The problem with a Higgs boson is that it is extremely unstable, and collapses into smaller particles almost as soon as it is created.
This meant that not only would scientists have to create the particle themselves, they would not even be able to detect it directly. Instead they would have to infer its presence from the smaller particles created when it breaks up.
Only recently has there been equipment powerful enough to do this, inside the giant particle accellerator at Switzerland's Cern laboratory, known as the Large Hadron Collider.
How did they find it?
Engineers tried to create Higgs bosons by smashing beams of particles known as protons together at close to the speed of light, inside the LHC.
But for every ten billion collisions of particles inside the machine only one is likely to produce a Higgs boson, which will instantly decay into smaller component particles.
Only by meticulously analysing the debris from several years' worth of collisions were scientists able to identify the handful of rare events which had produced a Higgs boson.
Why is it so important?
The Higgs boson has been described as the "missing piece" of the Standard Model, which explains how the parts of the universe that we understand interact with one another.
The real importance of the particle is that it proves the existence of the Higgs field, without which the universe would have no matter as we know it. Particles would simply float around in the same way as streams of light.
However, although the Higgs boson fills a conspicuous hole in the Standard Model, our knowledge of particle physics is far from complete. The model itself is still not perfect and only accounts for less than five per cent of the universe, with further mysteries such as the nature of so-called dark matter and dark energy still to solve.
What has finding the Higgs boson actually achieved?
Aside from advancing mankind's understanding of the Universe and how it works at a fundamental level...not much really.
The hunt for the Higgs boson was a huge triumph for basic science but is unlikely to have immediate applications in the same way as the trial of a new drug or a new type of computer chip.
Any technology you can think of has its roots in some kind of basic science, but until physicists learn more about the Higgs boson and its properties, it is impossible to say in what areas it could prompt the next big breakthrough.