Physicist who contributed to discovery of Higgs boson dies

BY Rebecca Jacobson  April 28, 2014 at 5:07 PM EDT

Physicist Gerald Guralnik was one of the scientists who originated the Higgs theory in 1964. Photo by Brown University

Physicist Gerald Guralnik was one of the scientists who originated the Higgs theory in 1964. Photo by Brown University

Gerald Guralnik, one of the physicists who developed the Higgs theory in the 1960s, died on April 26 at the age of 77.

In 1964 Guralnik, along with physicists Carl Richard Hagen and Tom Kibble, wrote a paper that predicted the existence of the Higgs boson, which explains how particles acquire mass. The Higgs boson was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland on July 4, 2012. Peter Higgs, for whom the theory is named, and Francois Englert were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013 for this discovery.

Guralnik was the Chancellor’s Professor of Physics at Brown University.

“Gerry forged his own path and yet always focused on fundamental issues in physics,” said Chung-I Tan, professor of physics at Brown and a longtime colleague of Guralnik’s. “He was an early advocate and important contributor to the numerical approach to quantum field theories and also in exploring the structure of strong coupling expansion — paving the way for two of the most important current research areas in theoretical particle physics.”

In recent essays, Guralnik commented on how radical his search for the Higgs boson was to his professors when his seminal papers were published in 1964. He wrote that Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and one of the greatest scientists of his day, told Guralnik that his theories were “junk.” Guralnik feared that was the end of his career. He was present for the announcement of the boson’s discovery in 2012, and wrote about the field’s future:

“My hope is that as the puzzle continues to be unraveled that some of the wonder and excitement that we physicists have felt for decades will continue to be felt across the world the way it was on July 4th.”