Nobel Prizes and Laureates

Nobel Prizes and Laureates

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016
David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane, J. Michael Kosterlitz

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J. Michael Kosterlitz - Facts

J. Michael Kosterlitz

J. Michael Kosterlitz

Born: 22 June 1943, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Affiliation at the time of the award: Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Prize motivation: "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter"

Prize share: 1/4


Michael Kosterlitz was born into a family of Jewish immigrants in Aberdeen, Scotland. His father was a biochemist. Michael Kosterlitz studied at Cambridge University and received a PhD at Oxford University in 1969. Thereafter he carried out some of his Nobel Prize awarded work with David Thouless at the University of Birmingham. In 1982, he became a professor at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Michael Kosterlitz is married with three children.


Matter occurs in different phases, for example as a gas, liquid or solid. At very low temperatures unusual phases may occur, for example superconductivity, when electric current flows without resistance, and superfluidity, when a fluid flows without resistance. To describe these phases and phase transitions Michael Kosterlitz used the concepts of topology, a branch of mathematics. For example, in the early 1970s he and David Thouless described phase transitions in thin layers at low temperatures.

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