EE Academic Genealogy Project
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Johannes Peter Müller
Prof. of Anatomy and Physiology
U. of Berlin
|Post-Doctoral work, University of Berlin
|Georg W. F. Hegel
|Ph.D., University of Berlin
|Karl A. Rudolphi
|M.D., University of Bonn, 1923
|Philipp Franz von Walther
Johannes Peter Müller (14 July 1801 – 28 April 1858), was a German physiologist, comparative anatomist, ichthyologist, and herpetologist, known not only for his discoveries but also for his ability to synthesize knowledge.
Müller was born in Koblenz. He was the son of a poor shoemaker, and was about to be apprenticed to a saddler when his talents attracted the attention of his teacher, and he prepared himself for the Roman Catholic priesthood.
When he was 18 though, his love for natural science became dominant, and he turned to medicine, entering the University of Bonn in 1819. There he received his M.D.. He then studied at Berlin. There, under the influence of Hegel and Rudolphi, he was induced to reject all systems of physiology which were not founded upon a strict observation of nature.
He became Privatdozent of physiology and comparative anatomy at Bonn in 1824, extraordinary professor of physiology in 1826, and ordinary professor in 1830. In 1833 he went to the Humboldt University of Berlin, where he filled the chair of anatomy and physiology until his death.
Müller made contributions in numerous domains of physiology, in particular increasing understanding of the voice, speech and hearing, as well as the chemical and physical properties of lymph, chyle and blood. His first important works, Zur vergleichenden Physiologie des Gesichtsinns (“On the comparative physiology of sight,” Leipzig, 1826) and Über die phantastischen Gesichtserscheinungen (“On visual hallucination,” Coblenz, 1826), are of a subjective philosophical tendency. The first work concerns the most important facts as to human and animal sight, the second sounds depths of difficult psychological problems. He soon became the leader in the science of the morphological treatment of zoology as well as of experimental physiology. To his research (1830) is due the settlement of the theory of reflex action.
In the century preceding Müller’s work, many contributions to physiological science had been made. Müller gave order to these facts, developed general principles and showed physiologists how recent discoveries in physics and chemistry could be applied to their work. The appearance of his magnum opus, Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen, between 1833 and 1840 (translated into English as “Elements of Physiology” by William Baly, and published in London 1837–1843) marked the beginning of a new period in the study of physiology. In it, for the first time, the results of human and comparative anatomy, as well as of chemistry and other departments of physical science, and tools like the microscope, were brought to bear on the investigation of physiological problems.
The most important portion of the work was that dealing with nervous action and the mechanism of the senses. Here he stated the principle, not before recognized, that the kind of sensation following stimulation of a sensory nerve does not depend on the mode of stimulation but upon the nature of the sense organ. Thus light, pressure, or mechanical stimulation acting on the retina and optic nerve invariably produces luminous impressions. This he termed the law of specific energies of the sense.
The book became the leading textbook in physiology for much of the nineteenth century. It manifests Müller’s interests in vitalism, philosophy and scientific rigor. He discusses the difference between inorganic and organic matter. He considers in detail various physiological systems of a wide variety of animals, but attributes the indivisible whole of an organism to the presence of a soul. He also proposes that living organisms possess a life-energy for which physical laws can never fully account.
Edward Forbes F.R.S. in his A History of British Starfishes, and Other Animals of the Class Echinodermata (1841) in his preface refers to Muller as the “one of the greatest living physiologists, Muller of Berlin”.
Müller mentored such distinguished scientists and physiologists as Hermann von Helmholtz, Emil du Bois-Reymond, Theodor Schwann, Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle, Carl Ludwig and Ernst Haeckel.
Müller died in Berlin in 1858. In 1899, a bronze statue was erected in his memory at Koblenz.
Hermann von Helmholtz
Professor of Physics
U. of Berlin
|Ph.D., University of Berlin
|Johannes Peter Müller
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (August 31, 1821 – September 8, 1894) was a German physician and physicist who made significant contributions to several widely varied areas of modern science. In physiology and psychology, he is known for his mathematics of the eye, theories of vision, ideas on the visual perception of space, color vision research, and on the sensation of tone, perception of sound, and empiricism. In physics, he is known for his theories on the conservation of energy, work in electrodynamics, chemical thermodynamics, and on a mechanical foundation of thermodynamics. As a philosopher, he is known for his philosophy of science, ideas on the relation between the laws of perception and the laws of nature, the science of aesthetics, and ideas on the civilizing power of science. The largest German association of research institutions, the Helmholtz Association, is named after him.
Helmholtz’s first academic position was associate professor of physiology at the Prussian University of Königsberg, where he was appointed in 1849. In 1855 he accepted a full professorship of anatomy and physiology at the University of Bonn. He was not particularly happy in Bonn, however, and three years later he transferred to the University of Heidelberg, in Baden, where he served as professor of physiology. In 1871 he accepted his final university position, as professor of physics at the University of Berlin.
Other students and research associates of Helmholtz at Berlin included Max Planck, Heinrich Kayser, Eugen Goldstein, Wilhelm Wien, Arthur König, Henry Augustus Rowland, A. A. Michelson, Wilhelm Wundt, Fernando Sanford and Michael I. Pupin. Leo Koenigsberger, who studied at Berlin while Helmholtz was there, wrote the definitive biography of him in 1902.