David J. Thouless

David Thouless
David Thouless in 2016
Born David James Thouless
(1934-09-21) 21 September 1934
Bearsden, Scotland[1]
Residence United Kingdom[2]
Nationality British
Citizenship United Kingdom
Alma mater
Known for
Margaret Elizabeth Scrase (m. 1958)
Children three[2]
Scientific career
Fields Condensed matter physics
Thesis The application of perturbation methods to the theory of nuclear matter (1958)
Doctoral advisor Hans Bethe[5]
Notable students J. Michael Kosterlitz (postdoc)[2]

David James Thouless FRS[3] (/ˈθlɛs/; born 21 September 1934)[6] is a British condensed-matter physicist.[7] 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.[8][9][10] In 2016, Thouless was reported to be suffering from dementia.[11]


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. He obtained his PhD at Cornell University,[12][6] where Hans Bethe was his doctoral advisor.[5][13]

Career and research

Thouless was a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of California Berkeley (he also worked in the physics department) from 1958 to 1959.[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 in Seattle in 1980.[16] 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]

Academic papers

Selected papers[17] 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. PMID 27665689.
  • 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.


  • Thouless, D. J. (1998). Topological Quantum Numbers in Nonrelativistic Physics. Singapore: World Scientific. ISBN 981-02-2900-3. LCCN 98009819. OCLC 38431218.
  • Thouless, D. J. (1961). The Quantum Mechanics of Many-Body Systems (1st ed.). New York: Academic Press. LCCN 61012282. OCLC 901492152.

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 US National Academy of Sciences (1995).[18] Among his awards are the Wolf Prize for Physics (1990),[19] the Paul Dirac Medal of the Institute of Physics (1993), the Lars Onsager Prize[20] of the American Physical Society (2000), and the Nobel Prize in Physics (2016).[21][10]


  1. Sturrock, Laura (5 October 2016). "Bearsden scientist is awarded Nobel prize in Physics". Kirkintilloch Herald. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 Anon (2016). "BBC Radio 4 profile: Professor David J Thouless". London: BBC.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 1 2 David J. Thouless at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  6. 1 2 THOULESS, Prof. David James. ukwhoswho.com. Who's Who. 2016 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  7. "Physicist Thouless to give two talks at Lab". Archived from the original on 15 October 2006. Retrieved 4 October 2016. , Los Alamos National Laboratory
  8. The international who's who 1991–92
  9. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016
  10. 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. Bibcode:2016Natur.538...18G. doi:10.1038/nature.2016.20722.
  11. Knapton, Sarah. "British scientists win Nobel prize in physics for work so baffling it had to be described using bagels". The Telegraph. The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  12. Thouless, David James (1958). The application of perturbation methods to the theory of nuclear matter (PhD thesis). Cornell University. OCLC 745509629.
  13. From Nuclei to Stars: Festschrift in Honor of Gerald E. Brown
  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. David J. Thouless publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  18. "David Thouless". National Academy of Sciences Online. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  19. David J. Thouless Winner of Wolf Prize in Physics – 1990 on the official website of Wolf Foundation
  20. David James Thouless, University of Washington: 2000 Lars Onsager Prize Recipient
  21. "David J. Thouless − Facts". Nobel Media AB 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
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