Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles He was a massive figure in the world of theoretical physics. And many people wouldn't have heard of him. And yet, I think it'd be fair to say that his work led to the, probably, three Nobel prizes being awarded - Not to him though? - Not to him And he could have been involved in so at least two of them... ...I think, he could have, if things would've turned out differently. He was actually born in 1932 in India, in Madras to... ...I think, British parents who were working over in India. He came back to Scotland to be educated at college in Scotland. And he spend his own undergraduate and postgraduate time at Edinburgh University. And then I think he went over to Caltech, for a period, for a year... ...before securing a position in the Imperial College, back in the late fifties... ...at the Imperial, and he stayed there until he died. So I knew him through his work on the cosmology. And that required a knowledge of particle physics, ... ...and that, in turn, requires a detailed knowledge of quantum field theory. Tom was a pioneer of that field. The work he developed, the techniques he developed, ... ...have implications not only in particle physics, cosmology, ... ...but also in condensed matter physics. And so he was able to develop an area of physics... ...which is sort of interface between condensed matter and cosmology... ...as well as his pioneering work involving Higgs particle, ... ...early universe, phase transitions, symmetry breaking, ... ...gravity, and there was one thing I discovered. He worked in 1961 -- He wrote a paper... ...in which he looked at a modification of general relativity. I thought, recently, that I been seeing references to this paper of Tom's 1961. And I just look back in 2015 it had over a hundred citations... ...this paper he wrote. You know, that's the kind of impact he had across the fields. He was able to write things and laid dormant for a while and then people realize... ...Wow this is really really impressive stuff. The first and the one... ...that our Sixty Symbols viewers will know most about is probably the Higgs. Right? The discovery of the Higgs. Back in 2012 I think? Which lead to the Nobel Prize in 2013. The mechanism, which is known as the Higgs Mechanism... ...was developed independently by 3 groups. One of those groups involed Tom. He wrote a paper that was published in... ...Physical Review Letters, and that has become one of... ...the flagship papers that... ...they often cited as being one of their key... ...contributions to their journal. And he wrote it with his friends, Gulranik and Hagen. And because of this... ...crazy law or... ...rule, that we've discussed... ...that the Nobel Prize can only go to 3 people, ... ...they decided... ... I guess, they couldn't just give it to... ...Tom and not give it to the other two -- they were giving... ...it to Higgs and Englert, quite rightly. And so Tom missed out. Tom wrote a second -- probably even more influential paper-- He... ...actually was the person that demonstrated how... ...you can use this mechanism ...in the proper world of particle physics. And that we... ...knew that one of the... ...key particles in nature is the W and Z vector boson. These tells us about how the weak interactions behave. These are very massive particles. We didn't know how to give these masses, and Tom is the person... ...that actually demonstrated how you do this. He came up with the actual mathematical... ...formulas and... ...to introduce masses to these particles. This then, in 1967, ... ...he wrote this paper. So 3 years... ...after the Higgs Mechanism. He applied... ...it to this realistic situation. Provided the breakthrough that... ...helped Weinberg understand... ...the Standard Model of particle physics. And Salam. So Weinberg and Salam shared the Nobel... ...Prize with Sheldon Glashow for the... ...Standard Model of particle physics. It also had a knock-on effect that the... ...formulas that Tom had developed in this... ...1967 paper, the very mathematical... ...formulas, had helped Hooft and Veltman... ...understand that this model, ... ...Standard Model, was what they... ...call renormalizable. This means that you can make actual predictions... ...with the model.... ...basically. But... ...the formulas that... ...Tom had developed helped them. They had then got the Nobel Prize as well. And of course you have the fact that Tom... ...independently had discovered the Higgs mechanism... ...in 1964, which got... ...the Nobel Prize for Higgs and Englert. So 3 Nobel Prizes came out of... work directly related to Tom. I found it... ...kind of the most humbling experience, I think... ...I've seen that day when... ...when the Nobel Prize was announced-- first of all... ...there was a delay. You might recall there was a delay... ...of over an hour when it turned out the delay was... ...that they were trying to find Higgs. But-- to let him know. But people would think maybe they told Tom... ...and Tom has turned it down because... ...he would have known that if he got it, his two... ...collaborators wouldn't have got it. But that wasn't the case. But I have read, ... ...since, that Tom told his son Robert, ... ...that uh... ...he was actually quite relieved not to have got the prize. Because if he... ...had've got the prize, it would have been at the... ...expense of his close friends and collaborators... ...of the original paper. Well that's what Tom thought, so you'd have to go with his wishes, ... ...but what do you think of the fact he never got a Nobel Prize? I mean, he did win a lot of prizes. He did win a lot of prizes. He is recognized as being a, you know... ...a giant in his field. I think it's sad that he didn't get it but I... ...fully appreciate... ...his, his attitude and his-- ...I believe it. You know, the day of the-- ...when the prizes were announced, he was being interviewed... ...all over the place, and... ...you didn't hear a single word of... ...bitterness, or criticism. The closest... ...it got where it was, he said, ... ...if they have these archaic rules... ...for the Nobel Prize... ...he can't get it. But he-- I knew him quite well; he was a good... ...friend and collaborator and he never, ... ...ever complained... ...or said anything... ...derogatory about... ...the award or the prize. Never. What do you think he was bringing to the table that made him so exceptional? What was his sort of unique selling point, his skill? - Oh! What a good question! - What was Tom's thing? Oh, Ok. So, I... ...was actually thinking about this today... ...before coming in. I think... ...a mathematically, incredibly... ...strong. He knew detailed... ...mathematics about areas known as group... ...theory and homotopy theory. These played essential roles and... ...for example his understanding of group theories and... ...non-abelian gauge theories... ...allowed him to understand how this... ...vector boson could acquire a mass, ... ...for the W, whilst the... ...photon remained massless. It was Tom that realized this. And so he brought this... ...very detailed mathematical knowledge... ...of quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, group... ...theory, homotopy theory to the table... ...coupled with... ...this deep understanding of the physical side. When I worked with him he would always be... ...asking about the... ...physical consequences of... ...a calculation, you know: does it make sense... ...physically? We're dealing with objects that are... ...meant to be in the universe.