Maarten Schmidt


Maarten Schmidt (born December 28, 1929) is a Dutch-American astronomer who measured the distances of quasars.

Maarten Schmidt
Maarten Schmidt 1978.png
Maarten Schmidt in 1978
Born (1929-12-28) December 28, 1929 (age 92)
Alma materLeiden Observatory
Known forquasars
AwardsKarl Schwarzschild Medal (1968)
Kavli Prize (2008)[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Technology
Doctoral advisorJan Oort

Born in Groningen, The Netherlands,[2] Schmidt studied with Jan Hendrik Oort. He earned his Ph.D. degree from Leiden Observatory in 1956. He was a co-recipient, with Donald Lynden-Bell, of the inaugural Kavli Prize for Astrophysics in 2008.[1]

In 1959, he emigrated to the United States and went to work at the California Institute of Technology. In the beginning, he worked on theories about the mass distribution and dynamics of galaxies. Of particular note from this period was his formulation of what has become known as the Schmidt law, which relates the density of interstellar gas to the rate of star formation occurring in that gas.[3][4] He later began a study of the light spectra of radio sources. In 1963, using the 200-inch reflector telescope at the Palomar Observatory, Schmidt identified the visible object corresponding to one of these radio sources, known as 3C 273 and also studied its spectrum. While its star-like appearance suggested it was relatively nearby, the spectrum of 3C 273 proved to have what was at the time a high redshift of 0.158, showing that it lay far beyond the Milky Way, and thus possessed an extraordinarily high luminosity. Schmidt termed 3C 273 a "quasi-stellar" object or quasar; thousands have since been identified.



Named after him


  1. ^ a b c "2008 Kavli Prize Laureates in Astrophysics". 28 August 2008.
  2. ^ "The Rumford Prize". Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 22 (3): 8–9. January 1969. JSTOR 3822873.
  3. ^ Schmidt, Maarten (1959). "The Rate of Star Formation". The Astrophysical Journal. 129: 243. Bibcode:1959ApJ...129..243S. doi:10.1086/146614.
  4. ^ Kennicutt, Robert C. (1998). "The global Schmidt law in star-forming galaxies". The Astrophysical Journal. 498 (2): 541–552. arXiv:astro-ph/9712213. Bibcode:1998ApJ...498..541K. doi:10.1086/305588. S2CID 17323152.
  5. ^ "Maarten Schmidt – Mar. 11, 1966". Time. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007.
  6. ^ "Maarten Schmidt". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  7. ^ "Maarten Schmidt". Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  8. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  9. ^ "M. Schmidt". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
  10. ^ "Maarten Schmidt". German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  11. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  12. ^ "Gruppe 2: Fysikkfag (herunder astronomi, fysikk og geofysikk)" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Retrieved 7 October 2010.

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