Helmholtz: From Enlightenment to Neuroscience

Front Cover
MIT Press, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 235 pages

Although Hermann von Helmholtz was one of most remarkable figures ofnineteenth-century science, he is little known outside his native Germany. Helmholtz (1821--1894)made significant contributions to the study of vision and perception and was also influential in thepainting, music, and literature of the time; one of his major works analyzed tone in music. Thisbook, the first in English to describe Helmholtz's life and work in detail, describes his scientificstudies, analyzes them in the context of the science and philosophy of the period -- in particularthe German Naturphilosophie -- and gauges his influence on today'sneuroscience.

Helmholtz, trained by Johannes Müller, one of the best physiologistsof his time, used a resolutely materialistic and empirical scientific method in his research. Hiswork, eclipsed at the beginning of the twentieth century by new ideas in neurophysiology, hasrecently been rediscovered. We can now recognize in Helmholtz's methods -- which were based on hisbelief in the interconnectedness of physiology and psychology -- the origins ofneuroscience.

 

Contents

Prelude
1
1 Helmholtz
11
2 Natural Philosophy in Young Helmholtzs Time
17
3 Johannes Müller Man of Iron
43
4 Vitalism
55
5 Helmholtz and the Understanding of Nature
71
6 In Search of Lost Time
89
7 Goethe and His Vision of Nature
107
9 The Founding Regard
137
10 For or Against Pythagoras?
153
11 The Musical Ear
179
Conclusion
201
Postface
211
Notes
217
Bibliography
227
Copyright

8 The Dispute about Colors
119

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About the author (2010)

Michel Meulders is Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience and Honorary Prorector of the Catholic University of Louvain, where he also was Dean of the Medical School from 1974 to 1979. Laurence Garey, a neuroscientist and anatomist, is the translator of Michel Jouvet's The Paradox of Sleep (2001) and The Castle of Dreams (2008), both published by the MIT Press.