Hendrik Antoon Lorentz

  • From:

    Leiden University | The Netherlands

  • Year:

    1917

  • Subject:

    Physics

  • Award:

    Franklin

  • Citation:

    For researches which have contributed to our knowledge of the nature of light and the ultimate constitution of matter.

Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was born in 1853 in Arnhem, the Netherlands. He entered the University of Leiden in 1870 but, in 1872, he returned to Arnhem to take up teaching evening classes. He worked for his doctorate while holding the teaching position.

Lorentz refined Maxwell's electromagnetic theory in his doctoral thesis "The theory of the reflection and refraction of light," presented in 1875. He was appointed professor of mathematical physics at Leiden University in 1878. He remained in this post until he retired in 1912. After retiring, Lorentz was appointed director of research at the Teyler Institute, Haarlem. However, he retained an honorary position at Leiden, where he continued to lecture.

Before the existence of electrons was proved, Lorentz proposed that light waves were due to oscillations of an electric charge in the atom. He developed his mathematical theory of the electron for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1902.

Lorentz is also famed for his work on the FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction, which is a contraction in the length of an object at relativistic speeds. Lorentz transformations, which he introduced in 1904, form the basis of Einstein's special theory of relativity. They describe the increase of mass, the shortening of length, and the time dilation of a body moving at speeds close to the velocity of light.

Information as of 1917