Bearsden scientist is awarded Nobel prize in Physics

David Thouless

David Thouless

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A professor emiratus from Bearsden is one of three British-born scientists to be awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for discoveries about strange forms of matter.

David Thouless, who was born in Bearsden but is now professor emeritus at the University of Washington (UW), will share the 8m kronor (£727,000) prize with Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz.

Half the prize goes to Thouless while Haldane and Kosterlitz divide the remaining half. Thouless is the University of Washington’s seventh Nobel laureate, and second in physics after Hans Dehmelt in 1989.

Their work could result in improved materials for electronics and is already being used to achieve super-fast computing.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce, said: “Professor Thouless’ work is a perfect example of why curiosity-driven basic science is so vital.

“Not only did his discoveries open up entirely new fields of research, but they have also had implications for the electronic devices that power our world today and those that may do so in the future — everything from advanced superconductors to quantum computers to other applications we can hardly imagine.

“We are tremendously proud of this recognition of the seminal importance of his work.”

Born in 1934 in Bearsden, Thouless earned his undergraduate degree in 1955 from Cambridge University and a doctorate degree in 1958 from Cornell University, where he studied under physicist and Nobel laureate Hans Bethe.

Thouless was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, before returning to the United Kingdom to work with world-renowned physicist Rudolf Peierls at the University of Birmingham.

At Birmingham, where he was a professor of mathematical physics from 1965 to 1978, Thouless began a pivotal collaboration with Kosterlitz which overturned prevailing theories on how matter behaves in flat, two-dimensional environments.

Marcel Den Nijs, a UW professor of physics who has known Thouless for 35 years, said: “It is the foundation for new technologies we are exploring today, using 2-D surfaces using graphene and other ‘new materials’.

“This award was a long time coming. He’s a brilliant scientist and wonderful person.”