David J. Thouless

Last updated

David Thouless

DavidThouless 1995 UW.jpg
David Thouless in 1995
David James Thouless

(1934-09-21)21 September 1934
Bearsden, Scotland
Died6 April 2019(2019-04-06) (aged 84)
Cambridge, England
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma mater
Known for
Margaret Elizabeth Scrase
(m. 1958)
ChildrenThree [1]
Scientific career
Fields Condensed matter physics
Thesis The application of perturbation methods to the theory of nuclear matter  (1958)
Doctoral advisor Hans Bethe [4]
Notable students J. Michael Kosterlitz (postdoc) [1]

David James Thouless FRS [2] ( /ˈθlɛs/ ; 21 September 1934 – 6 April 2019 [5] [6] [7] ) was a British condensed-matter physicist. [8] He was the winner of the 1990 Wolf Prize and a laureate of the 2016 Nobel Prize for physics along with F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter. [9]



Born on 21 September 1934 in Bearsden, Scotland [10] to English parents, Priscilla (Gorton) Thouless, an English teacher, and psychologist and broadcaster, Robert Thouless, [11] David Thouless was educated at Winchester College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge as an undergraduate student of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. [1] He obtained his PhD at Cornell University, [5] [12] where Hans Bethe was his doctoral advisor. [4] [13]

Career and research

Thouless was a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, and also worked in the physics department from 1958 to 1959, giving a course on atomic physics. [7] [14] [15] He was the first director of studies in physics at Churchill College, Cambridge, in 1961–1965, professor of mathematical physics at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom in 1965–1978, [16] and professor of applied science at Yale University from 1979 to 1980, [15] before becoming a professor of physics at the University of Washington [17] in Seattle in 1980. [16] Thouless made many theoretical contributions to the understanding of extended systems of atoms and electrons, and of nucleons. [18] [19] [7] He also worked on superconductivity phenomena, properties of nuclear matter, and excited collective motions within nuclei. [18] [19] [7]

Thouless made many important contributions to the theory of many-body problems. [7] For atomic nuclei, he cleared up the concept of 'rearrangement energy' and derived an expression for the moment of inertia of deformed nuclei. [7] In statistical mechanics, he contributed many ideas to the understanding of ordering, including the concept of 'topological ordering'. [7] Other important results relate to localised electron states in disordered lattices. [2] [7]

Academic papers

Selected papers [20] include:

  • Kosterlitz, J. M.; Thouless, D. J. (1973). "Ordering, metastability and phase transitions in two-dimensional systems" (PDF). Journal of Physics C: Solid State Physics. 6 (7): 1181–1203. Bibcode:1973JPhC....6.1181K. doi:10.1088/0022-3719/6/7/010. ISSN   0022-3719.
  • Thouless, D. J.; Kohmoto, M.; Nightingale, M. P.; den Nijs, M. (1982). "Quantized Hall Conductance in a Two-Dimensional Periodic Potential". Physical Review Letters. 49 (6): 405–408. Bibcode:1982PhRvL..49..405T. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.49.405 . ISSN   0031-9007.


Awards and honours

Thouless was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1979, [2] a Fellow of the American Physical Society (1986), a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences (1995). [21] Among his awards are the Wolf Prize for Physics (1990), [22] the Paul Dirac Medal of the Institute of Physics (1993), the Lars Onsager Prize [23] of the American Physical Society (2000), and the Nobel Prize in Physics (2016). [19] [7]

Personal life

Thouless married Margaret Elizabeth Scrase in 1958 and together they had three children. [1] In 2016, Thouless was reported to be suffering from dementia. [24] He died on 6 April 2019 in Cambridge, aged 84. [6]

Related Research Articles

Condensed matter physics Branch of physics

Condensed matter physics is the field of physics that deals with the macroscopic and microscopic physical properties of matter, especially the solid and liquid phases which arise from electromagnetic forces between atoms. More generally, the subject deals with "condensed" phases of matter: systems of very many constituents with strong interactions between them. More exotic condensed phases include the superconducting phase exhibited by certain materials at low temperature, the ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic phases of spins on crystal lattices of atoms, and the Bose–Einstein condensate found in ultracold atomic systems. Condensed matter physicists seek to understand the behavior of these phases by experiments to measure various material properties, and by applying the physical laws of quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, and other theories to develop mathematical models.

Cavendish Laboratory

The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the School of Physical Sciences. The laboratory was opened in 1874 on the New Museums Site as a laboratory for experimental physics and is named after the British chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish. The laboratory has had a huge influence on research in the disciplines of physics and biology.

