Peter Higgs was born on 29 May 1929 in the Elswick district of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He graduated with First Class Honours in Physics from King’s College, University of London, in 1950. A year later, he was awarded an MSc and started research, initially under the supervision of Charles Coulson and, subsequently, Christopher Longuet-Higgins. In 1954, he was awarded a PhD for a thesis entitled ‘Some Problems in the Theory of Molecular Vibrations’, work which signalled the start of his life-long interest in the application of the ideas of symmetry to physical systems.
In 1954, Peter Higgs moved to the University of Edinburgh for his second year as a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Senior Student, and remained for a further year as a Senior Research Fellow. He returned to London in 1956 to take up an ICI Research Fellowship, spending a year at University College and a little over a year at Imperial College, before taking up an appointment as Temporary Lecturer in Mathematics at University College. In October 1960 Peter Higgs returned to Edinburgh, taking up a lectureship in Mathematical Physics at the Tait Institute. He was promoted to Reader in 1970, became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1974 and was promoted to a Personal Chair of Theoretical Physics in 1980. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983 and Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 1991. He retired in 1996, becoming Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh. He was awarded Fellowship of the University of Swansea in 2008, Honorary Membership of the Saltire Society and Fellowships of the Royal Scottish Society of the Arts and the Science Museum London in 2013.
Peter Higgs’ contribution to physics has been recognised by numerous academic honours: the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society (1981, shared with Tom Kibble), the Rutherford Medal of the Institute of Physics (1984, also shared with Tom Kibble), the Saltire Society & Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Science Award (1990), the Royal Society of Edinburgh James Scott Prize Lectureship (1993), the Paul Dirac Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics (1997), and the High Energy and Particle Physics Prize of the European Physical Society (1997, shared with Robert Brout and François Englert), the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2000), the Wolf Prize in Physics (2004, shared with Robert Brout and François Englert), the Stockholm Academy of Sciences Oskar Klein Memorial Lecture and Medal (2009) and the American Physical Society J. J. Sakurai Prize (2010), shared with Robert Brout, François Englert, Gerry Guralnik, Carl Hagen and Tom Kibble. He received a unique personal Higgs medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 1 October 2012 and the 2013 Nonino Prize ‘Man of Our Time’. He shared the award of the 2013 Edinburgh International Science Festival Edinburgh Medal with CERN and the 2013 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research with François Englert and CERN.
He has received honorary degrees from the Universities of Bristol (1997), Edinburgh (1998), Glasgow (2002), King’s College London (2009), University College London (2010), Cambridge (2012), Heriot-Watt (2012), Manchester, (2013), Durham (2013), La Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avantzi di Trieste (2013), St. Andrews (2014) and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (2014).
In 2011 he was awarded the Edinburgh Award for his outstanding contribution to the city. In the 2013 New Year Honours List he was appointed a Companion of Honour. In 2013 he was granted the Freedom of the City of Bristol. In 2014 he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Newcastle, his birthplace and the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.
Date and Place of Birth
29 May 1929 at Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumbria, United Kingdom
• Birmingham, 1930–1941
• Bristol, 1941–1946
• Halesowen Grammar School, Worcestershire, 1940–1941
• Cotham Grammar School, Bristol, 1941–1946
• City of London School, 1946–1947
• King’s College, University of London, 1947–1954
• BSc (First Class Honours) in Physics, 1950
• MSc, 1951
• PhD, 1954
• Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Senior Student
• King’s College London, 1953–1954
• University of Edinburgh, 1954–1955
• Senior Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh, 1955–1956
• ICI Research Fellow, University of London
• University College, 1956–1957
• Imperial College, 1957–Dec 1958
• Temporary Lectureship in Mathematics, University College, Jan 1959–1960
• Lecturer in Mathematical Physics, University of Edinburgh, 1960–1970
• (On leave at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1965–1966)
• Reader in Mathematical Physics, University of Edinburgh, 1970–1980
• (On leave at CERN, Geneva, Oct–Dec 1976)
• Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Edinburgh, 1980–1996
• Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh, 1996–
• Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE), 1974
• Fellow of the Royal Society, London (FRS), 1983
• Fellow of the Institute Of Physics (FInstP), 1991
• Fellow of the King’s College London, 1998
• Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Physics, 1999
• Fellow of the University of Swansea, 2008
• Honorary Fellow of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, 2013
• Honorary Member of the Saltire Society, 2013
• Honorary Fellow of the London Science Museum, 2013
• Hughes Medal, Royal Society (with T. W. B. Kibble), 1981
• Rutherford Medal, Institute of Physics (with T. W. B. Kibble), 1984
• Scottish Science Award, Saltire Society and Royal Bank of Scotland, 1990
• James Scott Prize Lectureship, Royal Society of Edinburgh (delivered April 1995), 1993
• Paul Dirac Medal and Prize, Institute of Physics, 1997
• High Energy and Particle Physics Prize, European Physical Society (with R. Brout, F. Englert), 1997
• Royal Medal, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2000
• Wolf Prize in Physics (with R. Brout and F. Englert), 2004
• Oskar Klein Memorial Lecture and Medal, Stockholm Academy of Sciences, 2009
• J. J. Sakurai Prize, American Physical Society (with R. Brout, F. Englert, G. S. Guralnik, C. R. Hagen and T. W. B. Kibble), 2010
• Higgs Medal, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2012
• Nonino ‘Man of Our Time’ Prize, 2013
• Edinburgh Medal of the Edinburgh International Science Festival (with CERN), 2013
• Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Researchl (with F. Englert and CERN), 2013
• Nobel Prize in Physics (with F. Englert), 2013
• DSc University of Bristol, 1997
• DSc University of Edinburgh, 1998
• DSc University of Glasgow, 2002
• DSc King’s College London, 2009
• DSc University College London, 2010
• DSc University of Cambridge, 2012
• DSc Heriot-Watt University, 2012
• DSc University of Durham, 2013
• PhD La Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) di Trieste, 2013
• DSc University of Manchester, 2013
• DSc University of St Andrews, 2014
• DSc Université Libre de Bruxelles, 2014
• Freedom of the City of Bristol, 2013
• Freedom of the City of Newcastle, 2014
• Freedom of the City of Edinburgh, 2014
“Theoretical Determination of Electron Density in Organic Molecules,” (with C.A. Coulson, S.L. Altmann and N. H. March) Nature 168, 1039 (1951).
