Peter Higgs talks to Jim Al-Khalili on Radio 4

17 February 2014

Nobel-Prize winning physicist Prof. Peter Higgs is interviewed by IOP fellow Prof. Jim Al-Khalili on BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific this Tuesday, 18 February.

In the first programme of the new series, Prof. Higgs reveals that he did not see the full significance of his initial paper on the Higgs boson, and that he got left behind by developments for a time before returning to the field in the 1970s.

Higgs: What is the Higgs boson?

Prof. Higgs also describes how missing out on some late-night student chats at a summer school in 1960 meant that he did not learn about Shelley Glashow’s ideas on weak and electromagnetic interactions and their relevance to his work. He says that he worked on his own in Edinburgh in the 1960s because “nobody else took what I was doing seriously so nobody would want to work with me”. He says: “I was thought to be a bit eccentric and maybe cranky.”

Higgs:  ‘Nobody took what I was doing seriously’

Prof. Higgs also discusses some personal issues such as the work pressures that led to the breakdown of his marriage and what he describes as a personality change in the 1960s when he realised the possible significance of his research.

Higgs: Fame is ‘a bit of nuisance sometimes’

Despite working on several radio and television documentaries on scientific ideas, Prof. Al-Khalili had not previously talked with Prof. Higgs, he says. “The first time I met him was last summer when I interviewed him on stage at the Cheltenham Science Festival.” At the festival, the famously reticent Prof. Higgs was approached about giving the interview. “Luckily we were able to get him to agree to an overnight stay in London while en route to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Prize.”

Prof. Al-Khalili, a theoretical physicist who is Professor of Public Engagement in Science and Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, has been the presenter of The Life Scientific since 2011. In the series he talks to leading scientists about their work and what inspires and motivates them.

The Life Scientific is broadcast on Tuesday 18 February at 9 am and repeated at 9.30 pm.

Jim Al-Khalili blogs on his own website and at

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