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Peter Higgs

Peter HiggsAKA Peter Ware Higgs

Born: 29-May-1929
Birthplace: Newcastle, England

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Higgs boson and Higgs field

The Standard Model, the sum total of centuries of physicists' work in attempting to understand the universe, remains an unfinished work, but nothing conclusively explains why particles have mass. Something must generate the masses of particles, and one explanation was proposed by particle physicist Peter Higgs in 1964. Other physicists call it the Higgs field, while Higgs himself calls it "the so-called Higgs field" -- a theoretical area that permeates space and endows all elementary sub-atomic particles with mass through its interactions with them. In Standard Model physics, particles are associated with fields -- quarks and leptons make up matter, and vector bosons carry forces -- and the particle associated with the Higgs field is called the Higgs boson (Higgs calls it the scalar boson).

Some physicists have gone so far as to describe the Higgs boson as a "God particle" that might lead to a unified "theory of everything". Among the skeptics, however, was Stephen Hawking, who placed wagers with other physicists betting that the Higgs boson would not be discovered during a long and expensive effort using the large electron positron particle accelerator at the CERN laboratories in Geneva. Hawking won that gamble in 2001, when the CERN effort ended without success, but most particle physicists remained confident that Higgs' idea would eventually be proven true, as it fits the Standard Model so perfectly.

A new round of experiments at CERN discovered the Higgs boson in 2012 -- an anomaly in the data which suggests a particle weighing 125.3 gigaelectronvolts, much heavier than the mass of the average proton. At age 83, Higgs was invited to the press conference announcing the discovery, and told reporters, "I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall be asking my family to put some champagne in the fridge." In 2013 he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Father: (BBC sound engineer)
Wife: Jody Williamson Higgs (linguist, b. 1936, dated 1960-62, m. 1962, div. 1972, d. 3-Feb-2008, leukemia)
Son: Christopher Higgs (computer scientist, b. circa 1966)
Son: Jonathan Higgs (musician, b. circa 1969)

    High School: Cotham Grammar School, Bristol, England
    High School: City of London School, London, England
    University: PhD, King's College London (1955)
    Teacher: University of London (1955-60)
    Teacher: Physics, University of London (1960-80)
    Professor: Theoretical Physics, University of Edinburgh (1980-96)

    Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1960s)
    European Physical Society
    Institute of Physics Fellow (1991)
    Royal Society Fellow (1983)
    Royal Society of Edinburgh Fellow (1974)
    Paul Dirac Medal (1997)
    Hughes Medal (1981)
    Rutherford Medal (1984)
    Wolf Prize in Physics (2004)
    Nobel Prize for Physics (2013)
    Risk Factors: Asthma


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