Nobel Prize-winning physicist behind the ‘God particle’ theory passes away at 94

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British physicist Peter Higgs, whose theory of a mass-giving particle -- the so-called Higgs boson -- jointly earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics, has died aged 94, the University of Edinburgh announced on Tuesday.

“He passed away peacefully at home on Monday 8 April following a short illness,” the Scottish university, where he had been a professor for nearly five decades, said in a statement.

It called him “a great teacher and mentor, inspiring generations of young scientists”.

“His family has asked that the media and public respect their privacy at this time,” the university added.

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Higgs used ground-breaking theoretical work to help explain how the Universe has mass, thus resolving one of the greatest puzzles in physics and earning him a place alongside Albert Einstein and Max Planck in textbooks.

His 1964 theory of a mass-giving particle, which became known as the Higgs boson or the “God particle”, won him and Belgian physicist Francois Englert the 2013 physics Nobel Prize.

The award followed experiments the previous year with the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) that finally confirmed the theory, nearly half a century after it was formulated.

“Peter Higgs was a remarkable individual -- a truly gifted scientist whose vision and imagination have enriched our knowledge of the world that surrounds us,” said Peter Mathieson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh.

“His pioneering work has motivated thousands of scientists, and his legacy will continue to inspire many more for generations to come.”

‘Remembered’

CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti paid tribute to Higgs.

“Besides his outstanding contributions to particle physics, Peter was a very special person, an immensely inspiring figure for physicists across the world, a man of rare modesty,” she said in a statement.

Fabiola also lauded him as a “great teacher” able to explain physics “in a very simple and yet profound way”.

“An important piece of CERN’s history and accomplishments is linked to him. I am very saddened, and I will miss him sorely,” she added.

Brian Cox, a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester and a science television programme presenter, said Higgs’s name “will be remembered as long as we do physics”.

“I was fortunate enough to meet him several times, and beyond being a famous physicist -- I think to his embarrassment at times -- he was always charming and modest,” he said on social media.

Born in 1929 in Newcastle, northwest England, Higgs graduated in 1950 with First Class Honours in Physics from King’s College London.

By 1954 he had been awarded a Masters degree and a PhD, and soon opened his links with the University of Edinburgh by becoming a senior research fellow.

After decades of research there and elsewhere, he would in 1996 become professor emeritus at the university.

Higgs received numerous academic honours over the years, and a host of honorary degrees, including from the University of Cambridge.

Britain made him a Companion of Honour in the 2013 New Year Honours list, handed out for service of conspicuous national importance.

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