Frithiof Holmgren established Sweden's first physiological laboratory in 1862 and became the country's first professor of physiology at the age of 33. He was also a most prominent teacher at Uppsala University.
As a scientist, he became internationally known with the discovery of the retinal current in the eye.
The studies of color blindness made Holmgren internationally famous and in 1874 he described his method of using different colored "sefir yarn dolls", the so-called wool yarn sample, to demonstrate color blindness.
The method was of great practical importance for people in signalling services, such as railway personnel and seafarers. A train accident in Lagerlunda in 1875 was suspected of a train driver not being able to distinguish between red and green. No one had thought that the colour vision could have an impact on railway staff.
The equipment used by Holmgren in the discovery of the retina lattural stream, i.e. the retina's electrical response to light impressions. The equipment consists of a mirror galvanometer and a light catcher with a clockwork that drives the mirror. Photo: Museum of Medicine in Uppsala.
A more macabre study that Holmgren undertook focused on whether beheading was a painless method of execution. Holmgren was therefore present at four beheadings to investigate the method from a physiological point of view.
According to Holmgren, the case studies showed that beheading as a method met the requirements for a painless way of execution.
Holmgren also participated in the debates in Verdandi, and his radical stance appeared in his dictation to the protocol of the consistorio:
"I consider the freedom of thought as one of man's most precious privileges, and the university where the tenet of thought is not primarily, does not, in my view, fulfil its task. To educate the studying youth to thinking men, should, according to my understanding, be one of the university's main tasks.".
Frithiof Holmgren also emphasized the importance of physical education and formed the Students' Sharp Shooting Association, the Students' Gymnastics Association and was chairman of the folk dance association Philochoros and promoter in Uppsala swimming society.
Burial site: 0125-1141
Image description: Frithiof Holmgren, unknown year. Photo: Unknown photographer / UUB. [The image is cropped]
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