News of the passing of Professor Peter Higgs CH FRS HonFRSE HonFInstP on Monday 8 April has reverberated around the world.

Renowned for helping to shape our fundamental understanding of the world around us, Professor Higgs’ monumental contribution to science lies in his prediction of a new subatomic entity, now famously dubbed the Higgs boson, in 1964.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2013 for this in showing how boson helped bind the universe together by giving particles their mass. His theory was then confirmed by physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland in 2012.

Professor Sir John Ball, President of the RSE said:

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Professor Peter Higgs, whose remarkable contributions to science have left an indelible mark on our understanding of the universe. As a Fellow of the RSE for an extraordinary 50 years, his dedication and brilliance have inspired generations. His legacy will continue to shape scientific inquiry for generations to come.”

Professor Higgs was elected as a Fellow of the RSE in 1974. He was awarded the RSE Royal Medal in 2000 for his enormous impact on the world of physics and recognising his outstanding contribution to science in offering a key to the problem of the origin of mass. Following the discovery at CERN confirming Professor Higgs’ hypothesis, he was awarded a specially commissioned medal at the RSE Annual Statutory Meeting in October 2012.

John Arbuthnott, Peter Higgs are posing for a picture
Professor Peter Higgs received a specially commissioned medal from the RSE in 2012.

To commemorate the discovery of the Higgs boson, and to honour the man whose research was central to proposing its existence, the RSE commissioned Victoria Crowe OBE FRSE to paint a portrait of Professor Higgs. The painting was unveiled at the Fellows’ summer reception in 2013 and is displayed in the Kelvin Room of the RSE building in Edinburgh.

Professor Peter Higgs by Victoria Crowe | ©Kenneth Gray

In collaboration with The University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics, the RSE also created the From Maxwell to Higgs exhibition that celebrated the discovery at CERN. Remaining in the RSE’s Upper Gallery, the exhibition shows the important role Professor Higgs has played, whilst also highlighting the historic discoveries and theories that have influenced current thinking about the existence of such a particle.

Prior to his passing on 8 April, Professor Higgs had been notified of, and graciously accepted, the conversion of his Ordinary Fellowship to Honorary Fellowship of the RSE. This prestigious elevation, proposed by Fellows and endorsed by the RSE Council in March 2024, marked the RSE’s recognition of Professor Higgs’ truly exceptional distinction. Honorary Fellows are individuals internationally renowned and known outside of their specialism, embodying the highest echelons of achievement.

Peter Higgs wearing a suit and tie
Professor Peter Higgs unveiling the From Maxwell to Higgs exhibition at the RSE