120 years ago this month, Hendrik Lorentz published his landmark paper that laid out the basis for “electron theory”. This was not proof of the electron as a particle, as that didn’t happen until 1897, thanks to J.J. Thomson.
Lorentz took the collected equations of James Clerk Maxwell and distilled their mess into simple rules of charge and motion. It laid the groundwork for Einstein’s special relativity, and allowed fields like materials and electronics to exist.
It was elegant work, a melding of a half century’s worth of varied influences and observations, distilled into simple equations that spawned entirely new fields of physics. A true collaboration of curiosity.
Einstein himself said of Lorentz: “For me personally he meant more than all the others I have met on my life’s journey.”
(via Scientific American. Of course, Lorentz would know that electrons look nothing like what I drew above.)