ISH scientist Peter Higgs and Francois Englert of Belgium won the Nobel Prize for physics yesterday for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson particle, which explains how elementary matter attained the mass to form stars and planets.
The insight has been hailed as one of the most important in the understanding of the cosmos. Without the Higgs mechanism all particles would travel at the speed of light and atoms would not exist.
Half a century after the scientists’ original prediction, the new building block of nature was finally detected in 2012 at the CERN centre’s giant, underground particle-smasher near Geneva.
“I am overwhelmed to receive this award,” said Higgs, who is known to shun the limelight and did not appear in public yesterday despite winning the world’s top science prize.
“I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research,” he said in a statement via the University of Edinburgh where he works.
The two scientists had been favourites to share the 8m Swedish crown (£773,300) prize after their theoretical work was vindicated by the CERN experiments.