Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand

1821-1894

Hermann Helmholtz, born in 1821 at Potsdam, was the son of a professor at the Potsdam Gymnasium, and of Caroline Penn Helmholtz, an English woman. He was a distinguished physician, physiologist and physicist. Helmholtz began the study of medicine in Berlin in 1839. In 1843, was appointed military surgeon at Potsdam; in 1848, teacher of anatomy in the Academy of Fine Arts, in Berlin; in 1849, professor of physiology at Heidelberg, and in 1871 he returned to Berlin University as professor of natural philosophy. Helmholzt's writings have also won a world-wide reputation, and have been translated into several languages. That with which we are most conc erned is a Treatise on the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, in which he gives a series of experiments, by which he established a physical foundation for the phenomena manifested by musical tones, single or combined. This treatise supplements and completes theories of Rameau, Tortine, Wheatstone, Corti and others and establishes, by science, what Hauptmann and his school sought to prove by a long argumentative process. Of great interest to musicians are his Survey of the Musical Systems of the Ancients, and his Physiological Optics, suggesting analogies between color spectrum and notes of the piano. By his scientific investigations he opened the path for students and established a scientific foundation for musical laws.