Peter Higgs of Britain and Francois Englert of Belgium have won the Nobel prize in physics for the discovery of the "God particle", or Higgs boson, that explains why mass exists.
The pair were honoured on Tuesday for "the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle", the jury said.
Subatomic: A representation of traces of a proton-proton collision measured in the search for the Higgs boson. Photo: AFP
The Higgs boson, or so-called "God particle", is named after Professor Higgs, one of six scientists who devised a working theory of how elemental particles achieve mass in a three-month period in 1964. Professor Englert had been the first to publish the theory a month earlier, along with Robert Brout, a Belgian colleague who died two years ago and wasn't eligible for Nobel recognition because it is limited to living recipients.
Last year, researchers at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, said they observed a particle that may be the Higgs boson. The particle is a missing link in the Standard Model, a theory explaining how the universe is built, and its existence would help scientists gain a better understanding of how galaxies hold together.
New results from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva based on analysis of more data and presented at a conference in Italy this year "strongly indicate" that the particle discovered is a Higgs boson, CERN said in March. The particle is "looking more and more" like the missing link in the Standard Model, CERN said in a statement.
Professor Higgs, 84, a retired professor of theoretical physics at the University of Edinburgh, and Francois Englert, 80, a retired professor at the Free University of Brussels, will share the 8 million-krona ($1.3 million) prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on Tuesday in Stockholm.
Last year's physics prize went to Serge Haroche, from France's Ecole Normale Superieure, and David Wineland, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado. They shared the 8 million-krona award for the discovery of new ways to manipulate quantum particles without changing their nature.
Annual prizes for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, peace and literature were established in the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, who died in 1896. The Nobel Foundation was established in 1900 and the prizes were first handed out the following year. The first Nobel in physics was awarded to Wilhelm Roentgen for his discovery of X-rays.