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Carl Pulfrich

Carl PulfrichBiography, German physicist

German physicist
Carl Pulfrich
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German physicist
Was Scientist Physicist Photographer
From Germany
Type Arts Science
Gender male
Birth 24 September 1858, Burscheid, Germany
Death 12 August 1927, Timmendorfer Strand, Germany (aged 68 years)
Star sign LibraLibra
The details


Pulfrich in 1889

Carl P. Pulfrich (September 24, 1858 in Burscheid, Rhine Province – August 12, 1927 in Baltic Sea, drowned when his canoe capsized) was a German physicist, noted for advancements in optics made as a researcher for the Carl Zeiss company in Jena around 1880, and for documenting the Pulfrich effect, a psycho-optical phenomenon that can be used to create a type of 3-D visual effect.

Advances in optics

Pulfrich was employed to develop stereoscopy from being pure entertainment to a powerful quantitative technique. His apparatus to measure distances stereoscopically was first presented in Munich in 1899. This was further developed to a stereo-comparator which was presented in Hamburg in 1901. Stereoscopy was used for topographic geography, astronomy and oceanography because everything could be done quickly and precisely. He pioneered the use of stereoscopy from planes for topographic purposes.

Pulfrich had realised that people in whom visual function differed between both eyes perceived the stereo-effect:

“Gibt es doch, wie sich jetzt herausgestellt hat, Personen, die auch im freien Sehen das Kreisen der Marke sehen, links oder rechts herum, je nachdem bei dem betreffenden Beobachter das linke oder das rechte Auge schneller reagiert als das andere. In solchen für den Augenarzt besonders beachtenswerten Fällen konnte jedesmal eine mehr oder weniger grosse, durch einseitigen Gebrauch oder andere Ursachen erworbene Ungleicheit der beiden Augen nachgewiesen werden.”
[There are, as we have found out, people who can perceive the circulation of the pointer without using a neutral density filter. The left- or rightward movement depends on whether the observer’s left or right eye reacts quicker than the other. In these cases, relevant to the ophthalmologist it was always possible to demonstrate a difference between the two eyes, due to unilateral use (Translator’s remark: Pulfrich refers to amblyopia) or other causes.]

Pulfrich's comment implies a list of diseases in which the stereo-effect can occur. He wondered why the stereo-effect was not noted earlier because of the abundance of swinging clock pendulums:

“Wenn man bedenkt mit welch einfachen Mitteln die Erscheinung der kreisenden Marke hervorgerufen werden kann, so kann man sich nur darüber wundern, dass sie anscheinend nicht schon früher einmal beobachtet worden ist, wozu doch jeder Uhrenladen die Gelegenheit bietet.”
[If one considers the simple means used to produce the phenomenon of the circulating pointer, one wonders why this observation has not been made earlier, particularly as every shop selling clocks offers this opportunity.]

— Carl P. Pulfrich

Pulfrich refractometer

A Pulfrich refractometer measures refractive index of a sample by measuring the critical angle of the sample with a well characterized prism. Pulfrich and Max Wolz invented it at the Zeiss factory.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 09 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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