In this paper, I will defend the thesis that Ernst Heinrich Weber was a scientific genius. Notably, sources about the life of Ernst Weber are scarce, and in most available sources, only a partial biography of his work and life exist. Nevertheless, I have been able to give a sketch of Ernst life as a scientific genius based on his biography available from a primary source. According to Albert (1975), a genius refers to someone who produces a large body of scientific work that has a significant influence on many people in future for generation. The work produced requires these people to come to terms with that person’s findings. Additionally, the work associated with a genius must be presented to others and may take talented or educated people to understand, implement, and surpass. Based on this definition, I have examined Ernst’s family environment, education performance, personal characteristics, and career development to argue that he was a scientific genius.
Weber Ernst Heinrich made important discoveries in medicine, physics, and psychology. He was born in an academic family background, which could explain his creative development and career progression in science. His father, Michael Weber, was a professor of theology. Ernst was the oldest in the family of thirteen children. Two of his brothers, Wilhelm and Eduard Weber were a precocious genius who later became scientists. His brother Eduard made a significant contribution to science. He attended the University of Halle and later became a professor at the University of Leipzig. His major contribution to science was the discovery of the phenomenon of vagal inhibition of the human heartbeat (Weber, 1996). Ernst and Eduard’s discovery led to the invention of the electric generator, which was later discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831 (Weber, 1996). Their discovery with Eduard was an essential milestone in the history of psychology, not because of its significance in the electric generator but because their study brought a new light on the processes that occur in human being central nervous system.
Ernst’s other brother, Wilhelm, also has an excellent aptitude for science. He is a famous physicist known for his contribution to the field of electromagnetic telegraphy. He studies natural philosophy in the University of Halle, where he later became a professor, and an author of a book on wave theory (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014). Ernst role model was Ernst Chladni, one of the famous physicists known as the father of the acoustics (Weber, 1996). As a child, Ernst Weber wanted to be a scientist, but he was not any special compared to his scientist’s brothers or other ten siblings after him. He was the oldest; therefore, he was likely to become a revolutionary scientist.
Most of his early discoveries were successful because of his collaboration with his brothers, which is one attribute of a genius scientist. Although he was not as intelligent as his brothers, he knew how to collaborate with them for mutual benefit. Notably, one of his major findings on the mechanical properties of the arteries was successful due to his collaboration with his precocious genius brother, Wilhelm. At the time, Wilhelm was only seventeen years, and preparing for his university entrance exam. According to Albert (2014), “a man’s genius or his potential for it, through evidence by the man himself, derived from genetic sources entirely external to him” (142). As such, even though a person may come from a family of genius, his genius attributes can only be accessed through his achievements and personal traits. Ernst made many discoveries by himself, and this is enough to qualify him as a scientific genius.
Weber performance in school was excellent. He reached his high school grade at the age of 12 and went to University at the age of 16 years (Weber, 1996). In high school, he acquired an excellent knowledge of Latin, which indicates his enthusiasm for discovery. In addition, Ernst seems consistent with his study, especially in the science related fields. After high school, he attended Medicine at the University of Wittenberg. In 1818, he received his master’s degree in Medicine from the University of Leipzig. Weber did not have any Ph.D. or doctorate education. He began his career immediately after graduation in 1817 (Weber, 1996). However, his master dissertation on comparative anatomy demonstrates his high intelligence and creativeness as a scientist, and this qualifies him as a scientific genius.
Ernst Weber was a revolutionary scientist; he produces a large body of scientific fact that has a significant influence on science as a field. His dissertation in college left an impression on the field of anatomy. He discovered vital structures in the human brain, some of which still bears his name until today. His dissertation and subsequent studies marked the beginning of comparative embryological as well as paleontological studies. His work led to the discovery of the intermediary stages between the visceral skeleton structure and the middle ear auditory. Essentially, this was a brilliant step in demonstrating a link between the continuity in the evolution of structure and isolated facts. He was able to prove that the digestive juices are products of glands from materials by the blood and not from the blood plasma as was earlier indicated by Malpighi (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014). He also demonstrated the importance of blood volume and its influence in the human body. Weber’s findings opened a new field of physiological research in brain structure and laid a foundation for the analysis of blood circulation. Ernst Weber may not have been a precocious genius scientist like his brother, Wilhelm, but he was a revolutionary scientist. Given that many scientists today spend their career working out the implementation of his work, and have come to terms with it, Ernst is without a doubt a scientific genius.
In essence, to some extent, Ernst Weber has some dispositional traits that can be associated with genius. He was open to experiences and was willing to try new things. When Ernst was young, he learned Latin, thenmedicine, physics and then later in life, he began to explore psychology. In one occurrence, he noticed particles lying on the surface of a ‘phial,’ and noticed a pattern when the ‘phial’ moved (Weber, 1996). However, unlike most scientists of his time, Ernst worked harmoniously with others. After this observation, he invited his brother Wilhelm. They join forces to investigate the matter, and the results of their study are still used in Hydrodynamics (Weber, 1996). Most of his work was a collaborative effort with his brothers or his mentors, something that demonstrates dispositional traits associated with genius.
Essentially, there is no available evidence of Ernst psychopathology on depression, mild psychosis, or other mental issues. However, his mother died of consumption also known as the wasting diseases at the time, when Weber was still in University, which could be a cause of grief (Weber, 1996). One can only speculate that Ernst had few symptoms of stress or workaholic. Through his entire life, it seems that Ernst was completely dedicated to his work and his career. Therefore, most of his interests were confined to science and was an avid collaborator in science and linguistics. Although this does not mean he possessed “genius-level” intellect, based on the definition of genius, this characterizes him as a scientific genius.
In many ways, Ernst professional life follows a pattern that one would expect to see in a revolutionary and genius scientist. He was a consistent and pioneering researcher before his career started. In 1817, he was appointed as the Docent of Psychology in his university when he was just 23 years old (Weber, 1996). His first scientific study from his master thesis left a lasting impression on the field of anatomy. He also becomes a professor of anatomy in 1818, a position that he held many years until moving to the psychology field towards the end of his life (Weber, 1996). His first physiological research was published when he was just 30 years old. Ernst was involved in hundreds of research and testing with students and his brothers. With his brother, he once wrote a treatise on the theory of music, which was concerned with wave theory (Weber, 1996). He also held many administrative positions and religious positions. He has held many academic honors including the membership of Royal Saxon society, and the Royal Society of London (Weber, 1996). From such an account, the impression is that Ernst was not only devoted to science but also other essential aspects of life. Nevertheless, his career development demonstrates a clear pattern of a scientific genius.
In this essay, I have argued that Ernst Heisting Weber life and discoveries fit the characteristics of a revolutionary and genius scientist. As noted, a genius is a person who has produces a long and large body of work with a significant influence on future generation. The work produced by this person requires other people to come to terms with differing attitudes, ideas, techniques, or viewpoints before they come to a sense of resolution and closure. Ernst may have originated from a family with precocious siblings and parents, so one may consider him to have a low intelligence than his siblings. However, his work throughout his life is sufficient evidence that he was a scientific genius. He made many discoveries by himself, starting with his thesis, which opened new doors in the field of anatomy and also laid a foundation for the analysis of blood circulation.
Albert, R. S. (1975). Toward a behavioral definition of genius. American Psychologist, 30(2), 142-145.
Hergenhahn, B. R., & Henley, T. (2014). An introduction to the history of psychology. Wadsworth: CengageLearning. https://bit.ly/2XfZAaK
Weber, E. H. (1996). EH Weber on the tactile senses. London: Psychology Press. https://bit.ly/2VUkWKK
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