J. Michael Kosterlitz
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016
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. 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, Kosterlitz 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.