Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh honour for Higgs boson particle professor

Prof Peter Higgs inside the Large Hadron Collider tunnel at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern)
Image caption Prof Peter Higgs inside the Large Hadron Collider tunnel at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), Geneva

Renowned physicist Peter Higgs has been honoured by the city which he has called home for half a century.

Professor Higgs, 82, emeritus professor of Physics at Edinburgh University, was given the Edinburgh Award 2011 at the City Chambers.

Edinburgh's Lord Provost presented him with an engraved Loving Cup, a traditional two handled drinking vessel which represents friendship.

The Higgs boson particle is named after Prof Higgs.

Prof Higgs is the fifth person to be honoured with the special award which recognises an outstanding contribution to the city.

Adopted home

The scientist, who was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, follows in the footsteps of writers Ian Rankin and JK Rowling, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and judo expert George Kerr who have previously received the accolade.

Prof Higgs said: "It is a great honour to receive this award from the city that I fell in love with and is now my adopted home."

His work in the 1960s proposed the existence of a particle which came to be known as the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle.

It is an important component of the Standard Model of particle physics that helps explain how objects have mass.

The award comes following the announcement in December 2011 from scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Switzerland that two independent experiments at the Large Hadron Collider had seen "tantalising hints" of the existence of the Higgs boson.

Speaking to BBC Scotland ahead of receiving the award, Prof Higgs was modest about his achievements.

He said: "This is something I've lived with for a really long time. It's now nearly 48 years since I did this work in 1964.

"It was another 12 years before John Ellis at Cern suggested experimentalists started taking an interest, in what I had actually pointed out in an added paragraph to a paper, which, in its first version, had been rejected."

A sculpture of Prof Higgs' handprints was also unveiled in the City Chambers quadrangle. They have been engraved in Caithness stone alongside those of the previous Edinburgh Award recipients.

Edinburgh's Lord Provost George Grubb, said: "I am delighted to present Professor Peter Higgs with the Edinburgh Award on behalf of the people of Edinburgh.

"His proposal of what has now become known as the Higgs boson has not only significantly advanced our knowledge of particle physics, culminating in the Standard Model, but has also given him a huge international reputation.

"Prof Higgs' work with the University of Edinburgh has put this city on an international stage and as such he is undoubtedly a most deserved winner of one of Edinburgh's most prestigious civic awards."

Dr Alan Walker, who worked with Prof Higgs at Edinburgh University, said it was a "very proud day" for both the university and the city.

He said: "We are very proud to have been colleagues of Peter for many years.

"This award is richly deserved, not only for the work that has led to worldwide acclaim, but for his inspiration of students, many of whom have gone on to do great things."

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