Ignaz Döllinger

1770 (Bamberg, Germany) – 1841 (Munich)

Döllinger was at the forefront of a more modern way of thinking about bodily and other natural processes. Agassiz, Oken, Baer, Pander, Schimper and Braun were all among his students. Oken later became a colleague in Munich, where Agassiz, schimper and Braun lodged with him, and found him an enthusiastic encourager, bringing botanical specimens to Braun and keeping an eye on Agassiz’s breeding experiments (their room became the centre of much academic activity, and was known as the ‘Little Academy’.

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Albrecht von Haller

1708 (Bern) – 1777 (Bern)

Haller revolutionised physiology. Boerhaave and Albinus taught him at Leiden, and Winsløw in Paris (he also studied mathematics with Bernoulli in Basel). Pringle was a fellow-student and close friend, corresponding for decades and instrumental in Haller’s opium addicition. Haller met Sloane and Cheselden in London, corresponded in Latin with Linnaeus for 30 years, and called Morgagni his master. Réaumur, Bodmer, Sulzer, Gottsched, Voltaire, Euler and Morgagni were among his extensive correspondents. Casanova visited him, describing him as a physical as well as mental colossus.

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach

1752 (Gotha, Germany) – 1840 (Göttingen)

Blumenbach effectively invented anthropology and (with Vicq d’Azyr) comparative anatomy; some later followers ignored his increasingly enlightened ideas about racial classification. As a student he was employed by Heyne (his future brother-in-law) to organise his natural history collection. Haller was a mentor, Goethe and Kant friends (Blumenbach refuted Kant’s ideas of European superiority), as were Lichtenberg and Forster (who together published important work of his). He taught Humboldt, Sömmering and Lawrence; Coleridge also met him and attended his lectures. Banks, another friend, sent him skulls for his collection.

Hermann von Helmholtz

1821 (Potsdam, Prussia, now Germany) – 1894 (Charlottenberg)

Helmholtz is a towering figure in science, his work notable for its scope and vision. Mitscherlich and Müller both taught him, with Brücke and du Bois-Reymond fellow-students and lasting friends. He himself taught Planck, Hertz, König, Michelson and James; Hertz (happily) and Wundt (less so) became his assistants. He found his close colleague Kirchhoff extraordinarily clear-headed, Faraday as unaffected as a child. He drank “remarkably good wine” with Plücker. Magnus offered him research facilities when he was stuck in the army, while Humboldt hastened his release. Siemens was a lifelong close friend, whose son married Helmholtz’s daughter.

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Carl von Voit

1831 (Amberg, Germany) – 1908 (Munich)

Voit was a research student under Liebig at Giessen, bringing a biologist’s skills to the nutritional work initiated by Liebig. On Liebig’s advice he then spent a year studying under Wöhler in Göttingen. His work with Pettenkofer, an older Liebig student, established modern nutritional science. First an assistant at Pettenkofer’s Munich laboratory, they became lifelong friends. Baeyer was a university colleague there. The biological journal he and Pettenkofer started became his way of staying in touch with developments; while Pettenkofer took care of the broader framework, Voit concentrated on the laboratory work.

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Carl Schmidt

Carl Ernst Heinrich Schmidt;Karl Genrikhovich Schmidt

1822 (Mitau, Prussia, now Jelgava, Latvia) – 1894 (Dorpat, Russia, now Tartu, Estonia)

Schmidt studied with Rose and Müller in Berlin before becoming one of Liebig’s research students. He then worked for a year with Wöhler. The older Bidder was Schmidt’s great collaborator; although they didn’t work together again after publication of their great double study of digestion and metabolism, they remained university colleagues and good friends.

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Claude Bernard

1813 (Saint-Julien, France) – 1878 (Paris)

Bernard brought rigorous scientific method to the study of medicine, while also influencing a circle of artists and writers (especially Zola). As a student, Rayer was his mentor, Magendie his beacon (he became Magendie’s assistant and eventual successor). His friend Pelouze gave him curare-tipped arrows to experiment with, and along with Rayer arranged a marriage for him. He worked with his friend Pasteur on pasteurisation and in the demolition of old beliefs in spontaneous generation. Taine and Renan were friends, Chevreul a colleague, Berthelot both friend and colleague, and Bert and d’Arsonval research assistants.

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Joseph Le Conte

Joseph Leconte

1823 (Liberty County, Ga.) – 1901 (Yosemite, Calif.)

Le Conte studied with Gray and Agassiz, and accompanied Agassiz on expeditions. He moved to California in fear of post-Civil-War politics in the southern states (he was not a supporter of racial equality), and befriended Muir, with whom he helped found the Sierra Club; perhaps fittingly, Le Conte died in Yosemite.