Scotland

Prof Peter Higgs: Prize honours Large Hadron Collider scientist

Prof Peter Higgs stands proudly beside the Large Hadron Collider
Image caption Prof Peter Higgs standing beside the Large Hadron Collider

The scientist who gave his name to the Higgs boson "god particle" hopes a prize named in his honour will inspire a new generation of physics geniuses.

First Minister Alex Salmond has announced an annual prize, named after Prof Peter Higgs, for school students.

Prof Higgs said: "I hope that this will inspire young students of today.

"Rewarding those who have excelled in physics in this way and supporting the next generation of scientists is to be warmly welcomed."

The Higgs Prize, open to Scottish school students who excel in physics, will be formally launched by the First Minister and the scientist on Tuesday.

It is part of a week designed to showcase Scotland's scientific expertise, with Mr Salmond also expected to make a significant announcement about life sciences and mark a landmark in space science.

Cern visit

Prof Higgs hit upon his defining concept during a walk in the Cairngorms in 1964, when he started to consider the existence of a particle that gives matter its mass.

Image caption Visitors can walk through a full-size replica of a section of the Large Hadron Collider tunnel

He wrote two scientific papers on his theory and was eventually published in the Physical Review Letters journal, sparking a 40-year hunt for the Higgs boson.

In July, a team from the European nuclear research facility at Cern, Geneva, announced the detection of a particle that fitted the description of the elusive Higgs.

The Higgs Prize will give young physics students the chance to win a trip to Cern, where work researching the Higgs particle continues.

"I know very well how exciting and amazing visits to Cern can be," said the professor, who has retired from Edinburgh University.

Mr Salmond hopes Prof Higgs' achievements would "inspire future generations of Scots".

"His work is celebrated internationally and Scotland is very proud of him," he said.

Meet Scottish physicists

"The Higgs Prize will be an opportunity for some of Scotland's brightest young school physicists to see for themselves the cutting-edge of international physics at Cern."

Prof Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics, said his organisation "will be working with them to establish the best way to identify Scotland's most promising young physicists".

"With £8.5bn of the Scottish economy created by physics-based businesses, this prize is recognition of the vital importance of the subject," he said.

During the week-long exhibition at the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the Scottish contribution to the creation and operation of the Large Hadron Collider visitors are able to walk through a full-size replica of a section of the LHC tunnel.

They will also have the chance to meet Scottish physicists involved in last year's Higgs boson discovery.

As well as the Higgs Prize and a number of other initiatives, this week the government will be announcing the appointment of 33 new health fellows to conduct research into medical challenges such as treating motor neurone disease, how to use technology to help people with diabetes and how to control internal bleeding.

More on this story