Institut Laue–Langevin

The Institut Laue–Langevin (ILL) is an internationally financed scientific facility, situated on the Polygone Scientifique in Grenoble, France. It is one of the world centres for research using neutrons. Founded in 1967 and honouring the physicists Max von Laue and Paul Langevin, the ILL provides one of the most intense neutron sources in the world and the most intense continuous neutron flux in the world in the moderator region: 1.5×1015 neutrons per second per cm2, with a thermal power of typically 58.3 MW.

Ernest Walton

Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton was an Anglo-Irish physicist and Nobel laureate for his work with John Cockcroft with "atom-smashing" experiments done at Cambridge University in the early 1930s, and so became the first person in history to split the atom.

Brian Josephson Welsh Nobel Laureate in Physics

Brian David Josephson is a Welsh theoretical physicist and professor emeritus of physics at the University of Cambridge. Best known for his pioneering work on superconductivity and quantum tunnelling, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for his prediction of the Josephson effect, made in 1962 when he was a 22-year-old PhD student at Cambridge University. Josephson is the only Welshman to have won a Nobel Prize in Physics. He shared the prize with physicists Leo Esaki and Ivar Giaever, who jointly received half the award for their own work on quantum tunnelling.

Clare Hall, Cambridge College of the University of Cambridge

Clare Hall is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. Founded in 1966 by Clare College, Clare Hall is a college for advanced study, admitting only postgraduate students alongside postdoctoral researchers and fellows. It was established to serve as an Institute of Advanced Studies and has slowly grown and developed into a full constituent college.

Didier Queloz Swiss astronomer

Didier Patrick Queloz is a Swiss astronomer. He is a professor at the University of Cambridge, where he is also a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as a professor at the University of Geneva. Together with Michel Mayor in 1995, he discovered 51 Pegasi b, the first extrasolar planet orbiting a sun-like star, 51 Pegasi. For this discovery, he shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics with James Peebles and Michel Mayor.

The Berezinskii–Kosterlitz–Thouless transition is a phase transition of the two-dimensional (2-D) XY model in statistical physics. It is a transition from bound vortex-antivortex pairs at low temperatures to unpaired vortices and anti-vortices at some critical temperature. The transition is named for condensed matter physicists Vadim Berezinskii, John M. Kosterlitz and David J. Thouless. BKT transitions can be found in several 2-D systems in condensed matter physics that are approximated by the XY model, including Josephson junction arrays and thin disordered superconducting granular films. More recently, the term has been applied by the 2-D superconductor insulator transition community to the pinning of Cooper pairs in the insulating regime, due to similarities with the original vortex BKT transition.

Tom Kibble British physicist

Sir Thomas Walter Bannerman Kibble, was a British theoretical physicist, senior research investigator at the Blackett Laboratory and Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London. His research interests were in quantum field theory, especially the interface between high-energy particle physics and cosmology. He is best known as one of the first to describe the Higgs mechanism, and for his research on topological defects. From the 1950s he was concerned about the nuclear arms race and from 1970 took leading roles in promoting the social responsibility of the scientist.

Thouless may refer to:

In crystallography, a disclination is a line defect in which rotational symmetry is violated. In analogy with dislocations in crystals, the term, disinclination, for liquid crystals first used by Frederick Charles Frank and since then has been modified to its current usage, disclination. It is a defect in the orientation of director whereas a dislocation is a defect in positional order.

The hexatic phase is a state of matter that is between the solid and the isotropic liquid phases in two dimensional systems of particles. It is characterized by two order parameters: a short-range positional and a quasi-long-range orientational (sixfold) order. More generally, a hexatic is any phase that contains sixfold orientational order, in analogy with the nematic phase.

J. Michael Kosterlitz British physicist

John Michael Kosterlitz is a British-American physicist. He is a professor of physics at Brown University and the son of biochemist Hans Kosterlitz. He was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics along with David Thouless and Duncan Haldane for work on condensed matter physics.

Richard E. Taylor

Richard Edward Taylor,, was a Canadian physicist and Stanford University professor. He shared the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics with Jerome Friedman and Henry Kendall "for their pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics."

Duncan Haldane

Frederick Duncan Michael Haldane, known as F. Duncan Haldane, is a British-born physicist who is currently the Sherman Fairchild University Professor of Physics at Princeton University. He is a co-recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with David J. Thouless and J. Michael Kosterlitz.

Shoucheng Zhang

Shoucheng Zhang was a Chinese-American physicist who was the JG Jackson and CJ Wood professor of physics at Stanford University. He was a condensed matter theorist known for his work on topological insulators, the quantum Hall effect, the quantum spin Hall effect, spintronics, and high-temperature superconductivity. According to the National Academy of Science:

He discovered a new state of matter called topological insulator in which electrons can conduct along the edge without dissipation, enabling a new generation of electronic devices with much lower power consumption. For this ground breaking work he received numerous international awards, including the Buckley Prize, the Dirac Medal and Prize, the Europhysics Prize, the Physics Frontiers Prize and the Benjamin Franklin Medal.

