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December 1994

Hermann von Helmholtz: A Century Later

Arch Ophthalmol. 1994;112(12):1524-1525. doi:10.1001/archopht.1994.01090240030021

HERMANN VON Helmholtz, one of the greatest scientists in history, died September 8, 1894. A physiologist and physicist, he made fundamental contributions in nerve and muscle physiology, physiological acoustics, the electromagnetic theory, chemical thermodynamics, hydrodynamics, electrodynamics, and physiological optics. He worked with non-Euclidean geometry and studied the philosophical foundations of science and the relationships of science with art, culture, and clinical medicine. His public lectures, frequently with demonstrations, brought scientific research and thought to the public. Late in his career, he encouraged relationships between academic scientists and industry and between scientists and governments.

Helmholtz was born in Potsdam, Germany, in 1821. His mother was a descendent of William Penn and his father was a teacher of philosophy and literature at the Potsdam Gymnasium. At the gymnasium, Helmholtz was strong in mathematics, physics, and especially optics. Although he desired to be a physicist, family financial problems precluded this wish, and he

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