J. Michael Kosterlitz

Brown University

Election Year: 2017
Primary Section: 13, Physics
Membership Type: Member


J. Michael Kosterlitz is a theoretical physicist recognized for his work with David J. Thouless on the application of topological ideas to the theory of phase transitions in two-dimensional systems with a continuous symmetry. The theory has been applied to thin films of superfluid 4He, superconductors and to melting of two-dimensional solids. Experiments on two dimensional layers of colloidal crystals agree with theoretical predictions in quantitative detail. This work was recognized by the Lars Onsager prize in 2000, membership in the AAAS 2007, by the 2016 Nobel Prize for physics and elected to the NAS in 2017. He graduated from Cambridge University earning a BSc in physics in1965, an MA in 1966 and received a D. Phil. from Oxford in 1969. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Torino University, Italy, in 1970 and at Birmingham University, U.K., from 1970-73. There he met David Thouless and together they did their groundbreaking work on phase transitions mediated by topological defects in two dimensions. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell in 1974 , on the faculty at Birmingham 1974-81 and Professor of Physics at Brown University 1982 – present.

Research Interests

J. Michael Kosterlitz is interested in the problem of state selection in driven out of equilibrium systems such as directional solidification and eutectic growth. He has collaborated with the Helsinki group using phase field modeling to study problems in material science. Most recently he has applied phase field methods to crystalline solid. He is working on wavelength selection in driven out of equilibrium systems. This phenomenon seems to occur in various experimental systems but a convincing theoretical explanation or understanding is lacking. The approach to the unique equilibrium distribution can be understood theoretically but driven out of equilibrium systems do not seem to be amenable to similar treatment.

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