Johannes Diderik van der
Waals, (1837-1923) Dutch physicist, Nobel prize winner 1910.
He started out as a schoolteacher in his home town, and in his spare time he studied physics and mathematics at the University in Leyden. In 1866 he moved to The
Hague, and in 1873 he obtained his doctor's degree for a work on the states of liquids and gases. This thesis turned out to be something out of the ordinary, and it made van der Waals one of the most respected physicists in the Netherlands. Soon, word spread and his work was translated into English and got publicity in Nature and other scientific publications.
In 1876 he was appointed as the first Professor of Physics when the University of Amsterdam got its university status. His work here led him to publish a paper that provided a general form - expressed in terms of critical quantities - for the equation of state for all substances. This he called The Law of Corresponding States. This law was important for the studies of liquid states at low temperatures, and was the foundations for several Nobel Prizes.
van der Waals also made important contributions to other studies of equilibrium states of substances and also to the theoretical explanation of capillarity.
He received the 1910 Nobel
Prize in Physics, with the motivation
"for his work on the equation of state for
gases and liquids"