1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Peter Higgs dies, aged 94

April 10, 2024

The professor who proposed the existence of the so-called "God particle" that helped explain how matter formed after the Big Bang, died on Monday following a short illness.

A portrait photo of Professor Peter Higgs at a press conference in Edinburgh after being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.
British physicist and Nobel Laureate Peter Higgs predicted "God Particle" - an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics. Image: David Cheskin/PA Wire/empics/picture alliance

The man who gave rise to the "God particle" that helped explain how matter formed after the Big Bang, Peter Higgs, has died at age 94, the University of Edinburgh said Tuesday.

The physicist gained global recognition in 2012, when he was awarded the Nobel prize, almost 50 years after Higgs predicted the existence of a new particle, which came to be known as the Higgs boson, or the "God particle."

The university where Higgs was an emeritus professor said he died Monday after a short illness.

Higgs' work helped scientists understand one of the most fundamental questions of how the universe was formed: how the Big Bang created something out of nothing some 13.8 billion years ago. Without mass from the Higgs boson, particles could not merge into the matter we interact with every day, the professor proclaimed in 1964.

But it would be almost half a century before the particle's existence could be confirmed. In 2012, in one of the biggest breakthroughs in physics in decades, scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced that they had finally found a Higgs boson using the Large Hadron Collider(LHC).

Experiments at the LHC proved the Standard Model of particle physics by detecting the Higgs boson particle — a particle which itself had long proved to be elusive.

CERN scientists' hunt for cosmic secrets

What is the Higgs boson?

Higgs' work showed how the boson has helped to bind the universe together and give fundamental particles their mass, crucial for the existence of all the other connected atoms in the universe. 

The nickname "God particle" comes from the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman's book in 1993 "The Goddamn Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?" The name was later changed to "God particle" after criticism from religious institutions.

Professor Peter Higgs in front of the press at the Science Museum, London, 2013.
Peter Higgs was an honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh.Image: Sean Dempsey/AP Photo/picture alliance

The University of Edinburgh principal, Professor Peter Mathieson, where Higgs was an honorary professor, referred to Higgs as a "truly gifted scientist." Mathieson emphasized that Higgs' legacy will continue to inspire many more for generations to come.

ac/jsi (dpa, AFP)