A Living Work of Art: The Life and Science of Hendrik Antoon Lorentz

ISBN : 9780198870500

A. J. Kox; H. F. Schatz
304 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Feb 2021
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Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was one of the greatest physicists and mathematicians the Netherlands has ever known. Einstein called him ". During his funeral in 1928, the entire Dutch nation mourned. The national telegraph service was suspended for three minutes and his passing was national and international front-page news. The cream of international science, an impressive list of dignitaries, including the Prince Consort, and thousands of ordinary people turned out to see Lorentz being carried to his last resting place. This biography describes the life of Lorentz, from his early childhood, as the son of a market gardener in the provincial town of Arnhem, to his death, as a towering figure in physics and in international scientific cooperation and as a trailblazer for Einstein's relativity theory. A number of chapters shed light on his unique place in science, the importance of his ideas, his international conciliatory and scientific activities after World War One, his close friendship with Albert Einstein, and his important role as Einstein's teacher and intellectual critic. By making use of recently discovered family correspondence, the author was able to show that there lies a true human being behind Lorentz's facade of perfection. One chapter is devoted to Lorentz's wife Aletta, a woman in her own right, whose progressive feminist ideas were of considerable influence on those of her husband. Two separate chapters focus on his most important scientific achievements, in terms accessible to a general audience.


1 Childhood and student years
2 Professorship and family life
3 Aletta, woman in her own right
4 Early work and Electron theory
5 The new century: Prospect and retrospect
6 The Nobel Prize and international recognition
7 Haarlem, Einstein, Ehrenfest and Solvay
8 Quantum theory and the General Theory of Relativity
9 The First World War
10 The Zuiderzee Commission
11 International cooperation in crisis
12 The final years: Travel and tributes
List of abbreviations
Family tree

About the author: 

Anne J. Kox was trained as a theoretical physicist and obtained a doctorate from the University of Amsterdam. After ten years of research in theoretical physics, he switched to the field of history of science. In his research he has focused on the history of modern physics, in particular in the Netherlands. For thirty years, he has been one of the editors of the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. He also edited the two-volume edition of the scientific correspondence of Hendrik Antoon Lorentz. At the University of Amsterdam, he is now Pieter Zeeman Professor of History of Physics, Emeritus.; Henriette F. Schatz holds a Master's Degree in translation and interpretation from the University of Amsterdam and a Doctorate in Linguistics from Georgetown University, Washington DC. She has been active as an interpreter, translator, and editor since the early nineteen sixties. After writing a doctoral dissertation on the city dialect of Amsterdam, she worked in sociolinguistic research, both in the United States and in the Netherlands. After some ten years of research, she moved on to international management consulting. In recent years she has focused again on editing and translating mainly scientific texts, such as the letters by Dutch correspondents in the scientific correspondence of Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, edited by A.J. Kox.

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