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Ludimar Hermann (1838-1914)

Ludimar Hermann (October 31, 1838, Berlin – June 5, 1914, Königsberg) was a German speech scientist who used the Edison phonograph to test theories of vowel production, particularly those by Willis and Wheatstone. He was the first to coin the term formant, which is of the utmost importance is modern acoustic phonetics.

Hermann was also influential as a physiologist. The following is taken from his obituary notice published by the Royal Society of London.


Ludimar Hermann was born in Berlin in 1838. [...] [He died] on June 5, 1914, when he had reached the age of nearly 76 years.

It was Hermann's fortune to be concerned with the investigation of certain problems in physiology which were much discussed at the time. Du Bois Reymond had propounded the view that the electrical currents to be obtained from muscle [...] are to be accounted for by the presence of a series of "electromotive molecules," positive in the middle, negative at both ends, arranged in regular order. The existence of such permanent structures was disproved by Hermann when he showed by careful experiments that an uninjured muscle is equipotential over the whole surface [...]

The second main region of his work [...] was concerned with the analysis of voice and speech. In this his mathematical skill was of much service. Use was made of photographic registration and a method of magnifying the impressions on phonograph records was worked out. It is impossible to describe this work in detail, but the main point was the view of the composition of vowel sounds to which it led. This view was that vowel sounds are not merely characterised by harmonics of tones produced in the larynx, but that sounds are added to these by blowing through the mouth cavity, specially adjusted for each vowel sound.

Many other branches of physiological research received valuable contributions from Hermann's laboratory. Heat production, respiration, and the blood pigment may be mentioned. To him, as it appears, should be given the credit of pointing out that the digestive processes in general are of the nature of hydrolytic decompositions, and that their object is to afford the simple materials to be used by each cell for the building up of its own special products. [...]

Hermann's success in research was due in great part to his exceptional skill in the design, construction, and use of apparatus as needed for the problems on which he was engaged. Most of these problems depended for their solution on the accurate measurement of physical quantities.

Hermann was strongly of the opinion that physiology must be studied for its own sake, not merely for its use in the practice of medicine. [...] That such knowledge, sooner or later, has its practical application is illustrated by the use to which Hermann's discoveries in the field of the electrical phenomena of muscle has been put in the methods of diagnosis by electrocardiographic records.

From Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B. Vol. 91, No. 641 (Nov. 15, 1920), pp. xxxviii-xl.

External links

The Hermann Grid is named after Ludimar Hermann, the German physiologist who first reported the illusion in scientific literature.

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