Pioneer of Topological Physics and Nobel Laureate David Thouless Dies at 84. The theoretical physicist David Thouless, who shared the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics, has died age 84. In the 1970s Thouless pioneered in the study of the topological states of matter, which has since blossomed into a thriving branch of condensed matter physics with potential applications ranging from electronic devices to quantum computers.
Thouless was born in 1934 Bearsden, Scotland – which is near Glasgow. He studied physics at the University of Cambridge before travelling to the US to complete a PhD at Cornell University in 1958 under the supervision of Hans Bethe. He worked at several universities in the UK and US before becoming professor of physics at the University of Birmingham in 1965. Following stint at Yale University, Thouless settled at the University of Washington in 1980. He remained there until 2014 when he returned with his wife Margaret to live in Cambridge.
Thouless share the Nobel prize with Duncane Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz. Working at the University of Birmingham in 1972, Thouless and Kosterlitz identified a completely new type of phase transition that can occur in 2D materials, where topological properties play a crucial role. As a result, they were able to show that superconductivity or superfluidity can occur in 2D layers – something that had not been expected prior to their work
According to the Nobel committee, the pair’s work “resulted in an entirely new understanding of phase transitions, which is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most important discoveries in the theory of condensed-matter physics”.
Thouless is survived by Margaret and their three children.
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