Walther Nernst, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Robert A. Millikan und Max von Laue
Hermann von Helmholtz was an exceptional researcher of the 19th century. He was a qualified doctor, a physicist with all his heart and was very interested in philosophy. Von Helmholtz was a networker, who communicated with scientists and politicians both across geographical borders and over the boundaries of various disciplines long before it had become fashionable to talk about terms like “interdisciplinary” and “globalization”. He was known as the “Imperial Chancellor of the Sciences” for good reason. With his legendary paper “On the Conservation of Force” at the Physikalische Gesellschaft zu Berlin (German Physical Society), he lent weight to and expanded the understanding of the law of energy conservation. To highlight just some of the milestones of his work: he conducted research on the perception of sound and invented the ophthalmoscope that is still used for the diagnosis of many diseases today. While doing all this, von Helmholtz never lost sight of how his work could benefit mankind. “Knowledge alone is not the purpose of man on earth, only action gives us a dignified existence: action for the progress of humanity” – of this he was convinced.
Von Helmholtz became a professor at the universities of Königsberg and Heidelberg and was raised to the nobility in 1883. Along with Werner von Siemens, he worked on the establishment of PTB’s forerunner in Berlin, the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt (Imperial Physical Technical Institute – PTR). He became its first president and remained true to the PTR until his death in 1894.