Martinus J.G. Veltman
Martinus J.G. VeltmanIn 1948, Veltman started his studies in Mathematics and Physicsat Utrecht University. These were not the easiest of times, as World War II had left the world of science in the Netherlands 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.He had worked at CERN in Geneva for a number of years, in the Theoretical Physics department. It was during this period that he designed the symbolic computer programme called 'Schoonschip', which was to form the basis for many of the symbolic programmes commonly used by researchers all over the world. Not only was Veltman a groundbreaking researcher, but he also proved to be a great innovator and stimulator of teaching activities. He certainly played a leading role in modernising the Physics curriculum in Utrecht.
Shortly before his return to Utrecht, Veltman had become fascinated with the possibility of producing a field-theoretical description of what is known as the weak force in nature. This force is responsible for the phenomenon of beta-radioactivity. This was a difficult subject and, apart from a handful of mainly Russian scientists, not many ventured to study it at first. Things started to change by the end of the 1960s, however, and the real breakthrough came in the early 1970s, after the publication of the PhD thesis of Veltman's student Gerard 't Hooft and the groundbreaking articles co-written by the two scientists. Within a very short period of time, the significance of the research being carried out in Utrecht received worldwide recognition.
In 1981, Veltman left Utrecht University for Michigan. Although the Institute for Theoretical Physics pressed him to stay, the United States exerted a great attraction over Veltman and the faculty was unable to keep him in Utrecht. Veltman's role received explicit recognition when, in 1999, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics together with 't Hooft. Both scientists took part in the various festivities that Utrecht University organised in their honour that year.
Physicist Martinus (Tini) Veltman passed away on Monday 4 January 2021 at the age of 89.