Pioneer Physicist Peter Higgs Passes Away at 94

( – Peter Higgs, the pioneer physicist who helped calculate the existence of the “God Particle,” passed away on April 8 at his Edenborough, Scotland, home due to complications from a blood disorder. The Nobel prize-winning researcher rose to international fame after he theorized that certain types of particles called bosons were the cause of the universe’s mass. He was 94 years old when he died.

Higgs first proposed that a particle was responsible for all of physical existence in 1964, but he didn’t begin active research on the elusive element until 2008. He came to his ideas around the same time as two other physicists, François Englert and Robert Brout.

Higgs had to rewrite his paper on the subject due to an initial rejection, which allowed Englert and Brout to publish their research roughly 7 weeks before him. Because the internet had yet to be invented back then, the scientists were unaware of one another’s work.

For their significant contributions, Higgs and Englert would go on to share the Nobel prize for physics in 2013.

Higgs and Englert both proposed that a special type of boson — one of many different kinds of particles that compose the universe — creates the structural framework for everything we know to exist. Even seemingly empty space contains these particles, which belong to an invisible field that makes physical mass possible.

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland proved the theory in 2012, and the particle became known as the Higgs boson.

The “God Particle” nickname came about when another award-winning physicist, Leon Lederman, wrote a book about the discovery. The author wanted to call the reference piece “The Goddamn Particle,” a nod to the difficulties researchers had in pinpointing the element, but his publisher opted to change the title to “The God Particle.” The decision forever solidified the name, which the media further helped popularize.

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