Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of Mass (Hardcover)
*A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice Selection*
The first major biography of Peter Higgs, revealing how a short burst of work changed modern physics
On July 4, 2012, the announcement came that one of the longest-running mysteries in physics had been solved: the Higgs boson, the missing piece in understanding why particles have mass, had finally been discovered. On the rostrum, surrounded by jostling physicists and media, was the particle’s retiring namesake—the only person in history to have an existing single particle named for them. Why Peter Higgs? Drawing on years of conversations with Higgs and others, Close illuminates how an unprolific man became one of the world’s most famous scientists. Close finds that scientific competition between people, institutions, and states played as much of a role in making Higgs famous as Higgs’s work did.
A revelatory study of both a scientist and his era, Elusive will remake our understanding of modern physics.
About the Author
Frank Close, OBE, FRS is a particle physicist and an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Oxford. He is the author of over a dozen books, including Infinity Puzzle and Half-Life. He lives in Oxford, England.
"A clear and vivid account of a major scientific breakthrough."—New York Times Book Review
"In Elusive, Mr. Higgs’s friend and colleague Frank Close offers a sympathetic biography of the “shy, modest” man and famous particle."—Wall Street Journal
“Mr Close is among today’s best writers on the history of quantum mechanics and its associated field theories, and his book is more a biography of the boson than of the man…. The account of the decades-long search for the boson is one of the best parts of Elusive…. a pacey insider’s story of the ups, downs and international politics of building cathedral-sized, cutting-edge scientific machines that cost billions of dollars in public money—and have no immediate benefit beyond curiosity."—The Economist
“a breezy yet informative book that entwines the story of Higgs’s life with that of the construction of the grand theoretical edifice known as the standard model of elementary particle physics…Close has a dazzling ability to condense complex ideas into accessible metaphors….Elusive shows how the story of a physicist’s life, told right, can reveal much about living as a physicist.”—Robert P. Crease, Nature
“Elusive is a timely and in-depth narrative…a scrumptious meal”—Achintya Rao, Physics World
“notable for its moderation and objectivity…[a] vivid account.”—Simon Mitton, Science
“An expert examination...Close, a science writer, Higgs colleague, and professor of physics at Oxford, illuminates Higgs’ personal and professional life.”—Kirkus
“A perfect marriage of subject and writer. With verve, insight, and rigor, Frank Close beautifully illuminates the life and times of one of physics’ great, unheralded giants. Elusive is a triumph of a book, and one worthy of its subject’s extraordinary contributions.”
—Jimmy Soni, bestselling author of The Founders
“Elusive is both a deep, exciting intellectual history and an elegantly told portrait of a quiet man whose “one great idea” changed modern physics forever. Close marries the exotic details of contemporary particle physics theory with the very human aspects of how that theory came to be. An enlightening read from one of our very best writers and practitioners of physics.”—David N. Schwartz, author of The Last Man Who Knew Everything
“Rich, compelling, and surprising. Fundamental physics can be equal parts awe-inspiring and head-spinning, and Frank Close masterfully captures those qualities in this deeply satisfying tale of Peter Higgs's convoluted, and very human, journey through life and science.”
—Caleb Scharf, author of The Ascent of Information