Heinrich Friedrich Weber
1843 – 1912
Who was Heinrich Friedrich Weber?
Heinrich Friedrich Weber was a physicist born in the town of Magdala, near Weimar. Around 1861 he entered the University of Jena, where Ernst Abbe became the first of two physicists who decisively influenced his career. Weber soon discovered, however, that he lacked sufficient mathematical talent, and so he abandoned mathematics entirely.
Returning to physics, Weber found in Abbe a young and dynamic scientist, one who successfully focused much of his research efforts on re-thinking optical theory. Abbe not only instructed Weber in the lecture hall and laboratory, he also served as a role model for him in several other ways: through his emphasis on the importance of laboratory work in general and precision instrumentation in particular; through his view that science should be closely related to practical life; and through his embodiment of the idea that a single individual could accomplish much in life. This last point, according to Pierre Weiss, Weber’s obituarist and successor at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, as the Zurich Polytechnic came to be called after 1911, was “the mainspring of his [Weber’s] life, the source of his most beautiful successes”.
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