Robert Mayer (1814–1878)

In 1842 Dr Julius Robert von Mayer was the first scientist to describe heat and motion as “different manifestations of one and the same fundamental force”. This was to become the First Law of Thermodynamics, paving the way for the Standard Model of Physics which is still valid today.

As a young gentleman Mayer discovered this law while on a nature watching trip to South-East Asia. He was not a trained physicist and later became a general practitioner in the city of Heilbronn. After a profound existential crisis he was regarded an eccentric until he was finally recognised as discoverer of the Law of Conservation of Energy all over the world.

1800 1870