Tini Veltman, a friend of the DFT and IFT

Tini Veltman, a friend of the DFT and IFT

With great sadness we learned of the death on the 4th of January 2021
of Martinus Justinus Godefriedus Veltman, known to many as Tini Veltman.
Tini was a great theoretical physicist, whose work played an essential
role in the establishment of the Standard Model as the main pillar in
our understanding of elementary particles and their interactions. This
is well known, and for this work he was awarded the 1999 Nobel prize
in Physics together with his former student Gerardus 't Hooft. What is
not so well known is the strong ties that Prof. Veltman had with
Universidad Autonoma de Madrid during several years of his life. Many
of us had the pleasure of discussing, talking and dining with him
during his yearly visits to the Department of Theoretical Physics at
our University. This was possible since Francisco José Ynduraín, Paco, the founder
of the Department, convinced Tini that a recurrent stay in Madrid could be
fruitful both from the scientific and human aspects. At that time Prof.
Veltman held the prestigious MacArthur chair at the University of
Michigan at Ann Arbor. This materialized in 1988 by sharing his
American chair with a part-time position of
extraordinary professor of the so-called Propio program of the
Spanish Ministry of Education. In this way, Veltman used to come to our
Department for around a couple of months per year and participated in
doctoral courses, and workshops held or organized by our department.
He also wrote several papers in collaboration with Paco Ynduraín, with
whom he had developed a solid friendship. I had been a front line
witness of this process since Tini's first visit, and had the chance to
talk with him about all kinds of things, scientific or not, in front of
a blackboard or a glass of wine. Tini had an extraordinary and very
strong character. He spoke his mind with honesty and had little
appreciation of conventionalism or diplomacy. This made him an
uncomfortable presence in some committees and panels. He also had a nice but
sometimes harsh sense of humour. I remember his funny descriptions of
the human landscape to be found in the neighbourhood of the Residencia de
Estudiantes, where he used to stay and which he loved. In his visits
to Spain he always brought with him his computer which had a
transparent cover where the chips and components could be seen
through, to avoid problems at the airport. His computer had ROM chips with his
program Schoonship burnt in. This had been the result of one of his visionary ideas: the necessity
of using computers to do complicated analytical calculations. Schoonschip was the
first of its kind, much before others like Mathematica, Maple, Matlab,
Reduce, Maxima, etc had been thought of. Complying with his character, scientifically
Prof. Veltman had very strong views, some of which were
unconventional. Indeed, this was the case when he was convinced of
the necessity of describing particle interactions by quantum field
theory. For years he pursued this roadway involving his students in
it. That was the case of Gerardus 't Hooft with whom he developed the
crucial steps to make the just born electroweak quantum theory mathematically
consistent. His strong views extended to some other aspects like
perturbation theory, the Higgs boson or the cosmological constant.
Some of his papers on these subjects were seminal.

Unfortunately, his professorship at UAM ended in 1996 when he became
65, three years short of the time when he was awarded the Nobel prize.
Still he continued visiting us and participating in events like Paco's
60th anniversary workshop, his own Nobel price celebration at our
premises, the Paco Yndurain Colloquium series or the Inauguration
workshop of the IFT building. Tini was always very positive about our
Institute and used his prestige to support us when requested. In
summary, he loved coming to Spain and enjoyed both the scientific and
human exchanges with us. With his death we have lost a friend as well
as a unique and irreplaceable figure.

Antonio Gonzalez Arroyo

IFT member and Catedrático de Física Teórica at DFT

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