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September 1968

Helmholtz on Perception: Its Physiology and Development.

Arch Neurol. 1968;19(3):349. doi:10.1001/archneur.1968.00480030127018

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Authentic clinical geniuses are rare, but by any standards Helmholtz falls within the category. Known to every medical student as the discoverer of the ophthalmoscope and as the philosopher-king of color vision, he was, in addition, as this excellent collection of his essays shows, a figure of quite profound significance in the history of medicine.

He represented the balance between the art and the science of medicine. His original ambition was to be a physicist, and he employed his mathematical gifts in explaining the physiology of perception. At the same time, he was interested in the relevance of these physical and physiological principles to the arts of music and painting. His work represents, too, a balance between the hard labor of experimentation and fruitful theorizing. He was able to discuss lucidly not only clinical empiricisms, but the controversy between nature and nurture, and even the deficiencies of Kantian philosophy; he

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