Helmholtz, Hermann (Ludwig Ferdinand) von biographical name
(born Aug. 31, 1821, Potsdam, Prussiadied Sept. 8, 1894, Charlottenburg, Berlin, Ger.) German scientist, one of the greatest of the 19th century. After training in medicine, he taught physiology and later physics at several German universities. His interests continually shifted to new disciplines, in which he applied his earlier insights to every problem he examined. He made fundamental contributions to physiology, optics, electrodynamics, mathematics, acoustics, and meteorology, but is best known for his statement (1847) of the law of conservation of energy. His approach was strongly empirical at a time when many scientists embraced deductions from mental concepts. He invented several measurement instruments, including the myograph, ophthalmoscope, and ophthalmometer. He described body heat and energy, nerve conduction, and the physiology of the eye. His mathematical analysis of vortices in fluids (1858) was a tour de force. His work in electrodynamics built on that of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell but was eventually superseded by that of Albert Einstein.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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