Physicist, Deceased Person
1856 – 1901
Who was Arthur König?
Arthur Peter König devoted his short life to physiological optics. Born with congenital kyphosis he studied in Bonn and Heidelberg, moving to Berlin in the fall of 1879 where he studied under Hermann von Helmholtz, whose assistant he became in 1882. After obtaining a doctoral degree in 1882 he qualified for a professorial position in 1884. In 1890 he became director of the physical department of the Physiological Institute of the University of Berlin. In the same year he married Laura Köttgen with whom he had a son, Arthur, who became an astronomer. Circulatory problems caused by his kyphosis resulted in his premature death in 1901.
Originally working in physics, he began in 1883 to concentrate on physiological optics where he published over thirty papers, some of seminal importance. Among these are the 1886 paper ‘Fundamental sensations and their sensitivity in the spectrum’, an empirical determination of what in fact is the spectral sensitivity of the human rod and cone sensors of vision.
Earlier attempts at such measurements, but based on much simpler technology, had been made in 1860 by the English physicist James Clerk Maxwell. Using newly development spectrophotometric equipment and modifications of the experimental procedure König and Dieterici published a more detailed paper in 1892, determining the “fundamental sensations” not only of subjects with normal color vision but also of dichromats and monochromats.
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