- Hermann von Helmholtz
name = Hermann von Helmholtz
image_width = 225px
caption = Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz
birth_date = birth date|1821|8|31|mf=y
Potsdam, Kingdom of Prussia
nationality = German
death_date = death date and age|1894|9|8|1821|8|31|mf=y
Charlottenburg, German Empire
University of Königsberg University of Bonn University of Heidelberg University of Berlin
alma_mater = Royal Friedrich-Wilhelm Institute
Johannes Peter Müller
Albert Abraham Michelson Wilhelm Wien William James Heinrich Hertz Michael I. Pupin Friedrich Schottky Arthur Gordon Webster
Conservation of energy
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (
August 31, 1821– September 8, 1894) was a German physicianand physicistwho made significant contributions to several widely varied areas of modern science. In physiologyand physiological psychology, he is known for his mathematics of the eye, theories of vision, ideas on the visual perceptionof space, color visionresearch, and on the sensation of tone, perception of sound, and empiricism. In physics, he is known for his theories on the conservation of energy, work in electrodynamics, chemical thermodynamics, and on a mechanicalfoundation of thermodynamics. As a philosopher, he is known for his philosophy of science, ideas on the relation between the laws of perception and the laws of nature, the science of aesthetics, and ideas on the civilizing power of science. A large German association of research institutions, the Helmholtz Association, is named after him.cite book | last = Cahan | first = David | title = Hermann von Helmholtz and the Foundations of Nineteenth-Century Science | publisher = University of California Press | year = 1993 | id = ISBN 0-520-08334-2]
Helmholtz was the son of the
PotsdamGymnasium headmaster, Ferdinand Helmholtz, who had studied classical philologyand philosophy, and who was a close friend of the publisher and philosopher Immanuel Hermann Fichte. Helmholtz's work is influenced by the philosophy of Fichte and Kant. He tried to trace their theories in empirical matters like physiology.
As a young man, Helmholtz was interested in natural science, but his father wanted him to study medicine at the
Charitébecause there was financial support for medical students.
Helmholtz wrote about many topics ranging from the
age of the Earthto the origin of the solar system.
His first important scientific achievement, an 1847
physicstreatise on the conservation of energywas written in the context of his medical studies and philosophical background. He discovered the principle of conservation of energy while studying muscle metabolism. He tried to demonstrate that no energy is lost in muscle movement, motivated by the implication that there were no "vital forces" necessary to move a muscle. This was a rejection of the speculative tradition of " Naturphilosophie" which was at that time a dominant philosophical paradigm in German physiology.rquote|left|I admire the original, free mind of Helmholtz| Albert Einstein|"August 1899" [Einstein, Albert. [Review of "Hermann von Helmholtz. Zwei Vortrage uber Goethe". W. Konig, ed. (Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1917).] "Die Naturwissenschaften" 5 (1917): 675. As quoted in: David Cahan’s 666-page book "Hermann von Helmholtz and the Foundations of Nineteenth-Century Science" (pg. v).]
Drawing on the earlier work of Sadi Carnot,
Émile Clapeyronand James Prescott Joule, he postulated a relationship between mechanics, heat, light, electricityand magnetismby treating them all as manifestations of a single "force" ( energyin modern terms [Early science terminology warning] ). He published his theories in his book "Über die Erhaltung der Kraft" ("On the Conservation of Force", 1847).
In the 1850s and 60s, building on the publications of
William Thomson, Helmholtz and William Rankinepopularized the idea of the heat death of the universe.
The sensory physiology of Helmholtz was the basis of the work of
Wilhelm Wundt, a student of Helmholtz, who is considered one of the founders of experimental psychology. He, more explicitly than Helmholtz, described his research as a form of empirical philosophy and as a study of the mind as something separate. Helmholtz had in his early refutal of the speculative early nineteenth century tradition of "Naturphilosophie" stressed the importance of materialism, and was focusing more on the unity of "mind" and body.
In 1851, Helmholtz revolutionized the field of ophthalmology with the invention of the
ophthalmoscope; an instrument used to examine the inside of the human eye. This made him world famous overnight. Helmholtz's interests at that time were increasingly focused on the physiology of the senses. His main publication, entitled "Handbuch der Physiologischen Optik" ("Handbook of Physiological Optics"), provided empirical theories on spatial vision, color vision, and motion perception, and became the fundamental reference work in his field during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was first translated into English under the editorship of James P. C. Southall on behalf of the Optical Society of Americain 1924-5. His theory of accommodation went unchallenged until the final decade of the 20th century.
