In 2012 the world awoke to the news that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider had detected the existence of an elusive, sub atomic particle consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson. Professor Peter Higgs, the Edinburgh scientist, was one of the first to suggest the existence of the particle that now bears his name. Since it was first proposed in 1964, the search for confirmation of the particle has been the collaborative work of countless scientists and in acknowledgement of the fact that science is a collective endeavour and in celebration of the spirit of collaboration, the Edinburgh Medal is awarded to both Professor Higgs and CERN, the world class organisation who led the quest.
CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, was established in 1954 to organise and sponsor international co-operation in research, promoting contacts between scientists and interchange with other laboratories and institutes. CERN’s main area of research is particle physics, the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them. The endeavour of science brings nations together in a common goal and many of CERN’s experiments are international collaborations.
Professor Peter Higgs (left) is a theoretical physicist and emeritus Professor at Edinburgh University. In 1964 Higgs predicted the existence of a force-carrying particle, part of an invisible energy field that filled the vacuum throughout the observable universe. Without the field, or something like it, we would not be here. The search for the Higgs boson has become a major objective of experimental particle physics.
The Edinburgh Medal is a prestigious award given each year to men and women of science and technology whose professional achievements are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity. The Medal, awarded at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, is supported by the City of Edinburgh Council, and will be presented at a ceremony in Edinburgh on Sunday 24 March 2013. Previous recipients have included three Nobel Prize winners.
Dr Simon Gage (left), Director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, said that it “…seemed a fitting year to celebrate the importance of scientific collaboration. The endeavours of scientists are commonly focused on global if not universal phenomena. Collaboration is the natural way to progress quickly, and when it comes to such momentous efforts as those undertaken by CERN, it is the only way.”
Donald Wilson, Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh (right), added that he had been “a great supporter of the Edinburgh Medal for many years, both in my previous role as Chair of the EISF and now as Lord Provost. Professor Peter Higgs’ postulation of the existence of the Higgs boson has not only made him an international success, but has also significantly advanced the study of particle physics. His work with the University of Edinburgh has put our city on the international stage and this latest honour, to add to the Edinburgh Award and many others besides, is further evidence of the high esteem in which he is deservedly held.”
Professor Higgs said “It is a pleasure to be awarded, jointly with CERN, the 25th Edinburgh Medal. The first medal, in 1989, was awarded to Abdus Salam, in whose group I was a research fellow 55 years ago and whose Nobel-winning theory a decade later made use of the ideas which had been proposed in 1964 independently by groups in Brussels and London and by myself in Edinburgh. Thus the fields of research for which the Medal has been awarded have come full circle.”