David J. Thouless

David Thouless
Born David James Thouless
(1934-09-21) 21 September 1934
Bearsden, Scotland[1]
Residence United Kingdom[2]
Citizenship United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Condensed matter physics
Alma mater
Thesis The application of perturbation methods to the theory of nuclear matter (1958)
Doctoral advisor Hans Bethe
Notable students J. Michael Kosterlitz (postdoc)[2]
Known for
Notable awards
Spouse Margaret Elizabeth Scrase (m. 1958)
Children three[2]

David James Thouless FRS[3] (/ˈdvd ˈmz ˈθlɛs/, born 21 September 1934)[5] is a British condensed-matter physicist.[6] He is a winner of the Wolf Prize and 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.[7][8][9]


Thouless was educated at Winchester College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Cornell University,[10][5] where Hans Bethe was his doctoral advisor.[11]

Career and research

Thouless was a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, 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, [12] and professor of Applied Science at Yale University [13] from 1979-1980, before becoming a professor of physics at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1980.[12] Thouless has made many theoretical contributions to the understanding of extended systems of atoms and electrons, and of nucleons. His work includes work on superconductivity phenomena, properties of nuclear matter, and excited collective motions within nuclei.

Thouless has made many important contributions to the theory of many-body problems. For atomic nucleii, he cleared up the concept of ‘rearrangement energy’ and derived an expression for the moment of inertia of deformed nuclei. In statistical mechanics, he has contributed many ideas to the understanding of ordering, including the concept of ‘topological ordering’. Other important results relate to localised electron states in disordered lattices.[3]

Awards and honours

Thouless was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1979,[3] a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1995).[14] Among his awards are the Wolf Prize for Physics (1990),[15] the Paul Dirac Medal of the Institute of Physics (1993), the Lars Onsager Prize[16] of the American Physical Society (2000), and the Nobel Prize in Physics (2016).[17][9]

Selected publications


  1. Sturrock, Laura (5 October 2016). "Bearsden scientist is awarded Nobel prize in Physics". Kirkintilloch Herald. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 "BBC Radio 4 profile: Professor David J Thouless". bbc.co.uk. London: BBC.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Anon (1979). "Professor David Thouless FRS". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. 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 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 25, 2015)
  4. Devlin, Hannah; Sample, Ian (2016-10-04). "British trio win Nobel prize in physics 2016 for work on exotic states of matter – live". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  5. 1 2 THOULESS, Prof. David James. Who's Who. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  6. Physicist Thouless to give two talks at Lab at the Wayback Machine (archived October 15, 2006), Los Alamos National Laboratory
  7. The international who's who 1991-92
  8. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016
  9. 1 2 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): 18–18. doi:10.1038/nature.2016.20722.
  10. Thouless, David James (1958). The application of perturbation methods to the theory of nuclear matter (PhD thesis). Cornell University. OCLC 745509629.
  11. From Nuclei to Stars: Festschrift in Honor of Gerald E. Brown
  12. 1 2 "Two former Birmingham scientists awarded Nobel Prize for Physics". University of Birmingham. 4 October 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  13. "David Thouless". www.aip.org. Array of Contemporary American Physicists. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  14. "David Thouless". National Academy of Sciences Online. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  15. David J. Thouless Winner of Wolf Prize in Physics - 1990 on the official website of Wolf Foundation
  16. David James Thouless, University of Washington: 2000 Lars Onsager Prize Recipient
  17. "David J. Thouless − Facts". Nobel Media AB 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
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