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Written by:
Paul Holland
31 May 2024

In 2016 alumnus Professor David Thouless won the Nobel Prize in Physics “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”.

The honour came more than 60 years after he completed his undergraduate degree at Trinity Hall and with a lifetime of research behind him, and just three years before his death in 2019.

Last night (Thursday, 30 May) his wife Margaret and members of his family honoured the College in donating his Nobel Prize medal and diploma to Trinity Hall where they will be displayed for future generations of scholars to draw inspiration from.

The Master, Mary Hockaday, thanked them for their precious gift and noted Professor Thouless’ contributions to science.

“We are enormously grateful to Margaret Thouless and her family for giving us David’s medal. Trinity Hall is proud to have played its part in setting him on his path and we are honoured to be able to display the medal as a wonderful inspiration to our students today.”

The work that won Professor Thouless the Nobel Prize related to different phases of matter (eg gas, liquid or solid) and how unusual phases like superconductivity can occur at low temperatures.

Throughout his life Professor Thouless worked in some of the great academic institutions of the world, including Cambridge, Yale and, finally, the University of Washington in Seattle, USA.

Speaking last night Dr Helen Thouless said her father had very much enjoyed his time at Trinity Hall where he had made lifelong friendships. She added the family wanted the Prize to be shared and displayed and the College seemed the perfect place to do this: “Thinking about the friends he made and the influence that Trinity Hall had on his life: this is why we wanted to donate it to Trinity Hall.”