Hermann von Helmholtz: A 19th Century Renaissance Man

Barry R. Masters

Hermann von Helmholtz was many things to many people: physicist, teacher, medical doctor, aesthete and more. He drew on his extensive knowledge of many fields to invent the ophthalmoscope—a device that revolutionized ophthalmology—when he was just 29 years old.


figurePortrait of Helmholtz by Ludwig Knaus (1881).

If any life exemplifies the value of interdisciplinary education and good mentoring, it is that of Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz. From the time he was a boy, Helmholtz was encouraged to follow his curiosity and to cultivate an appreciation for both science and the arts.

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