Vadim L'vovich Berezinskii was a Soviet physicist. He was born in Kiev, graduated from Moscow State University in 1959, and worked in Moscow and the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics. He is famous for having identified the role played by topological defects in the low-temperature phase of two-dimensional systems with a continuous symmetry. His work led to the discovery of the Berezinskii–Kosterlitz–Thouless transition, for which John M. Kosterlitz and David J. Thouless were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2016. He also developed a technique for treating electrons in one-dimensional disordered systems and provided first consistent proof of one-dimensional localization. and predicted negative-gap superconductivity.

M. Zahid Hasan is an endowed chair Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Princeton University. He is known for his pioneering research on quantum matter exhibiting topological and emergent properties. He is the Principal Investigator of Laboratory for Topological Quantum Matter and Advanced Spectroscopy at Princeton University and a Visiting Faculty Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Since 2014 he has been an EPiQS-Moore Investigator awarded by the Betty and Gordon Moore foundation in Palo Alto (California) for his research on emergent quantum phenomena in topological matter. He has been a Vanguard Fellow of the Aspen Institute since 2014. Hasan is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The KTHNY-theory describes melting of crystals in two dimensions (2D). The name is derived from the initials of the surnames of John Michael Kosterlitz, David J. Thouless, Bertrand Halperin, David R. Nelson, and A. Peter Young, who developed the theory in the 1970s. It is, beside the Ising model in 2D and the XY model in 2D, one of the few theories, which can be solved analytically and which predicts a phase transition at a temperature .


  1. 1 2 3 4 Anon (2016). "BBC Radio 4 profile: Professor David J Thouless". London: BBC.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Anon (1979). "Professor David Thouless FRS". London: royalsociety.org. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:
    All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." – "Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. Devlin, Hannah; Sample, Ian (4 October 2016). "British trio win Nobel prize in physics 2016 for work on exotic states of matter – live". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  4. 1 2 David J. Thouless at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. 1 2 "Thouless, Prof. David James". Who's Who . ukwhoswho.com. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.(subscription or UK public library membership required)(subscription required)
  6. 1 2 "Professor David Thouless 1934–2019". Trinity Hall, Cambridge. 6 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "David J. Thouless Facts". Nobel Prize.org. Retrieved 13 October 2020.
  8. "Physicist Thouless to give two talks at Lab". Archived from the original on 15 October 2006. Retrieved 4 October 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), Los Alamos National Laboratory
  9. The international who's who 1991–92. Europa Publ. 25 July 1991. ISBN   9780946653706 via Google Books.
  10. Sturrock, Laura (5 October 2016). "Bearsden scientist is awarded Nobel prize in Physics". Kirkintilloch Herald. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  11. David Thouless, 84, Dies; Nobel Laureate Cast Light on Matter New York Times, 2019-04-22.
  12. Thouless, David James (1958). The application of perturbation methods to the theory of nuclear matter (PhD thesis). Cornell University. OCLC   745509629.
  13. Lee, Sabine (8 April 2011). From Nuclei to Stars: Festschrift in Honor of Gerald E. Brown. World Scientific. ISBN   9789814329880 via Google Books.
  14. "UW Professor Emeritus David J. Thouless wins Nobel Prize in physics for exploring exotic states of matter | UW Today". www.washington.edu. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  15. 1 2 "David Thouless". aip.org. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  16. 1 2 "Two former Birmingham scientists awarded Nobel Prize for Physics". University of Birmingham. 4 October 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  17. Nijs, Marcel den (31 May 2019). "David Thouless (1934–2019)". Science. 364 (6443): 835. doi:10.1126/science.aax9125. ISSN   0036-8075. PMID   31147511. S2CID   206668153.
  18. 1 2 "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016". NobelPrize.org.
  19. 1 2 3 Gibney, Elizabeth; Castelvecchi, Davide (2016). "Physics of 2D exotic matter wins Nobel: British-born theorists recognized for work on topological phases". Nature. London: Springer Nature. 538 (7623): 18. Bibcode:2016Natur.538...18G. doi: 10.1038/nature.2016.20722 . PMID   27708331.
  20. David J. Thouless publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  21. "David Thouless". National Academy of Sciences Online. Archived from the original on 10 October 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  22. David J. Thouless Winner of Wolf Prize in Physics – 1990 on the official website of Wolf Foundation
  23. "2018 Stanley Corrsin Award Recipient". www.aps.org.
  24. Knapton, Sarah (4 October 2016). "British scientists win Nobel prize in physics for work so baffling it had to be described using bagels". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 September 2017.