London, 29th March 2017 – Professor Peter Ware Higgs CH FRS FRSE, the British physicist who predicted the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, has been awarded the 1851 Royal Commission Medal for his outstanding influence on science.
The Medal was presented to Professor Higgs by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, President of the Commission, at its biennial Presidential Dinner at Armourers’ Hall on the 28th March. It is only the third time the Medal has been awarded since its introduction in 2006. The first was awarded to His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh on the fortieth anniversary of his Presidency. The second was presented to Sir Alan Rudge on his retirement as Chairman after eighteen years of service to the Commission. The Commissioners were unanimous in their decision to award the third to Professor Higgs.
The presentation of the Commission’s Medal comes almost 65 years after Professor Higgs was awarded a Research Fellowship from the Commission, in 1953. The Commission’s Research Fellowships are intended to give scientists or engineers of exceptional promise the opportunity for early independence with the objective of contributing to the knowledge base of UK institutions.
Professor Higgs had originally chosen to conduct research in the theory of molecular vibrations at King College London for his Research Fellowship but, at the end of his first year, he asked to change the subject to the quantum theory of fields, and move to the University of Edinburgh; fortunately the Commissioners agreed.
“Peter’s work has had a huge impact on our understanding of the universe ... and ... has unlocked entire new fields of study"
Professor Higgs went on to further his studies at Edinburgh and in the 1960s, he developed the theory of the Higgs Field and Higgs Mechanism. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983 and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 1991. He retired in 1996, becoming Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh. In 2013, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, jointly with François Englert, for “the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles”; a discovery that was confirmed by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.
Bernard Taylor, Chairman of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, said: “Peter’s work has had a huge impact on our understanding of the universe around us and his work has unlocked entire new fields of study that will continue to shed light on fundamental physics for years to come. Now, almost 65 years after he first embarked on his career through an 1851 Royal Commission Research Fellowship, it is a great pleasure for us to present our highest honour, the Commission’s Medal, to Professor Higgs, as an individual who embodies the spirit of scientific advancement that Prince Albert sought when founding the Commission.”