The notoriously shy Peter Higgs learned that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday from a former neighbor.
In a press conference on Friday, the British theoretical physicist said he had tried to skip town on Tuesday, but instead ended up at a restaurant to have beer and soup. The Nobel Prize Committee in Stockholm tried to call Higgs shortly before they made the announcement, but Higgs does not have a cellphone.
As he was walking back home, “a car pulled up across the road and a lady in her 60s or 70s got out and introduced herself as a former neighbor, a widow of a judge who died recently, and congratulated me on the news,” Higgs said. “I said ‘what news?’ and she told me that her daughter had phoned from London to alert her to the fact that I had got this prize.”
As we explained, Higgs and François Englert were awarded the Nobel for the theoretical discovery of the Higgs Boson, the mechanism that explains how particles acquire mass.
The two first proposed the mechanism in 1964, but it wasn’t until 2012, when the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, used a massive atom smasher that they scientists were able to detect the subatomic particle.
Higgs said that for many years, he thought the “experimental verification might not come in my lifetime.”
So, how did he feel when he heard the news?
“Well, obviously I’m delighted and rather relieved in a sense that it’s all over,” Higgs said. “It has been a long time coming.”