Hendrik Antoon Lorentz is the Netherlands' greatest physicist, winner of the 1902 Alfred Nobel Prize.

Childhood and adolescence

Hendrik Lorenz was born on July 15, 1853 in the city of Arnhem.For generations, his paternal relatives were of German descent, living in the Rhine Valley and peasantry. Father Gerrit Frederik was involved in the cultivation of fruit trees near the town of Velp. The mother of the future doctor of physical sciences, Geertruida van Ginkel, was from the city of Renswoude in the province of Utrecht. Before becoming the wife of Gerrit Lorenz, she was married, lost her husband and raised a son. The Lorentsov had two boys, but the youngest died very young. In 1862, Lorenz's mother died and was later raised by his stepmother Luberta Hupkes.

At the age of 6, Hendrik Lorenz began attending the school of the famous teacher of that time - Gert Cornelis Van Timer, who wrote several textbooks on physics. Lorentz since then fell in love with the physical and mathematical sciences.

At the age of 13, Lorenz enters the Hogereburgerschool,where the level of education received corresponded to the gymnasium. Learning was easy thanks to the skills of exceptional teachers:

  • Van Der Stadt, who wrote a physics textbook;
  • Jacob Martin van Bemmelen, chemistry teacher.

Lorenz loved physics with all his heart, but was a versatile person:

  • Was interested in historical science;
  • I read a lot, giving preference to the historical works of Walter Scott, the novels of Charles Dickens, William Thackeray;
  • I independently learned to speak and read English, German, French, Greek, Latin.

Lorenz was helped by the ability to quickly and with amazing accuracy to remember a significant amount of information and a keen interest in learning.

Alma Mater

Since 1870 Lorenz has been studying at Leiden University.He was lucky that his teachers were great scientists:

  • Physicist Pieter Rijke;
  • Mathematician Pieter van Geer;
  • Astronomer Frederik Kaiser.

Lorenz independently studies the scientific works of James Maxwell, Michael Faraday, Hermann Helmholtz and others.

A year after admission, in 1871, Henrik Lorenz defended his master's thesis.After that, he returns home and enters the service as a mathematics teacher at the Timmer School (Timmer) and at the same time in an adult night school. In his free time, he immersed himself in science.

Lorentz's interest was focused on Maxwell's theory of the electromagnetic field.Lorentz's experiments were aimed at proving the existence of electromagnetic waves. After another 2 years, in 1873, Lorenz defended his dissertation on the properties of light rays, and received the title of Doctor of Science. And again he returns home and continues to work as a school teacher.

In 1876, Lorenz was offered to teach permanently in Utrecht, but refused, hoping to eventually get a place in Leiden. And so it happened: in 1878, the great natural scientist was included in the Department of Theory of Physics.

Lorentz turned out to be one of the pioneers in the development of the theoretical direction of this science and achieved great success in the development of theories of optics, electromagnetic field, and electronic theory.

One of the directions is the study of the relationship between the speed of motion and the kinetic energy of physical bodies, which laid the foundation for many provisions of mechanics.Lorentz's work influenced the developers of the theory of relativity, including Albert Einstein.


Lorenz enjoyed lecturing in Leiden in various branches of physics, the students loved him very much. The lectures were so popular that they were written down and published in textbooks.

He continued to lecture on Mondays at Leiden University until the very end of his life.

Since 1882, Lorenz began to engage in educational activities among a wide circle of the population, began to read public lectures, and this occupation became his whole life's work - to bring knowledge to people.

A family

In 1881, Lorenz married Aletta Kaiser, 1858-1931), in 1885, a daughter, Gertrude Luberta, appeared, who was named with a double name in memory of Henrik's mother and adoptive mother.

Hendrik Anton Lorenz

Lorenz's wife took care of him and tried to provide him with peace and comfort in the house, an ideal environment that did not interfere with scientific work.
In 1889, another daughter, Johanna Wilhelmina, was born, in 1893 a boy was born to the couple, who soon died, and in 1895, a boy Rudolf.

The first daughter, like her father, was carried away by physical and mathematical research and devoted her whole life to this.

By nature, Lorenz was very sociable, friendly people, with a subtle sense of humor.He was always surrounded by friends and associates, students and followers. Contemporaries talked about his diplomatic talents, about the ability to build communication in any situation, about the great pedagogical gift of the great physicist.

