The development of science, you know, is sometimes remarkable. A monument stands today in Heilbronn — certainly it is rather dreadful as a work of art, but still it stands there and represents Julius Robert Mayer. If you hear about him in science today, you learn that he was a pioneering genius through his researches in the 40’s of the last century into the nature of the action of heat.
Julius Robert Mayer was born in Heilbronn, practiced there as a doctor and went about without being particularly noticed. The scientists of the time paid no special attention to him. And although today he is described everywhere as a highly gifted pioneer in physics, at that time when he sat for his medical examination at Tubingen he failed it. If you made investigations, you would come on the remarkable fact that the majority of men who later became geniuses failed earlier in their examinations.
And this was also the fate of Julius Robert Mayer. By the skin of his teeth, he managed to get through and become a doctor. But no one considered him remarkable during his lifetime — in fact, quite the contrary. He became so enthusiastic about his discovery that he talked of it everywhere. Then people said that his mind was wandering and put him in an asylum. His own generation put him in a madhouse while posterity looks upon him as a great genius and puts up a monument to him in his native town.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 354 – The Evolution of the Earth and Man and The Influence of the Stars: Lecture XII – Dornach, 18th September 1924
Translated by Gladys Hahn
Julius Robert Mayer