In an interview, Peter Higgs, winner of the 2013 Nobel prize for physics, said, “today I wouldn’t get an academic job. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think I would be regarded as productive enough,” after he explained that he became and “embarrassment to the department” at Edinburgh University.
He also goes on to explain how he does not think he would have been able to make the same discovery in today’s academic world due to the pressure to churn out papers and the expectations on academics to collaborate.
“It’s difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964.”
The interview was given to The Guardian, a relatively balanced British newspaper, while Higgs was on the way to Stockholm, Sweden to receive his well deserved Nobel prize.
From what I’ve read about Higgs, he seems like a great person, not just a phenomenal physicist, but a truly decent man. There are many factors that lead me to that opinion, but one that really stands out to me was when he took several major hits to his academic career following a dispute with the then principal of Edinburgh University, Michael Swann in the 60’s and 70’s. This disagreement was that Higgs disapproved of Swann’s handling of student protests and the university’s shareholdings in South African companies during the apartheid regime, according to Higgs, Swann “didn’t understand the issues, and denounced the student leaders.”
Some other little side facts
- Never owned a television
- Never sent an email, browsed the internet or even made a mobile phone call
- H was persuaded to watch The Big Bang Theory last year, and said he wasn’t impressed. Now that’s a darn shame!