David J. Thouless
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016
Born: 21 September 1934, Bearsden, United Kingdom
Died: 6 April 2019, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
Prize motivation: "for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter."
Prize share: 1/2
David Thouless was born in Bearsden, Scotland. After studies at Cambridge University he received a PhD from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, in 1958. His supervisor was the future Nobel Laureate Hans Bethe. After stays at University of California, Berkeley and Cambridge University he became a professor at the University of Birmingham in 1965. After a few years at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, he became a professor at the University of Washington, Seattle in 1980. David Thouless had three children.
Matter occurs in different phases, for example as a gas, liquid or solid. At very low temperatures unusual phases, such as superconductivity or superfluidity, may also occur. In the early 1970s David Thouless and Michael Kosterlitz used the concepts of topology, a branch of mathematics, to describe phase transitions in thin layers at low temperatures. Later, David Thouless also explained the quantum Hall effect, stepwise shifts in electrical conductivity in thin layers.