Prof Peter Higgs gets Freedom of Edinburgh

Prof Higgs in front of a photograph of the Large Hadron Collider at the  Science Museum in London. Picture: Getty

Prof Higgs in front of a photograph of the Large Hadron Collider at the Science Museum in London. Picture: Getty

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NOBEL Prize winner Peter Higgs is to become just the ­seventh living person to be given the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh, the Evening News can reveal.

The University of Edinburgh professor will join Sir Chris Hoy, Nelson Mandela and Sir Sean Connery in the ranks of Freemen.

The highest honour the city can give was first granted in 1459 and used to give the right to travel through the city without paying tolls, and the right to graze sheep in Princes Street Gardens or anywhere else in the Capital. Today however the title is purely honorary.

The 84-year-old will become the only holder of the title ­living in the city.

Today, the delighted professor, who lives in a modest top floor flat in the New Town, said: “I am extremely pleased to be offered the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh – the city that I have grown to love and has been my adopted home for almost all of my working life.”

Alan Walker, a long standing colleague and friend, said the physicist was thrilled that “the city he adopted as his home has now adopted him”.

Mr Walker, an honorary fellow at the university’s School of Physics and Astronomy, added: “Peter is very pleased to be honoured in this way, in particular because he’s been here since 1960 and hasn’t ever looked to go anywhere else.

“He’s really adopted Edinburgh as his home and spends a lot of time going to concerts and art galleries, so takes full part in the life of the city.

“He’s a great patron of ­Edinburgh in terms of the arts. He’s very comfortable and happy here.”

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “It was in Edinburgh in 1964 that Peter Higgs, a long- standing resident of the city, had his big idea – an explanation of why the matter in the Universe has substance, or mass.”

His theory, which he famously hit upon after returning home from walking in the Cairngorms in 1964, was proved correct last year when evidence of the boson he predicted was discovered by a team from the European nuclear research facility (Cern) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Prof Higgs will be asked how he would like to receive the honour, and it is likely that a private reception will be held in the coming months.

The Provost added: “Assuming the council’s approval next week, it will be my privilege to award the Freedom of the City to Professor Peter Higgs.

“His contribution to theoretical physics is of global significance and this latest honour will be further evidence of the high esteem in which he is quite deservedly held, not just by his peers but by the people of the city he now calls home.”

List of freemen

PETER Higgs will join Sir Sean Connery, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Sir Chris Hoy, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as a living recipient of the Freedom of the City. Previous holders of the historic title include Charles Dickens, former Prime Ministers William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, Alexander Graham Bell and Field Marshall Haig.