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. 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.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.