Ernst Heinrich Weber

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Weber, Ernst Heinrich

(ĕrnst hīn`rĭkh vā`bər), 1795–1878, German physiologist. He was a professor at the Univ. of Leipzig (1821–71) and is known for his work on touch and for the formulation of Weber's law—that the increase in stimulus necessary to produce an increase in sensation is not fixed but depends on the strength of the preceding stimulus. With his brother Eduard Friedrich Weber, 1806–71, he discovered the inhibitory power of the vagus nerve (1845). With another brother, W. E. WeberWeber, Wilhelm Eduard
, 1804–91, German physicist. He was professor (1831–37, 1849–91) at the Univ. of Göttingen, where he worked with C. F. Gauss on terrestrial magnetism and devised an electromagnetic telegraph.
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, he made studies of acoustics and wave motion.
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Weber, Ernst Heinrich


Born June 24, 1795, in Wittenberg; died Jan. 26, 1878, in Leipzig. German anatomist and psychophysiologist. In 1818 he became a professor of anatomy and then of physiology at the University of Leipzig. Weber’s principal works were devoted to the study of sensitivity (mainly skin and muscular). Creating a number of methods and instruments for experimental study of the sense organs (some of them are used to this day—for example, Weber’s compass for determining the threshold of skin sensitivity), Weber discovered the presence of regular relationships between the strength of the action of external physical stimuli and the subjective reactions that are caused by them—sensations. Having shown the subordination of psychological phenomena to number and measure, these works of Weber laid the basis for psychophysics and experimental psychology. In 1845, together with his brother Eduard Weber, he discovered the inhibiting influence of the vagus nerve on heart activity, which laid the basis for concepts of inhibition as a special physiological phenomenon. A number of important works on determination of the absolute strength of muscles and on the study of mechanisms of walking and other motor activities belong to Weber.

Since he was an advocate of natural-scientific explanations for psychological acts, Weber criticized the principle of the “specific energy of the sense organs,” which denied the dependence of psychological acts on external stimuli.


De Pulsu, Resorptione, Auditu et Tactu. Leipzig, 1834.
Tastsinn und Gemeingefühl. Leipzig, 1905.


Fraisse, P., and J. Piaget (compilers). Eksperimental’ naia psikhologiia, issue 1. Moscow, 1966. Chapter 1. (Translated from French.)
Iaroshevskii, M. G. Istoriia psikhologii. Moscow, 1966. Chapters 7 and 9.
Boring, E. G. A History of Experimental Psychology, 2nd ed. New York, 1950.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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