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Martinus Veltman

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Subject: Electroweak interaction, Elementary particle, Feynman diagram, Quantum field theory, Peter Debye, John Stewart Bell, Subatomic particle, Top quark, Yang–Mills theory, List of Dutch poets
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Martinus Veltman

Martinus Justinus Godefriedus Veltman
Born (1931-06-27) June 27, 1931 (age 83)
Waalwijk, Netherlands
Nationality Netherlands
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Utrecht University
Alma mater Utrecht University
Doctoral students Gerardus 't Hooft
Peter Van Nieuwenhuizen
Bernard de Wit
Notable awards Nobel Prize in physics (1999)

Martinus Justinus Godefriedus Veltman (Dutch: [ˈvɛltmɑn]; born June 27, 1931) is a Dutch theoretical physicist. He shared the 1999 Nobel Prize in physics with his former student Gerardus 't Hooft for their work on particle theory.


Martinus J.G. Veltman was born in Waalwijk, Netherlands on June 27, 1931. He started studying mathematics and physics at Utrecht University in 1948. He obtained his PhD in theoretical physics in 1963 and became professor at Utrecht University in 1966.

In 1963/64, during an extended stay at SLAC he designed the computer program Schoonschip for symbolic manipulation of mathematical equations, which is now considered the very first Computer algebra system.

In 1971, Gerardus 't Hooft, who was completing his PhD under the supervision of Veltman, renormalized Yang-Mills theory. They showed that if the symmetries of Yang-Mills theory were to be realized in the spontaneously broken mode, referred to as the Higgs mechanism, then Yang-Mills theory can be renormalized.[1][2] Renormalization of Yang-Mills theory is a major achievement of twentieth century physics.

In 1981, Veltman left Utrecht University for the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, frustrated by the exclusive recognition his student 't Hooft got for his PhD thesis. Veltman felt that he had formulated the problem, carried out most of the preliminary work, and written the program which actually made that dissertation possible; however, he felt that most of the credit went to 't Hooft.[3]

Eventually, he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1999 with 't Hooft, "for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics".[4] Veltman and 't Hooft joined in the celebrations at Utrecht University when the prize was awarded.

Veltman is now retired and holds a position of Emeritus Professor at the University of Michigan. Asteroid 9492 Veltman is named in his honor.

In 2003, Veltman published a book about particle physics for a broad audience, entitled Facts and Mysteries in Elementary Particle Physics, published by World Scientific Publishing.

Views on religions and superstitions

In an interview[5] with Harold Kroto he states:

We are living in a totally ridiculous world. We have all kinds of things from horoscopes to Zen Buddhism to faith healers to religions to what have you. All kinds of things are going around in the world [...], including what politicians do and the kind of nonsense they let us swallow. The whole world around us is full of nonsense, baloney, big speak and what have you. And that of course is not new. 99% of what people do usually moves in the sphere of something which is irrational, not correct, what have you? So in this whole world of all the baloney that goes on why does it [science] exist? It's because [...] a few hundred years ago Galilei, Copernicus and these people discovered the scientific method. And the scientific method is something that allows you to make progress whereby your statement is this: In the scientific method [...] the only criterion we have is that it can be explored experimentally and if we have a theory we will believe it if it produces something that can be verified experimentally. And in this way without telling us why and how it is there we have separated our science from religion. We have found a basis on which we can access without being put on a stack and set to fire. So for science it's very essential that we take a position that through the scientific method that keeps us away of all the irrationalities that seem to dominate human activities. And I think we should stay there. And the fact that I'm busy in science has little or nothing to do with religion. In fact I protect myself, I don't want to have to do with religion. Because once I start with that I don't know where it will end. But probably I will be burned or shot or something in the end. I don't want anything to do with it. I talk about things I can observe and other things I can predict and for the rest you can have it.



  • Veltman, M. "Perturbation Theory of Massive Yang-Mills Fields", Utrecht Rijksuniversiteit (Netherlands). Instituut voor Theoretische Fysica. Paris Univ., Orsay (France). Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Hautes Energies, (Aug. 1968).
  • Veltman, M. & J. Yellin. Atomic Energy Commission), July 1966.

External links

  • Autobiography (Nobel Archive 1999)
  • University of Michigan Page
  • United States Department of Energy
  • Freeview video 'An Interview with Martinus Veltman' by the Vega Science Trust
  • Freeview video 'Why do we need a linear collider'

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