Nobel Prize-winning scientists awarded honorary degrees

Professor Mike Kosterlitz, left, and Professor David Thouless

Two Nobel Prize-winning physicists have received honorary degrees from the University of Birmingham.

Professor Mike Kosterlitz and Professor David Thouless, who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016, joined five other honorary graduates and more than 5,000 students collecting their degrees this month in the University’s iconic Great Hall.

Professor Kosterlitz was a Research Fellow in high energy physics before becoming Lecturer and then Reader at the University of Birmingham from 1970 to 1982. He is Professor of Physics at Brown University, Rhode Island, US. During his time at Birmingham, he collaborated with Professor David Thouless on phase transitions driven by topological defects – work which later led to their Nobel Prize.

Professor Thouless carried out post-doctoral work at Birmingham before becoming Professor of Mathematical Physics in 1965. While at the University, his collaboration with Professor Mike Kosterlitz on the theory of phase transitions in two dimensions was recognised in the Nobel Prize. His contributions to condensed matter theory have been recognised by many awards.

Professor Kosterlitz commented: 'I am very honoured by this honorary degree from the University of Birmingham, where I had my first real job, in the department of mathematical physics, as a fellow, then senior lecturer and finally as a reader.
'This is the place where I learned what physics is really about, and worked with one of the truly great minds in physics, and realised that physics was something I could really devote my life to, despite my other two passions: climbing mountains, and my family.'

Professor Thouless’s daughter Dr Helen Thouless, who spoke on his behalf, said: ‘My father recalls his two years as a post-doc at Birmingham as a very stimulating time with engagement with his colleagues, both academically and socially. He recalls it as the most stimulating teaching he experienced in his 50-year career.”

‘As Chair of Mathematics some years later, he worked with many great colleagues, who are now great friends in the Physics and Mathematical Physics Departments which made this a very productive period of his research life. He wrote multiple papers on wide-ranging topics and with a wide range of collaborators.

‘Birmingham is a special place to my father, both professionally and personally. Therefore, this honorary degree is received with great thanks.’


For more information, please contact Tony Moran, Acting Head of Communications, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.