Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894), the namesake of the Helmholtz Association, is one of Germany’s most important researchers. He would have been 200 years old on 31 August.
Helmholtz intertwined medicine, physics and chemistry. He was interested in optics and acoustics, meteorology and thermodynamics, but also in psychology, philosophy and music.
He wrote many theoretical works, experimented and also invented technical devices, such as the ophthalmoscope, with which the fundus of the eye can be examined.
He set up three scientific institutes, including the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt in Berlin, which, for the first time, combined basic research with industrial application.
“Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transformed from one form into other forms” – a fundamental principle in physics.
Helmholtz actually wanted to study physics. The family’s income, however, was not sufficient enough for that. Enlisting in military service ensured that he could study medicine almost free of charge.
In brain research, microscopy and thermodynamics as well as in pattern recognition through artificial intelligence – and in the quest to connect disciplines.
Illustration: Diane Köhne