Johannes Müller (doctor)

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Johannes Müller 1801-1858
Johannes Müller 1801-1858
Johannes Müller Memorial on Jesuitenplatz in Koblenz (erected in 1899)
Müller statue by Richard Ohmann , above the main entrance to the Museum of Natural History in Berlin

Johannes Peter Müller (born July 14, 1801 in Koblenz , † April 28, 1858 in Berlin ) was a German physician, physiologist and comparative anatomist or zoologist as well as marine biologist and natural philosopher . He dealt primarily with nerve and sensory physiology, expanded the theory of reflexes and is considered the most important physiologist of the 19th century.


In his place of birth, Müller attended high school as a student of Joseph Görres . After finishing school, Müller served a year with the pioneers in Koblenz before enrolling at the Bonn University of Medicine in 1819 . There he was u. a. Student of the anatomist and physiologist August Franz Josef Karl Mayer .

While still a student he wrote a scientific paper on the breathing of the fetus, which was awarded by the university and appeared in print in 1823. Müller graduated with a doctorate in 1822 and moved to the University of Berlin , where he attended the lectures of the anatomist Karl Asmund Rudolphi (1771-1832). In 1824 Müller completed his habilitation in Bonn for physiology and comparative anatomy. In the same year he was elected a member of the Leopoldina . In 1826 he received the title of associate professor and in 1830 became a full professor. Already during his habilitation in 1826 his two extensive works On the comparative physiology of the sense of sight and On the fantastic facial phenomena were published . Despite a call to Freiburg, he stayed at Bonn University until 1833. Then he succeeded Rudolphi in Berlin. There he published his famous handbook of physiology from 1833 to 1840, which became a worldwide success. He conducted fundamental research on neurophysiology as well as anatomy and zoology.

In 1847 Müller was admitted to the Royal Society of Edinburgh as an Honorary Fellow . In 1849 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . In 1853 he received the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art and in 1854 the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in London and the Prix Cuvier of the Paris Academy.

In the last years of his life, Müller was repeatedly attacked by depression. On the morning of April 28, 1858, he was found dead in his Berlin apartment; his cause of death remained unknown. His student Rudolf Virchow gave the memorial speech at the funeral service on July 24, 1858 in the auditorium of the University of Berlin. Müller was buried in the St. Hedwigs cemetery in Berlin on Liesenstrasse . The tomb has not been preserved.

Ernst Haeckel continued the work published by Müller year of his death to describe the Strahlentierchen (radiolarians) continued.


Müller is considered one of the great natural philosophers of the 19th century. His main work "of epochal importance" is the manual of human physiology for lectures , two volumes in three parts (1833, 1834, 1840). Haeckel called him “the most important German biologist of the 19th century”. A history of zoology published in 1872 mentions him by name in the title: History of Zoology except for Joh. Müller and Charl. Darwin .

Müller also founded the research into the creatures floating in the sea, which he called buoyancy at the advice of Jacob Grimm (today called plankton at the suggestion of Victor Hensen ). In 1832 he made his first microscopic examinations. The scientific discipline of plankton research that emerged from this in 1846 on the then British island of Helgoland culminated in the establishment of the Royal Prussian Biological Institute on Helgoland , today's Biological Institute of Helgoland , with a school of marine biologists working in fauna . The plankton fishing gear used and further developed by Müller were crucial aids that brought a methodical paradigm shift in marine research , like diving in the bottle again later . He is the first to describe Radiolaria , a group of marine unicellular organisms that have microscopic skeletal structures. His description of the regularity of the skeletal structure of the acantharia subgroup later became known as Müller's law : “One obtains [..] for the acanthometry with 20 spines the same formula that there are 5 belts of spines between two spineless poles, each of 4 spines, all directed towards the common center of the whole sphere, and that the spines of each belt alternate with the preceding one. ”The larval form of the vortex worms occurring in plankton was named after its discovery by Müller's larva .

In 1826 he formulated the law of specific sensory energies , which expresses that every sense organ only reacts to stimuli of different quality in its own way. The eye reacts to pressure with a sensation of light ( see asterisks ). From this he drew the conclusion that the objective reality surrounding us could not be properly recognized or reflected. His Synapta work (1852), in which he interprets the emergence of snail larvae in an organ of a sea cucumber as a generation change (between two animal classes!) (Instead of as parasitism), which makes his view of the world clearly shaped by natural sciences untenable, can be regarded as a key work for this seemed to be. In the last instance he questioned the recognizability of the world in general. The philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach criticized this as physiological idealism . More recently, physiological idealism has been given a boost in the work of the biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (see Autopoiesis ), who for their part strongly influenced contemporary philosophy and sociology (constructivism, postmodernism, systems theory).

