Born In: Waalwijk, Netherlands
Martinus Justinus Godefriedus Veltman was a Dutch theoretical physicist, known for his work on renormalization of Yang–Mills theories. Born in early 1930s, in the ancient city of Waalwijk in Southern Netherland, he passed out from school with very low grades and then entered the University of Utrecht in 1948, where he studied physics and mathematics. He earned his PhD at the age of thirty-two. In the same year he joined SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford and developed a computer program for symbolic manipulation of mathematical equations called Schoonschip. Much later, while working at the University of Utrecht with his graduate student Gerardus ’t Hooft, he used this program to provide the required mathematical basis for the electroweak theory. The work later earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics. Although he spent the last part of his working life at the University of Michigan he came to Netherland after his retirement.
Also Known As: Martinus Justinus Godefriedus Veltman
Died At Age: 89
children: Hélène, Hugo, Martijn
Born Country: Netherlands
place of death: Bilthoven, Netherlands
Grouping of People: Nobel Laureates in Physics
Notable Alumni: Utrecht University
education: Utrecht University
awards: Nobel Prize in physics (1999)
Until 1940, his life was quite uneventful. He started his education at a local elementary school and was considered a good student. The turbulence began when in 1940, when the Germans marched into the town. They turned their school into a military barrack and so classes were improvised.
In 1943, he entered the high school, but his grades began to suffer. Moreover, he had a bad aptitude for languages and they were required to learn three foreign languages! Sometime now, he also developed interest in electronics. After some time, he began to repair radios, with his right hand index finger as his only measuring tool and in the process received electrical shocks a number of times.
It took him five years to complete the course and pass his candidates exam. Subsequently, he was appointed a part-time teacher at a lower technical school. Some time now, he also came across ‘The Meaning of Relativity’ by Albert Einstein. He slowly started taking interest in physics.
Later in the year, he moved to Utrecht and working under Leon Van Hove earned his master’s degree in 1956. Subsequently, he was drafted in the army and upon returning to Utrecht in February 1959, after two years of military duty, he once again started working under Leon Van Hove for his PhD.
In April 1968, he made a one-month visit to the Rockefeller University. He considered this visit a turning point in his career because it was here that he started the work, which would one day bring him the Nobel Prize.
The first paper was published in 1971. It was followed by an intense collaboration. Subsequently, they developed the technique of dimensional regularization and showed how Yang–Mills theories could be renormalized. The work made them internationally famous and later they earned the Nobel Prize for the same.
After few months of vacillation, he finally joined the University in September 1981, and was elected to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur chair. It was a highly prestigious post and came with a yearly grant of $35000, which gave him much freedom to buy equipments or attend science conferences.
In 1960, Veltman married Anneke. The couple had three children. Their eldest child Hélène studied particle physics at Berkeley but now works in the banking sector in London. The second child Hugo runs a restaurant called Solstice in Los Angeles and his youngest child Martijn is in the movie industry in Hollywood.
Martinus J. G. Veltman died on January 4, 2021, at his home in Bilthoven, the Netherlands.
While working at CERN, Veltman had the opportunity to meet Tsung-Dao Lee and asked him for some advice. To that, Lee said, "Don't make mistakes". Veltman thought that was funny and began to laugh. However, Lee did not appreciate that. He took some time to teach him the seriousness of the work.
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