Julius Robert Mayer’s Ideas on a Theory of Tidal Friction
The key to the understanding of his general mode of proceeding lies in a more or less casual remark of Mayer’s in a letter to his friend Carl Baur from July 24th 18411. Here he speaks of a “System of Physics” which he has brought back with him from a voyage to the East Indies. This might sound somewhat conceited for a young doctor with scanty knowledge of physics, were it not for Mayer’s almost proverbial modesty. Yet exactly this non-professionalism is a necessary condition for his further investigations, as he discloses the gaps in established science, without déformation professionelle, and on the other hand is compelled to become acquainted with doctrinal physics well enough to be able, if necessary, to recognize his new ideas as chimeras. His point of departure “from physical and pathological investigations” is thereby not so much his oft-quoted discovery of bright red veinous blood, and his (in fact incorrect) explanation whereafter the reduced loss of heat in the human body in the tropics effects a lowered combustion process in the blood, but the clearly stated question “Can the mechanical effect produced in the animal by the expenditure of combustion develop or not?”2. His intention to answer this question for physiology leads Mayer into physics without constraint.
KeywordsYoung Doctor Casual Remark July 24th 18411 Tropic Effect Tangential Acceleration
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