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Leading UK Higgs boson physicist Professor Sir Tom Kibble passes away

Professor Sir Tom Kibble
(Credit: Thomas Angus/Imperial College London)

3 June 2016 - Professor Sir Tom Kibble, whose work helped pave the way for discovering the Higgs boson particle in 2012, has passed away. The news was announced by Imperial College London last night:

Professor Sir Tom Kibble was distinguished for his ground-breaking research in theoretical physics and his work has contributed to our deepest understanding of the fundamental forces of nature”, said Professor Jerome Gauntlett, Head of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London.

“He is best known for his seminal work in the 1960s that led to the concept of a mass-giving particle now known as the Higgs boson, a key feature of the Standard Model of particle physics. The existence of this particle was confirmed experimentally by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in 2012.”

Professor Kibble wrote one of three papers, in collaboration with two American scientists - Gerald Guralnik, and Richard Hagen - that described a new theory of how certain particles can acquire mass, which has come to be known as the 'Higgs mechanism'.

Professor John Womersley, Chief Executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said: “Professor Tom Kibble was a gracious, generous man.  His unassuming demeanour belied the major contributions that he made in the 1960’s to the key breakthroughs in theoretical physics of that era. His work contributed significantly to understanding the mechanism of mass generation which was experimentally verified in 2012 by the discovery of the particle for which Peter Higgs was later awarded the Nobel Prize”. 

Commenting in 2013 when the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Professor Peter Higgs and François Englert, Professor Tom Kibble said:

“My two collaborators, Gerald Guralnik and Carl Richard Hagen, and I contributed to that discovery, but our paper was unquestionably the last of the three to be published in Physical Review Letters in 1964 - though we naturally regard our treatment as the most thorough and complete - and it is therefore no surprise that the Swedish Academy felt unable to include us, constrained as they are by a self-imposed rule that the Prize cannot be shared by more than three people.

“My sincere congratulations go to the two Prize winners, François Englert and Peter Higgs.  A sad omission from the list was Englert’s collaborator Robert Brout, now deceased."

Professor Kibble was also one of the founders of a whole new branch of physics: astro-particle physics, which utilises ideas in high energy physics and applies them to the Universe as a whole.

STFC sends its condolences to Professor Kibble’s family.

More details can be found on the Imperial College London website.

Last updated: 03 June 2016

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