(July 18, 1853 – February 4, 1928)
Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was among the most outstanding physicists of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Despite losing his mother before the age of 10, he was able to persevere: focusing on his studies and excelling in both arts and sciences. At the age of 24, he was appointed a professor of theoretical physics: thus, occupying the inaugural chair at Leiden University (which was his alma mater). Settled in this position, Lorentz wasted no time in carving a niche for himself: thanks to early encouragements from Pieter Rijke (his doctorate supervisor) and Frederik Kaiser (his astronomy professor). From hydrodynamics to electrodynamics, and from general relativity to quantum mechanics, no part of mathematical physics seems to evade his intrusion. In the process, he collaborated with several of his colleagues and corresponded with his growing brood of protégés. The relevance of his probes was such that he provided theoretical frameworks to generations of researchers. This was how he contributed to the discovery of Zeeman Effect, which saw him and his former student, Pieter Zeeman, share the physics Nobel Prize in 1902. In addition to that, Lorentz contributed to Einstein’s Relativity Theory, to Hippolyte Fizeau’s Fizeau Experiment, and to a host of others. Remarkably influential, he chaired the first Solvay Conference in 1911, and later chaired the International Committee on Intellectual Corporation (the forerunner of UNESCO) from 1925 to 1928. Hendrik Lorentz is the eponym of several items, including: the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Lorentz Medal, and the 312-kilometer-wide Lorentz lunar crater.