Helmholtz continued to work for several decades on several editions of the handbook, frequently updating his work because of his dispute with
Ewald Heringwho held opposite views on spatial and color vision. This dispute divided the discipline of physiology during the second half of the 1800s.
Acoustics and aesthetics
In 1863 Helmholtz published "Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen als physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik" (On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music), once again demonstrating his interest in the physics of perception. This book influenced musicologists into the twentieth century. Helmholtz invented the Helmholtz resonator to show the strength of the various tones.
The book was translated by Alexander J. Ellis in 1885 (first English edition from third German edition completed June 1885, and second English edition from fourth German edition completed July 1885; see external links for download). [cite book | title = On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music | author = Hermann L. F. Helmholtz, M. D. | year = 1912 | edition = Fourth Edition | publisher = Longmans, Green, and Co]
In 1871 Helmholtz moved from
Heidelbergto Berlinto become a professor in physics. He became interested in electromagnetismand the Helmholtz equationis named for him. Although he did not make major contributions to this field, his student Heinrich Rudolf Hertzbecame famous as the first to demonstrate electromagnetic radiation. Oliver Heavisidecritcised Helmholtz' electromagnetic theorybecause it allowed the existence of longitudinal waves. Based on work on Maxwell's equations, Heaviside pronounced that longitudinal waves could not exist in a vacuum or a homogenous medium. Heaviside did not note, however, that longitudinal electromagnetic waves can exist at a boundary or in an enclosed space.
tudents and associates
Other students and research associates of Helmholtz at Berlin included
Max Planck, Heinrich Kayser, Eugen Goldstein, Wilhelm Wien, Arthur König, Henry Augustus Rowland, A. A. Michelson, and Michael I. Pupin. Leo Koenigsberger, who studied at Berlin while Helmholtz was there, wrote the definitive biography of him in 1902.
Helmholtz free energy
Helmholtz coilwhich was named in his honor.
Helmholtz pitch notation
Young-Helmholtz theory, about the trichromatic colour vision
*1971. "Selected Writings of Hermann von Helmholtz". Kahl, Russell, ed. Wesleyan Uni. Press.
*1977. "Helmholtz: Epistemological Writings". Cohen, Robert, and Wartofsky, Marx, eds. and trans. Reidel.
*Ewald, William B., ed., 1996. "From Kant to Hilbert: A Source Book in the Foundations of Mathematics", 2 vols. Oxford Uni. Press.
**1876. "The origin and meaning of geometrical axioms," 663-88.
**1878. "The facts in perception," 698-726.
**1887. "Numbering and measuring from an epistemological viewpoint," 727-52.
*Leo Koenigsberger, translated by Frances A. Welby "Hermann von Helmholtz" (Dover, 1965)
* " [http://books.google.com/books?vid=0CZkDzy7hqYWpJVqcWCZAHZ&id=5aUOAAAAIAAJ&pg=PT17 Hermann von Helmholtz] " (Obituary). Royal Society (Great Britain). (1894). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. London: Printed by Taylor and Francis.
* " [http://www.archive.org/details/hermannvonhelmho00koenrich Hermann von Helmholtz] " by Leo Koenigsberger (Oxford: Clarendon press, 1906) from
* J. G. McKendrick " [http://www.archive.org/details/hermannludwig00mckeiala Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz] " (London : Unwin, 1899)
*" [http://www.bartleby.com/30/125.html On the Conservation of Force] " Introduction to a Series of Lectures Delivered at Carlsruhe in the Winter of 1862–1863, English translation
*" [http://books.google.com/books?id=x_A5AAAAIAAJ&pg=PR3&dq=helmholtz&output=html On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music] " (downloadable from Google Books) Fourth Edition, By Hermann von Helmholtz, Alexander John Ellis, Published by Longmans, Green, 1912, 575 pages
*" [http://www.psych.upenn.edu/backuslab/helmholtz/index.html Treatise on Physiological Optics] " 1910, three volumes. English translation by Optical Society of America (1924-5).
* " [http://www.archive.org/details/popularlectureso00helmuoft Popular lectures on scientific subjects] " 1885
* " [http://www.archive.org/details/popularlectureso00helmrich Popular lectures on scientific subjects] " second series, 1908
* [http://vlp.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/people/data?id=per87 Biography, bibliography and access to digital sources] in the
Virtual Laboratoryof the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
NAME= Helmholtz, Hermann von
DATE OF BIRTH=
August 31, 1821
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=
September 8, 1894
PLACE OF DEATH=
Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany
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