Physicist Peter Higgs, who predicted 'the God particle', has died at 94

He won the Nobel Prize in 2013.

Maximilien Brice/CERN

Peter Higgs, the physicist who predicted the Higgs boson particle, has passed away at the age of 94 due to a blood disorder. His work proposing the particle — and showing how it helped give mass to some matter — won him the Noble price in 2013. The Higgs boson is informally referred to as the God particle, after a book by Nobel laureate Leon Lederman.

Higgs came up with the idea in the early 1960s as an attempt to explain why atoms have mass in the first place. The research didn’t get any traction in scientific journals, primarily because few understood the concept, but he was finally published in 1964. This was just a theory at the time, but led to a 50-year race to prove the Higgs boson particle actually exists.

Scientists hit pay dirt in 2012, thanks to physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. It took four years of experiments, but the Higgs boson particle was finally discovered, proving his ideas and adding a major puzzle piece to the corpus of particle physics knowledge known as the Standard Model.

As a matter of fact, modern theoretical physicists have posited the existence of up to five Higgs boson particles that fill up what is now called the Higgs field. Scientists hope to use the Higgs boson to one day find proof for ever-elusive dark matter.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel, wrote about the importance of his discovery ahead of the ceremony in 2013. “Even when the universe seems empty this field is there. Without it, we would not exist, because it is from contact with the field that particles acquire mass.” The Nobel was shared with François Englert, a Belgian theoretical physicist whose work in 1964 contributed to the discovery.

"At the beginning I had no idea whether a discovery would be made in my lifetime”, Higgs once said. He leaves two sons, Chris and Jonny, his daughter-in-law Suzanne and two grandchildren. His former wife Jody, a linguistics professor, died in 2008.

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