The Smithsonian’s portraits of scientists & inventors


The Smithsonian Institution’s new Flickr photostream contains nearly 900 photographs, including a large set of portraits of scientists and inventors, among them Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Marie Curie and Walther Nernst (above).

Nernst was a German physical chemist who in 1888 derived an equation which can be used to calculate an ion’s equilibrium potential, i.e. the voltage at which its movements in one direction across a membrane are equal to its movements in the other.

The Nernst equation is of importance to electrophysiologists, because the electrical properties of neurons are determined by the movements of sodium, potassium and chloride ions across the membrane.