'God Particle' Pioneer Dies of Heart Attack at Age 77

Gerald Geralnik, one of the leading pioneers in the theory of mass that led to the discovery of the "God Particle," recently passed away of a heart attack in Providence, R.I., at the age of 77.

Geralnik was one of six physicists who, in the 1960's, co-authored one of three research papers that sought to explain how particles acquire mass. Geralnik's research was later used to discover the Higgs boson, or "God Particle," considered to be a fundamental building block of the universe.

The "God Particle," in its simplest explanation, enables other particles in the universe to acquire mass, therefore allowing atoms and life to exist. Although Geralnik and other physicists introduced the general concept of this theory in the 1960's, their idea was later confirmed using a multi-billion dollar machine, the Large Haldron Colider, to smash atoms into their most fundamental stages.

The 77-year-old physicist reportedly passed away on April 26. The scientist, who was also the Chancellor's Professor of Physics at Brown University, reportedly collapsed on stage at the Department of Physics' "Degree Day," and although he was transported to a nearby hospital, he passed away later that night.

The professor and physicist has been remembered in the Brown community as a dedicated scientist and educator, and some have argued that although his death was tragic, he died doing what he loved to do.

The Brown Daily Herald reported that visiting scientist Daniel Ferrante said in a letter to colleagues that "If there's any solace in this, it's the fact that it all happened pretty much under Gerry's terms: lecturing his life's work, among his students, laughing and joking, doing what he loved."

Geralnik is survived by his son, Zachary, his wife of over 50 years, Susan, his sister Judith and two grandchildren.

The physicist wrote for The Huffington Post in 2012: "I have worked on many different problems, all of them fascinating and deeply involving, but none, so far, have evolved to acquire the fundamental importance of my early adventures with symmetry breaking and mass."

"My hope is that as the puzzle continues to be unraveled that some of the wonder and excitement that we physicists have felt for decades will continue to be felt across the world the way it was on July 4," Geralnik added, referencing the date when the discovery of the Higgs boson was announced.