Tel Aviv University Prof. Francois Englert and his research partner Peter Higgs
won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for predicting the existence of
the Higgs boson – the particle that explains how elementary matter attained the
mass to form stars and planets.
The 80-year-old Englert – a Belgian Jew
and Holocaust survivor who is married to an Israeli woman – is a professor
emeritus at the Free University of Brussels and has had strong research ties
with TAU for the past 30 years.
In 1984, he was appointed as a fellow of
the Mortimer and Raymond Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies, which aims to
promote academic excellence at TAU by inviting and hosting experts in different
academic fields from outside the university. He holds the status of senior
professor at TAU’s School of Physics.
As a Sackler fellow, Englert was
invited to the university for two weeks last April and delivered a number of
lectures. In one of them, he presented students with the work that won him
Tuesday’s Nobel Prize, a discovery that has been hailed as one of the most
important in physics.
The Higgs boson is the last piece of the Standard
Model of physics that describes the fundamental makeup of the universe. Some
commentators – though not scientists – have called it the “God particle,” for
its role in turning the Big Bang into an ordered cosmos.
Englert’s work, which was developed at CERN, the European Organization for
Nuclear Research, shows how elementary particles inside atoms gain mass by
interacting with an invisible field pervading all of space – and the more they
interact, the heavier they become. The particle associated with the field is the
To find the elusive particle, scientists at the Large Hadron
Collider had to pore over data from the wreckage of trillions of sub-atomic
“I’m thrilled that this year’s Nobel Prize has gone to
particle physics,” CERN directorgeneral Rolf Heuer said in a
He added that Englert’s and Higgs’s discovery “marks the
culmination of decades of intellectual effort by many people around the
Asked how it felt to be a Nobel winner, Englert told Reuters:
“You may imagine that this is not very unpleasant, of course. I am very, very
happy to have the recognition of this extraordinary award.”
Yankielowicz of TAU’s School of Physics, a colleague and close friend of
Englert, told The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday that he was “thrilled and proud” of
“The fact that we manage to attract to [the Sackler]
program leading scientists who are willing to get the appointment at TAU, such
as Prof. Englert, is a tribute to the strong scientific standing of the
university at large and the School of Physics in particular,” he added.