Professor Peter Higgs will be given the Edinburgh Medal at a ceremony in March.
It will also be awarded to international body Cern, whose Large Hadron Collider detected the existence of an elusive, subatomic particle consistent with the long sought-after Higgs boson. It marks the first time that two recipients will get the medal in a year.
Mr Higgs, a theoretical physicist and emeritus professor at Edinburgh University, was one of the first to suggest the existence of the particle.
The medal is supported by City of Edinburgh Council.
Among the highlights of the festival, launched yesterday, will be a programme examining the future which will look at, among other things, the food we may eat in years to come. The festival runs from March 23 to April 7.