Nobel Prize in Physics goes to François Englert, emeritus professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and Peter Higgs, University of Edinburgh

ULB Press Release

Brussels, 8 October 2013
 
Nobel Prize in Physics goes to François Englert, emeritus professor at the Université
Libre de Bruxelles, and Peter Higgs, University of Edinburgh
 
This Tuesday, 8 October 2013, the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to the Belgian
François Englert, Université Libre de Bruxelles, and to the Brit Peter Higgs, University of
Edinburgh. Together with the late Robert Brout (also Université libre de Bruxelles), they
proposed in 1964 a theoretical mechanism that plays a key role in our understanding of the
universe. The ULB now has a count of 4 science-related Nobel Prizes (of the six awarded to
Belgians).
 
The Brout-Englert-Higgs boson implied by their theories had to wait nearly fifty years before
being discovered, in July 2012, by the CMS and ATLAS collaborations at the Large Hadron
Collider (LHC) at CERN (Geneva).
 
In 1964, Robert Brout and François Englert, immediately (and independently) followed by
Peter Higgs, authored an article in Physical Review Letters that relates the electromagnetic
force, with infinite range, to the "weak" interaction of radioactivity, with a range limited to an
atom's nucleus. A mechanism known as "spontaneous symmetry breaking" would indeed
unify these two types of interactions, by giving a mass to the particles carrying the weak
interaction. This mechanism would also, more generally, explain the origin of the mass of all
elementary constituents of matter, and thus provide a key element in the construction of the
"Standard Model" of elementary particles. This theory implies the existence of an auxiliary,
scalar particle: the Brout-Englert-Higgs (BEH) boson.
 
A graduate engineer with a PhD in physics from the Université libre de Bruxelles, François
Englert became a lecturer at the ULB in 1961, before gaining a full professorship in 1964.
From 1980 to 1998 (the year of his retirement), François Englert headed the ULB research
group of Theoretical Physics, of which he, now 81 years old, remains a frequent visitor.
In the course of his career, François Englert has been awarded a number of distinctions -
often in conjunction with his colleague and friend Robert Brout, who died in 2011:
Francqui Prize (1982); the European Physical Society Prize (1997); the Wolf Prize in Physics
(2004); the J.J. Sakurai Prize of the American Physical Society (2010); and the Prince of
Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research (2013).