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Martinus J.G. Veltman (1931)

Martinus J.G. VeltmanIn 1948, Veltman started his Mathematics and Physics study at Utrecht University. Not the easiest of times, for World War II had left Dutch science in ruins. Under his supervisor Van Hove, Veltman obtained his PhD in Theoretical Physics in 1963 and was appointed Professor in 1966. By the time he returned to Utrecht, Velmtan had gained a formidable international reputation. For a number of years, he had worked at CERN in Geneva at the Theoretical Physics department. It was at this time that he designed the symbolic computer programme called 'Schoonschip', which was to become the basis of many of the symbolic programmes commonly used by researchers all over the world. Not only was Veltman a groundbreaking researcher, he also proved himself to be a great innovator and stimulator of teaching activities. He certainly played a leading role in modernising the physics' teaching programmes in Utrecht.

Shortly before his return to Utrecht, Veltman had become fascinated with the possible field theoretical description of the so-called weak force in nature. This force is responsible for the phenomenon of beta-radioactivity. This was a difficult subject and, apart from a few predominantly Russian scientists, not many ventured to study it at first. Things started to change by the end of the 1960s. The real breakthrough came in the early 1970s as a result of the PhD thesis by Veltman's student Gerard 't Hooft and the groundbreaking articles co-written by both scientists. Within a very short period of time, the significance of Utrecht research received worldwide recognition.

In 1981, Veltman left Utrecht University for Michigan. While the Institute for Theoretical Physics pressed him to stay, the United States held a very great attraction and the Faculty was unable to keep Veltman in Utrecht. Veltman's role was expressly recognised when, in 1999, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics together with 't Hooft. Veltman and 't Hooft both took part in the various festivities in their honour organised by Utrecht University that year.