Müller died the year before Charles Darwin's main work was published . The topic of the origin of the species was sometimes discussed beforehand; Müller's answer to a related question from Haeckel marks a widespread assessment at the time:

“Yes, we are faced with a lot of puzzles! We don't know anything about the origin of species! "(1854)

Initial descriptions

  • Order: Ophiurida MÜLLER & TROSCHEL 1840


  • Manual of Physiology , his main work "of epochal importance"
    • Volume 1 (1833); 3rd edition 1838
    • Volume 2 (1840)

In addition to this work, he published the following works, among others:

  • On the physiology of the fetus
  • On the comparative physiology of the visual sense (1826)
  • About the fantastic facial phenomena (1826)
  • Educational history of the genitals (1830), in which he described the development of the Müller gangs described
  • De glandularum secernentium structura penitiori (1830)
  • Contributions to the anatomy and natural history of amphibians (1832)
  • Comparative anatomy of the myxinoids (1834–1843)
  • On the fine structure and shape of the pathological tumors (Berlin 1838)
  • About the compensation of physical forces in the human vocal organ (1839)
  • with Franz Hermann Troschel: About the genera of the Ophiurs . Archive for Natural History, 6, Berlin 1840, pp. 327-330
  • Systematic description of plagiostomes (1841), with Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle
  • with Franz Hermann Troschel : System of the asterids (1842)
  • Horae ichthyologicae: Description and illustration of new fish , 2 T. (1845–1849), with the same
  • About Synapta digitata and the formation of snails in Holothuria (1852).

After the death of JF Meckel (1781–1833) he published the archive for anatomy, physiology and scientific medicine , which is then mostly cited as Müller's archive .


His students and staff included:



See also

Web links

Commons : Johannes Peter Müller  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Johannes Peter Müller  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. a b Johannes Müller: On the physiology of the fetus . In: Journal for Anthropology . S. 423–483 , urn : nbn: de: hebis: 30-1098365 ( [PDF; 3.0 MB ; accessed on February 1, 2019] First edition: 1824).
  2. a b Johannes Müller: About the fantastic facial phenomena . Digitized and full text in the German text archive
  3. ^ A b Johannes Müller: Handbook of human physiology for lectures . tape 1 ( [accessed on January 31, 2019] first edition: J. Hölscher, Coblenz 1838).
  4. ^ A b Johannes Müller: Handbook of human physiology for lectures . tape 2 ( [accessed on January 31, 2019] first edition: J. Hölscher, Coblenz 1840).
  5. Johannes Steudel: Johannes Müller and Neurophysiology. In: Karl Eduard Rothschuh (Ed.): From Boerhaave to Berger. The development of continental physiology in the 18th and 19th centuries with a special focus on neurophysiology. Stuttgart 1964 (= Medicine in History and Culture. Volume 5), pp. 62–70.
  6. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF file) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed March 23, 2020 .
  7. Hans Körner: The Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art and its members . In: Zeitschrift für Bayerische Landesgeschichte 47, 1984, pp. 299–398. Online at:
  8. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende: Lexicon of Berlin tombs . Haude & Spener, Berlin 2006. p. 55.
  9. ^ A b Holger Münzel: Max von Frey. Life and work with special consideration of his sensory-physiological research. Würzburg 1992 (= Würzburg medical historical research , 53), ISBN 3-88479-803-0 , especially pp. 175–207 ( short biographies ), here: p. 197.
  10. Ernst Haeckel: The struggle for the development idea. 3 lectures. Reimer, Berlin 1905, p. 23.
  11. ^ Julius Victor Carus : Munich 1872.
  12. Darmstädter, p. 852 (PDF; 2.6 MB)
  13. Johannes Müller: About the Thalassicollen, Polycystinen and Acanthometren of the Mediterranean Sea , treatises of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin, 1858, p. 12
  14. ^ As reported by Haeckel: Kampf, p. 24. Cf. Franz Stuhlhofer : Charles Darwin - Weltreise zum Agnostizismus. 1988, pp. 110-133: "Admission of Darwinism in Germany".
  15. Johannes Müller: Educational history of the genitals . ( [accessed on February 1, 2019] First edition: Arnz, Düsseldorf 1830, here Müller describes the development of the Müller gang ).
  16. Johannes Müller: About the finer structure and the forms of the pathological tumors . ( [accessed on February 1, 2019] First edition: Reiser, Berlin 1838).
  17. Johannes Müller: About the compensation of physical forces on the human vocal organ . ( [accessed on February 1, 2019] First edition: A. Hirschwald, Berlin 1839).
  18. Invitation from the faculty to the year's welcome event