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Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was a Dutch physicist who shared the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics with Pieter Zeeman for the discovery and elucidation of the Zeeman effect.

Lorentz studied physics and mathematics at the University of Leiden, where he was strongly influenced by the teaching of astronomy professor Frederik Kaiser; it was his influence that led him to become a physicist. After earning a bachelor's degree, he returned to Arnhem in 1872 to teach high school classes in mathematics, but he continued his studies in Leiden next to his teaching position. In 1875 Lorentz earned a doctoral degree under Pieter Rijke on a thesis entitled "Over de theorie der terugkaatsing en breking van het licht" (On the theory of reflection and refraction of light), in which he refined the electromagnetic theory of James Clerk Maxwell.

While Lorentz is mostly known for fundamental theoretical work, he also had an interest in practical applications. In the years 1918-1926, at the request of the Dutch government, Lorentz headed a committee to calculate some of the effects of the proposed Afsluitdijk (Closure Dike) flood control dam on other seaworks in the Netherlands. Hydraulic engineering was mainly an empirical science at that time, but the disturbance of the tidal flow caused by the Afsluitdijk was so unprecedented that the empirical rules could not be trusted. Lorentz proposed to start from the basic hydrodynamic equations of motion and solve the problem numerically. This was feasible for a "human computer", because of the quasi-one-dimensional nature of the water flow in the Waddenzee. The Afsluitdijk was completed in 1933 and the predictions of Lorentz and his committee turned out to be remarkably accurate.

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Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was a Dutch physicist who shared the 1902 Nobel Prize in Physics with Pieter Zeeman for the discovery and elucidation of the Zeeman effect.

Lorentz studied physics and mathematics at the University of Leiden, where he was strongly influenced by the teaching of astronomy professor Frederik Kaiser; it was his influence that led him to become a physicist. After earning a bachelor's degree, he returned to Arnhem in 1872 to teach high school classes in mathematics, but he continued his studies in Leiden next to his teaching position. In 1875 Lorentz earned a doctoral degree under Pieter Rijke on a thesis entitled "Over de theorie der terugkaatsing en breking van het licht" (On the theory of reflection and refraction of light), in which he refined the electromagnetic theory of James Clerk Maxwell.

While Lorentz is mostly known for fundamental theoretical work, he also had an interest in practical applications. In the years 1918-1926, at the request of the Dutch government, Lorentz headed a committee to calculate some of the effects of the proposed Afsluitdijk (Closure Dike) flood control dam on other seaworks in the Netherlands. Hydraulic engineering was mainly an empirical science at that time, but the disturbance of the tidal flow caused by the Afsluitdijk was so unprecedented that the empirical rules could not be trusted. Lorentz proposed to start from the basic hydrodynamic equations of motion and solve the problem numerically. This was feasible for a "human computer", because of the quasi-one-dimensional nature of the water flow in the Waddenzee. The Afsluitdijk was completed in 1933 and the predictions of Lorentz and his committee turned out to be remarkably accurate. More...

 
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