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Hermann von Helmholtz

Nature volume 68, pages 193196 (02 July 1903) | Download Citation



I. EDUCATION AND PHYSIOLOGICAL WORK. THE third and last volume of Koenigsberger's biography of the great natural philosopher has now appeared. The whole work is worthy of its subject; the author made it his aim, as he tells us in his preface, to set forth Helmholtz's manifold and various achievements as a discoverer in such a way as to render them intelligible to all scientific readers. Helmholtz is best known by his discoveries in experimental physics, but during the first half dozen years after the completion of his professional education, the business of his life was that of an army surgeon., It was as an army surgeon that he published, between 1842 and 1848, those remarkable researches on fermentation, on the nature of muscular contraction, and on the production of heat therein, the results of which served as the foundation for the building up of a new science of physiology. Even the treatise on the “Erhaltung der Kraft,” or, as we now call it, the conservation of energy, although mainly physical, exercised its chief influence on physiologists. In natural philosophy the principle set forth in it had been already recognised, but had not as yet been presented to the physiological student as a fundamental doctrine, or successfully applied to the phenomena of life.

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