Johann Jakob Balmer

Johann Jakob Balmer ( born May 1, 1825 Lausen, Canton Basel-Landschaft, † March 12, 1898 in Basel) was a Swiss mathematician and physicist.


He studied mathematics and architecture at the University of Karlsruhe and the University of Berlin. In 1849 he earned his doctorate at the University of Basel on the cycloid.

From 1859 until his death in 1898, he worked as a mathematics teacher ( literacy and numeracy teachers) on the Lower Girls' School in Basel. He also worked as a lecturer at the University of Basel from 1865 to 1890, with its heartland was the descriptive geometry. He married Christine Pauline Rinck in 1850, with whom he had six children.


Balmer was very versatile in his interests. He dealt with kabbalah and numerology, as he calculated, for example, the number of steps of the pyramids or the floor plan biblical temple. In addition, he worked on architecture, social hygiene and social housing, and in addition to the common basic questions of natural science, philosophy and religion.

In 1885 he found a simple formula that made ​​it possible to reproduce the wavelength for a series of spectral lines of the element hydrogen, which the Swede Anders Jonas Ångström had previously determined 1866. Balmer found that the wavelengths of the hydrogen spectrum showed the difference of the reciprocals of the squares of integers, with a common factor, which was later called the Rydberg constant ( Balmer series).

It was not until the development of quantum physics in the early 20th century by Niels Bohr ( 1913) provided an explanation for the Balmer formula.

The lunar crater Balmer is named after him.


  • Workers' housing in and around Basel ( with plans and costings for an application running on the width of urbanization ) 1853
  • The Prophet Ezekiel face of the Temple, 1858
  • Natural science and the modern world-view, 1868
  • Apartment evils 1878
  • The apartment of the worker, Basel 1883
  • Note on the Spectral lines of hydrogen, negotiations of the Natural History Society 7, 1885
  • The free perspective, 1887
  • Thoughts about substance, spirit and God, aphorisms, 1891
  • A new formula for spectral waves, Leipzig 1897