British child of German-Jewish refugees wins Nobel Prize for physics


A Jewish scientist is one of the three British academics to win the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Michael Kosterlitz, along with David Thouless and Duncan Haldane, was honoured by the Nobel committee for work done in the 1970s and 1980s on topological phase transitions.

The three academics helped disprove the theory that superconductivity could not occur in thin layers, and also proved superconductivity could occur at low temperatures.

Professor Kosterlitz, who is currently a visiting fellow at Aalto University in Finland, told the Associated Press he was “still trying to take it in”.

He added: “It was a piece of work that I did as a very ignorant post-doc”.

"Complete ignorance was actually an advantage because I didn't have any preconceived ideas. I was young and stupid enough to take it on.”

It is not uncommon for Nobel prizes to be awarded for work done decades previously, to ensure that theories or discoveries stand the test of time.

Prof Kosterlitz is the son of Hans Walter Kosterlitz, a German-Jewish biochemist who fled to Scotland in 1934 to escape the Nazis. Once he had found work in the UK, joining the staff of Aberdeen University, he was able to arrange for his then-fiancé, Hannah to join him. Their son was born in the northern Scottish city in 1942.

The official Nobel Prize award ceremony will take place in Stockholm on December 10.

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