“Perturbation Method for the Calculation of Molecular Vibration Frequencies I,” J. Chem. Phys, 21, 1131 (1953).
“A Method for Computing Zero-Point Energies,” J. Chem. Phys. 21, 1330 (1953).
“Vibration Spectra of Helical Molecules,” Proc. Roy. Soc. A220, 472 (1953).
“Vibrational Modifications of the Electron Density in Molecular Crystals I,” Acta. Cryst. 6, 232 (1953).
“Perturbation Method for the Calculation of Molecular Vibration Frequencies II,” J. Chem. Phys. 23, 1448 (1955).
“Perturbation Method for the Calculation of Molecular Vibration Frequencies III,” J. Chem. Phys. 23, 1450 (1955).
“Vibrational Modifications of the Electron Density in Molecular Crystals II,” Acta. Cryst. 8, 99 (1955).
“A Method for Calculating Thermal Vibration Amplitudes from Spectroscopic Data” Acta. Cryst. 8, 619 (1955).
“Vacuum Expectation Values as Sums over Histories,” Nuovo Cimento (10) 4, 1262 (1956).
“On Four-Dimensional Isobaric Spin Formalisms,” Nuclear Physics 4, 1262 (1957).
“Integration of Secondary Constraints in Quantized General Relativity,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 1, 373 (1958).
“Integration of Secondary Constraints in Quantized General Relativity,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 3, 66 (1959).
“Quadratic Lagrangians and General Relativity,” Nuovo Cimento (10) 11, 816 (1959).
“Broken Symmetries, Massless Particles and Gauge Fields,” Physics Letters 12, 132 (1964).
“Broken Symmetries and the Masses of Gauge Bosons,” Phys. Rev. Letters. 13, 508 (1964).
“Spontaneous Symmetry Breakdown without Massless Bosons,” Phys. Rev. 145, 1156 (1966).
“Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking,” two lectures at the 14th Scottish Universities Summer School in Physics (1973). Published in Phenomenology of Particles at High Energy, R. L. Crawford, R. Jennings (eds.) Academic Press (1974) ISBN 9780121971502.
“Dynamical Symmetries in a Spherical Geometry I,” J. Phys. A12, 309 (1979).
“SBGT and All That,” International Conference “50 Years of Weak Interactions from the Fermi Theory to the W” Wingspread, Racine, Wisconsin (29 May–1 June 1984). Published in the conference proceedings by University of Wisconsin at Madison and reproduced in AIP. Conf. Proc. 300,159–163 (1994).
“Inventing an Elementary Particle,” INFN Eloisatron Project 9th Workshop “Higgs Particles – Physics Issues and Experimental Searches in High-energy Collisions,” Erice, Italy (15–26 Jul 1989). Published in Higg(s) Particle(s): Physics Issues and Experimental Searches in High-Energy Collisions, A. Ali (ed.) Ettore Majorana International Science Series 50, 1–5 Plenum Press (1990) ISBN 9780306435898.
“Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking 25 Years Ago,” 26th International Conference on Subnuclear Physics Physics up to 200 TeV, Erice, Italy (16–24 Jul 1990). Published in Physics up to 200TeV, A. Zichichi (ed.) The Subnuclear Series 28, 439–444 Plenum Press (1991) ISBN 9780306439353.
Panel Session “Spontaneous Breaking of Symmetry,” (with L. M. Brown, R. Brout, T. Y. Cao, Y. Nambu) 3rd International Symposium on the History of Particle Physics “The Rise of the Standard Model” (1992): published in The Rise of the Standard Model, L. Hoddesdon, L. M. Brown, M. Riordan, M. Dresden (eds.) Cambridge University Press, (1997) ISBN 978052157165.
“My Life as a Boson: The Story of ‘The Higgs’,” Inaugural Conference of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics “2001 A Spacetime Odyssey” Ann Arbor, Michigan (21–25 May 2002). Published in 2001 A Spacetime Odyssey, M. J. Duff, J. T. Liu (eds.) World Scientific (2002) ISBN 9789810248062 and reproduced in Int. J. Mod. Phys. A17S1, 86–88 (2002).
“Prehistory of the Higgs Boson,” Comptes Rendus Physique 8, 970–972 (2007).
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/ Nobel Lectures/The Nobel Prizes. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.
Watch the live stream of the announcements.