ANN ARBOR---Martinus J.G. Veltman, the John D. MacArthur Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Michigan, has been awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in physics.
Veltman joined the U-M physics faculty in 1981 after 15 years as a professor of physics at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands where he completed the pioneering mathematical work cited by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in today's Nobel Prize announcement. From 1981 until his 1997 retirement, Veltman was an active member of the U-M physics department and was particularly involved in teaching and mentoring graduate students.
"Richard Sands, our former department chair, had the wisdom to convince Prof. Veltman to spend the remainder of his professional career here at Michigan," said Ctirad Uher, U-M professor of physics and current department chair. "Veltman's stature as a world-class authority in high-energy particle theory attracted many post-doctoral students and research scientists to U-M. He was a gentle man who held strong opinions on many subjects and never hesitated to exercise those opinions."
"This is an extraordinary moment for Dr. Veltman and we congratulate him on this recognition of his definitive contributions to theoretical particle physics," said Lee C. Bollinger, U-M president. "He brings great honor to the University of Michigan and we take pride in his association with us."
Veltman shares this year's Nobel Prize in physics with his former graduate student, Gerardus 't Hooft, who is now a professor of physics at the University of Utrecht. They received the prize for work done in the 1960s and 1970s which made it possible for physicists to mathematically predict properties of the sub-atomic particles that make up all matter in the universe and the forces that hold these particles together.
Veltman's work was vital to the 1995 discovery of the top quark, which was observed for the first time during experiments conducted at the FermiLab particle accelerator near Chicago, Ill. Homer A. Neal, U-M professor of physics, was one of several U-M faculty members who participated in experiments at FermiLab that confirmed the existence of the top quark.
"Without Veltman's and 't Hooft's work, discovery of the top quark would have been impossible," Neal said. "While the concepts behind the Standard Model---the theory that describes the elementary particles and forces in the universe---were well-known in the physics community, their work gave us a way to apply the theory to real-world events. It was of monumental importance to advances of modern physics."
Neal and other U-M physicists currently are involved in a search for the Higgs boson---another particle Veltman predicted to explain the origin of mass. These experiments will take place at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ratindranath Akhoury, a U-M professor of physics, describes Veltman as a teacher who wanted his students to be independent. "He would help, but only so much," Akhoury added. "He always said that five years from now, you're going to be on your own and no one will be there to help you. He truly was my mentor."
Veltman is a member of the Dutch Academy of Science and is a fellow of the American Physical Society. He has served on policy committees at all of the world's major high energy physics laboratories. Among his many honors are the U-M Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, the Alexander von Humboldt Award (Germany); Doctor honoris Causa from SUNY-Stonybrook; and the Fifth Physica Lezing (The Netherlands). In 1992, he was knighted into the Dutch order of the Lion in honor of Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. He received the 1993 High Energy Physics Prize from the European Physical Society.
Contact: Sally Pobojewski
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U-M News Service
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