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Muscle and nerve cells are electrically active and give rise to currents and potentials in the surrounding tissues, which are conductors of electricity. The study of the relation of these bioelectric sources to currents they produce in the surrounding tissue is called the volume conductor problem. The basic physics of the volume conductor were worked out by Helmholtz. The Helmholtz paper is still extensively cited. Just who was Helmholtz and exactly what did he contribute so many years ago? What events and circumstances molded the life of such an individual? An attempt is made to answer these questions.