ATLAS mourns the loss of Peter Higgs

10 April 2024 | By

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Peter Higgs tours the ATLAS Experiment in 2008. (Image: CERN)

The ATLAS Collaboration mourns the passing of renowned physicist Peter Higgs, whose theoretical work on elucidating the fundamental mechanism by which elementary particles acquire mass reshaped our understanding of the Universe. The manifestation of this mechanism as a new particle – the Higgs boson – laid the foundation for decades of research.

The mechanism, relying on a new field and spontaneous symmetry-breaking, was first proposed in 1964 by Peter Higgs at the University of Edinburgh and, independently, by Robert Brout and François Englert at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and physicists at Imperial College London. It would take nearly half a century for their theory to be experimentally confirmed. In 2012, the ATLAS and CMS Experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) detected the long-sought Higgs boson. Peter Higgs and François Englert themselves were present at the announcement of this historic discovery at CERN (Robert Brout had passed away in 2011). This momentous achievement not only confirmed the existence of the particle but also solidified a place in science history for Higgs, Brout and Englert, as well as other theorists publishing related work in 1964. In recognition of their contributions, Peter Higgs and François Englert were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013. Their theoretical work and the discovery of the Higgs boson stand out as an example of the deep consequences of mathematical symmetries in the physical world.

“Peter Higgs leaves behind a monumental legacy, defined not only by his scientific achievements but also by his inspiring personality,” says Andreas Hoecker, ATLAS Spokesperson. “The ATLAS Collaboration aspires to honour his memory by embodying the spirit of curiosity he exemplified — especially in our efforts to unlock the secrets of the particle named after him and the mysteries of the underlying mechanism of mass generation.”

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Peter Higgs (right) and François Englert (left) speak at the 2012 announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN.​​​​​​ (Image: CERN)
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Peter Higgs signs a LEGO model of the ATLAS Experiment. (Image: CERN)

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