Contribution to world science

Lorentz's theory combined the concepts and laws of two sciences - optics and electrodynamics.In his Ph.D. thesis, Lorentz outlined his views that the electromagnetic field affects the speed of propagation of light. The fact is that light waves passing through the electromagnetic field are refracted under the influence of the smallest charged particles in the medium. Lorentz proved his hypothesis by presenting an experiment in the course of which the dispersion of the spectrum was observed.

The next conclusion of Lorentz was the dependence of the magnitude of refraction of a light beam by the density of the medium through which it passes.
Lorentz's electronic theory was based on the ideas of his predecessor Maxwell.The scientist separates particles of matter with positive and negative charges and calls them ions. The movement of such particles is the reason for the appearance of electric current and electromagnetic phenomena. Evidence was presented through experiments on electrolytes and gases.

Hendrik Lorenz

A charged particle, falling into an electromagnetic field, gets under its influence and deviates from its original trajectory. The second consequence of the effect of an electromagnetic field on a moving body is a decrease in the volume of such a body.

Such conclusions were awarded the Nobel Prize, as they turned out to be the basis for explaining many physical and chemical processes.
The next step in the development of electronic theory was the conclusion about the dependence of the electron mass on the speed of its motion.This conclusion served as an impetus for the development of the theory of relativity, for the study of the nature of gravity.

Lorentz proposed a formula for the force that acts on a charged particle in an electromagnetic field. This force is studied in the school physics course and is called the Lorentz force.

The scientist makes his contribution to both thermodynamics and the development of the theory of gases, develops the problems of the relationship between thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity, the electrodynamics of moving bodies.

Lorentz understands that the further development of physics will go towards quantum theory and the theory of relativity. However, the classic scientist, accustomed to investigating all phenomena through numerous painstaking experiments and thus representing traditional physics, could not reconstruct his thinking in order to move from broad generalizations to their proofs. Lorenz supported new directions in the study of matter and space, in his lectures he promoted them all over the world.

World renown

Until 1897, Lorenz was famous only in Leiden and in the universities of Holland.In 1897, he traveled outside the borders of the Netherlands for the first time in his life.and presented the results of his own long-term research at a symposium in Dusseldorf, where researchers of natural sciences and doctors spoke.

Hendrik Anton Lorenz activities

Since this year, he has been constantly participating in scientific conferences, where he was able to meet Wilhelm Roentgen, Ludwig Boltzmann, Max Planck and others.

His views on the structure of the atom and the theory of electrons become popular all over the world., at the same time he presents his theories about the dispersion of light and other waves, about the properties of metals, about electromagnetic induction, electrical conductivity, etc. He learned physical phenomena "from below and from within", conducting numerous experiments and observations on the smallest elements and, on the basis of meticulous analysis, putting forward hypotheses and making generalizations.

In 1902, along with Peter Seemann (Peter Seemann), Lorenz was awarded the Nobel Prize.In a speech about the merits of Lorentz, his role in the study of the structure of the atom, in the creation of an electronic theory was noted.

After that, he acted as a lecturer on problems of physical science in Berlin, Paris, New York, etc. Since 1909, Lorenz headed the department of physics research at the Royal Academy of Sciences of the Netherlands.

In 1911 he moved to Harlem and became the head of the Taylor Museum, where he had the opportunity to study science in his own laboratory. At the same time, he cannot refuse the activity of a lecturer and continues to popularize current discoveries in the world of physics.Lorenz was convinced that science is needed by a wide range of people.He is enthusiastically involved in the work of the committee for the protection of Amsterdam from floods, participates in a project aimed at the implementation of permanent control of water threatened by floods.

He acts as an unselfish engine of enlightenment: he seeks to open public library funds and reading rooms in Leiden, a lyceum in the city of The Hague, and the International Institute of Physics. Thanks to Lorenz, the Solvay Stichting Foundation provides scholarships and other grants to talented young scientists.

After World War I, Lorenz advocated the unity of all representatives of science.

In Lorenz, a far-sighted theoretician and a wise teacher with a capital letter were united. That's whysince 1921 he has been the head of the Dutch higher education department.Since 1923 he has been participating in the implementation of the programs of the International Committee for the interaction of representatives of scientific knowledge from different countries. Even in the Soviet Union in 1925 he was elected an honorary member of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

In 1925, Lorenz was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Princes of Orange-Nassau (Van Oranje-Nassau) - the most significant award in the Netherlands.

Lorenz died in 1928 from a serious illness, on the day of the funeral the whole state plunged into mourning, famous scientists came to say goodbye to him before his last journey, Albert Einstein delivered his farewell speech. An amazing scientist, a talented teacher, an unselfish servant of the cause of public education - such was Hendrik Anton Lorenz.

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