Robert Mayer discovers the Law of Energy Conservation
With the discovery by Robert Mayer (1814 – 1878) of the law of energy conservation, Heilbronn made an important contribution to the history of physics. The practical application of Mayer’s truth accounted for the rapid technological development in the 19th century.
The son of a pharmacist came to his ingenious discovery indirectly. After his medical studies, the young physician signed on to work aboard a Dutch ship in 184…0. During a blood-letting in an East-Indian harbor, he recognized that the venous blood of the Europeans was pale red and looked like the oxygenated arterial blood. Other doctors had noticed that phenomenon, but it remained unexplained. The answer came to Mayer like a thunderbolt. He concluded that the human body needs less oxygen in tropical climes than in temperate zones to maintain its blood heat. From this, he drew the conclusion that motion and heat are “different manifestations of one and the same energy”. So, they “must permute and transform into one another”.