Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, Dutch physicist, c 1920.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving. Lorentz (1853-1928) is one of the most prominent figures in the history of physics and relativity theory. His 'Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction', which explained the apparent absence of relative motion betweeen the Earth and the 'ether' (a medium formerly asumed to permeate space and fill the spaces between particles of matter), prepared the way for Einstein's (1879-1955) theories of relativity. In 1902, Lorentz was awarded, jointly with Pieter Zieman (1865-1943), the Nobel Prize for physics.