Maarten Schmidt

Professor of Astronomy at Cal Tech


Dutch American Heritage Award 1994 Recipient

Professor Dr. Maarten Schmidt, the Francis L. Moseley Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, is one of the world”s renowned leaders of optical astronomy.

Ever since he was a teenager, he has been wondering about the nature of the sun, the planets and the stars, which fill the universe. His uncle, an amateur astronomer, guided him in the use of a telescope. Before graduating from high school in the city of his birth, Groningen, in the Netherlands, he had already become such an expert in the field of astronomy that his mathematics teacher often asked him to take over the astronomy class.

In 1956, a year after he graduated from the University of Leiden with a doctorate degree, he was awarded a Carnegie Institute Post-Doctoral Fellowship and joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology, home of the famous Hale Observatory with the then largest telescope in the world.  After completing his two-year fellowship, he briefly went back to the Netherlands, but decided to return to Caltech in 1959 as Assistant Professor of Astronomy

In 1962 Schmidt unraveled the mysteries surrounding the so-called quasar stellar objects by a deep analysis of the redshift pattern of their spectra. For this groundbreaking work Schmidt was honored, received worldwide recognition and made the cover of Time Magazine. In 1979, by royal decree, he was knighted in the Order of the Lion of The Netherlands. With his colleague, Dr. J.L. Greenstein, he was named California Scientist of the Year.

Corrie, his wife, is a fiber sculpture artist.  Her work has been recognized throughout the United States. They relax by playing chamber music, Corrie at the piano and Maarten playing the violin. They also like to spend time in the desert and enjoy taking long walks on the Oregon beach with its cloudy sky and misty atmosphere, which reminds them of their early days in the Netherlands. Family life revolves around their three daughters and two grandchildren.

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