This morning, Brown University Department of Physics Professor Mike Kosterlitz gave the 2016 Nobel Lecture in Physics at the Nobel Symposium in Stockholm, Sweden. He began by saying, “It feels a bit strange to be standing here addressing this audience because I never thought that I would ever end up in this position.” That may be in part because his discovery of “topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter,” along with David Thouless of the University of Washington, and Duncan Haldane of Princeton University, was over forty years ago.
In the 1970s, together with David Thouless, Kosterlitz developed the theory of topological phase transitions that explains how matter can transition between non-exotic and exotic states. Two publications in the Journal of Physics in 1973 and 1974 laid the foundation for the field of topology, and have since been cited over 6,600 times in subsequent papers. The findings of Kosterlitz, Thouless, and Haldane have had a major impact on electronics, and are expected to continue to do so well into the future. “Today's advanced technology — take, for instance, our computers — relies on our ability to understand and control the properties of the materials involved,” said Nils Mårtensson, acting chairman of the Nobel committee said at the announcement on October 4. “This has paved the way for designing new materials with novel properties and there is great hope that this will be important for many future technologies.”
Today, his hour-long lecture gave recognition to his fellow recipient, David Thouless, who Professor Kosterlitz says, "started him in this field." He then went on to detail his journey to the Nobel Prize. After Professor Kosterlitz’s lecture, David Thouless and Duncan Haldane joined him on stage where they were celebrated with a standing ovation.