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Professor François Englert – rebel and Nobel laureate

Category: Events, People

Professor François Englert, Nobel Laureate in Physics, visited the UW Faculty of Physics on 25 April 2024, where he met with students and researchers. His life has been marked not only by scientific achievement, but also by constant rebellion and struggle for justice.

Professor Englert made a huge contribution to science by learning the mechanism that explains the origin of particle mass, which was confirmed by the discovery of an elementary particle called the Higgs boson. The experiment was carried out in 2012 at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The Brout, Englert and Higgs (BEH) mechanism is a fundamental element of modern fundamental interaction theory, which is based on quantum field theory with gauge symmetry. This theory has allowed us to understand the evolution of the universe. The Professor’s achievements were the result of intensive work, which did not prevent him from making deep friendships. For him, physics was above all a way of getting to know people and spending time with them.

Professor Englert’s story is much more than an academic achievement. Born in Belgium to Polish Jews, he survived the horrors of war thanks to the generosity and courage of the people who sheltered him. His childhood was marked by the drama of war and separation from his parents, who died in a concentration camp, but also by the solidarity and compassion of those who helped him.

After the war, Professor Englert led a turbulent life full of unconventional decisions and eccentric events. He escaped social and academic norms through provocations and jokes that caused confusion. He refused to accept the influence of adults in his life and valued his independence. He constantly fought for justice, denounced abuses of power, and spoke out on issues of remembrance for people who saved Jews at the risk of their own lives during the war.

On 23 April 2024, the University of Warsaw awarded Professor Englert an honorary doctorate. Two days later, the Nobel Laureate also visited the UW Faculty of Physics. During this meeting, co-organised by the UW Institute for Advanced Studies, there was a screening of the unique biographical film “François Englert. Rebel and Nobel Laureate”, which depicts the rebellion and the intimate everyday life of Professor Englert. The audience also had the opportunity to ask the Nobel Laureate questions about science and other aspects of life.