Dutch physicist, who discovered the Zeeman effect. For this he was awarded the 1902 Nobel Prize for Physics.
The son of a Lutheran minister, Zeeman was educated at the University of Leiden, where he obtained his PhD in 1893. He taught initially at Leiden before moving to the University of Amsterdam in 1897. Zeeman remained at Amsterdam until his retirement in 1935, having served as professor of physics since 1900.
Like many physicists at the turn of the century, Zeeman was interested in the interaction between light and magnetic fields. His doctoral thesis had been concerned with this problem. Zeeman continued with this work and in 1896 explored the effect on the light emitted by a sodium flame when it is placed in a strong magnetic field. He found what at first seemed to be a broadening of the spectral lines. On a more careful examination, however, using more powerful magnets, he found certain spectral lines split into groups of two or three lines. Now known as the Zeeman effect, it turned out to be a quantum effect, only fully explicable in terms of quantum theory.
Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).