other people - as a very kind and modest person, and at the same time being inspiring to young, and not so young, physicists and people from the general public alike. I warmly recall when he gifted some of his time to visit a few of our outreach events, despite the uneasiness this caused him to be the centre of attention - and that was before the world almost spiraled out of control over his fame. After that Alan had to shield him from the many, many, many reasonable and unreasonable requests and approaches. After this storm had eased down one could have chance spottings again, with Peter going about his business in the city centre and enjoying events at the festival... - it was nice to see, that life for him had normalised again. That is, I think, what he had wanted. It is sad to know that this has now ended, but he has left big and lasting legacy. My sympathy to all he loved and who loved him back!

Stephan Eisenhardt, Senior Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
Stephan Eisenhardt
April 10, 2024
Peter Higgs's work has changed the turn of my life. As a physics graduate student in Brazil I was fascinated by the "Higgs mechanism". I applied to do a Ph. D. in Edinburgh university and was accepted. From 1981 through 1984 I have worked in this small research group where we could discuss on theoretical high energy physics. Though eventually working with David. J. Wallace (an outstanding physicist and team leader!) I have benefited from Peter Higgs' s teaching and many discussions. What strikes me is how a towering physicist like him could be so modest ! A great person. And last time I saw him was... in a pub, as we celebrated my Ph.D. with David Wallace and other colleagues. And going to Edinburgh changed my life because of my work, the friend I've made... and meeting my future wife... Fond memories of Peter Higgs and all the atmosphere of Edinburgh University Physics Department.
Bruno Meyer
Bruno Meyer
April 10, 2024
I am saddened by the passing of Peter who was a personal inspiration for me. The Higgs Centre, which I had the honour to lead until recently, has drawn much inspiration from Peter’s remarkable achievements and well as Peter’s idealistic vision and unique personality. His attraction to fundamental principles in understanding nature, and to the power and beauty in which these are encoded in an elegant mathematical description; his ability to see connections across the boundaries between disciplines; his high standards in research and teaching; his appreciation of contributions made by others, his generosity and his modesty. All these will continue to guide us.
Einan Gardi
April 10, 2024
Peter was able to turn elegant mathematics into laws of nature, spectacularly confirmed by experiments. Is there a better achievement for a theoretical physicist? He is one of the giants who established the Standard Model of particle physics. And yet, when speaking about Peter, the words that are often used - the words that also come to my mind - are 'modest', 'uncomfortable as a celebrity', a 'shy man': that really shows what an exceptional person he was. I had the privilege of getting to know Peter in my time at Edinburgh, he will remain in my memory as an intellectual role model, a source of inspiration, and a kind, caring person, who was often generous of his time, especially when students were involved. His legacy will continue to inspire present and future physicists.

Luigi Del Debbio, Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Edinburgh
Luigi Del Debbio
April 10, 2024
Peter was my friend and mentor throughout my career at Edinburgh. He was one of the most knowledgeable and interesting people I’ve had the privilege to know. During the past year, I enjoyed long discussions with him about the history of mathematical physics at Edinburgh and the best local restaurants. His phenomenal memory was as sharp as ever and he would even correct my recollection of events. There was far more to Peter than a boson.

Richard Kenway, Emeritus Professor of Mathematical Physics, University of Edinburgh
Richard Kenway
April 10, 2024
As an undergraduate student I attended Peter’s lectures. The class was somewhat in awe of the mild-mannered man in a polo neck who we heard had his own particle. The lectures were challenging but inspired me. More recently when we were chatting, Peter demonstrated an amazing memory of the class, recalling individuals and showing genuine interest in their lives. Peter has made an enduring impression on me and I am proud to have known him.

Martin Evans, Director of the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics
Martin Evans
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