Hendrik Lorentz Biography

(Dutch Physicist and Winner of the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics)

Birthday: July 18, 1853 (Cancer)

Born In: Arnhem, Netherlands

Hendrik Lorentz was a Dutch scientist who is known for his landmark discoveries in the field of physics; his discoveries formed the backbone of plenty of future research in varied branches of physics. Lorentz’s most important theories include the one related to the electromagnetic element in the propagation of light as well as his theoretical explanation of the Zeeman Effect as discovered by his fellow Dutch scientist Pieter Zeeman. Lorentz shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Pieter Zeeman for his work on the Zeeman Effect and also went on to win plenty of other prizes in the field of science. Lorentz worked at his alma mater the University of Leiden for the duration of his academic career and in spite of offers from many other universities he did not go to teach at other universities. Lorentz’s career wasn’t merely spent in the quest for new discoveries in physics; he also tried to do his bit for the society and after the First World War he tried to use the expertise of scientists in order to find solutions to day to day problems of people. Lorentz would also be remembered as the scientist whose work was used by Albert Einstein in order to formulate his famous Theory of Relativity.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Hendrik Antoon Lorentz

Died At Age: 74


children: Geertruida de Haas-Lorentz

Physicists Dutch Men

Died on: February 4, 1928

place of death: Haarlem, Netherlands

Grouping of People: Nobel Laureates in Physics

More Facts

education: Leiden University

awards: Nobel Prize in Physics - 1902
Copley Medal - 1918
Rumford Medal - 1908

Franklin Medal - 1917
ForMemRS - 1905

Childhood & Early Life
Hendrik Lorentz was born to Gerrit Frederik Lorentz and Geertruida van Ginkel, in Arnhem, Netherlands on 18 July 1853. Lorentz’s father Gerrit was the owner of a successful nursery in the city. His mother died when Lorentz was no more than four years old.
In 1866, at the age of 13, Hendrik Lorentz took admission in the Hogere Burger School located in his home town of Arnhem. He excelled in the sciences at the school and had exceptional grades. In 1870, he completed his course in the classical languages in order to qualify for university.
Hendrik Lorentz entered the University of Leiden in the year 1870 and a year later he was awarded the Bachelors in Science degree with specialisation in Mathematics and Physics. Lorentz went back to his home town of Arnhem and was employed as a teacher at an evening school while at the same time he continued with his research on reflection as well as refraction of light for his thesis.
Lorentz presented his thesis in the year 1875, and was awarded his doctorate the same year. The title of his thesis was ‘on the reflection and refraction of light’ and the paper further amplified Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory.
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Hendrik Lorentz had quickly established himself as one of the most brilliant young scientists in Netherlands at the time and after being a student as well as a doctoral researcher at the University of Leiden, he was appointed as the chair of theoretical physics at his alma mater in the year 1877. He was only 24 at the time.
In 1878, Hendrik Lorentz presented his inaugural lecture at the University of Leiden and the subject of his lecture was ‘the molecular theories of physics’.
In 1881, Lorentz was made a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science. For two decades, Lorentz was primarily engaged in electromagnetic theories in addition to relativity and electron theory.
From 1892 onwards Hendrik Lorentz worked on the electromagnetic phenomenon in relation to the propagation of light and his theories included something that was never used in the past; the usage of ‘local time’ implying a time variable. His findings were later used by Albert Einstein on his theory of special relativity.
In 1896, Lorentz’s former student and fellow scientist Pieter Zeeman came to him seeking his advice on his research of spectral lines that came to be known as the Zeeman Effect. Lorentz was instrumental in formulating the theoretical explanation of Zeeman Effect and six years after starting work on it; he won the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Zeeman, in 1902.
Due to his role as professor, Lorentz was not able to devote enough time to research and hence he resigned in the year 1912. He took up the job of the curator at Teylers Museum located in Haarlem but continued to lecture once a week at the university.
Following the end of the First World War; Lorentz tried to use the scientific acumen of the members at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences so that their scientific knowledge could be used to solve practical problems. The project was a failure.
Major Works
Hendrik Lorentz was a trailblazer in the world of physics and went on to propound some of the most important theories in the subject. His most important work was the theoretical explanation of Zeeman Effect for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1902.
Awards & Achievements
He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1902 for his work on the Zeeman Effect.
The Royal Society awarded Lorentz with the Rumford Medal in 1908.
In 1917, he won the Franklin Medal and the following year he was awarded the Copley Medal.
Personal Life & Legacy
Hendrik Lorentz got married to Aletta Catharina Kaiser in the year 1881. The couple had three children - a son and two daughters.
Hendrik Lorentz died on 4 February 1928, at the age of 74, in Haarlem, after suffering being ill for a month.

See the events in life of Hendrik Lorentz in Chronological Order

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