He studied medicine in Berlin, Heidelberg and Pisa, and received the M.D. degree in Berlin. From 1868, he worked in the Leipzig Physiological Institute, (later known as Carl Ludwig Institute of Physiology with Carl Ludwig. He received habilitation (permission to lecture) in 1872 with a thesis on fatigue and recovery of skeletal muscles.
In 1878, he moved to Berlin to become department director in the Physiological Institute. In 1885, he was appointed chairman of Physiology at the University of Bern, Switzerland. There he built a new Institute of Physiology.
He died in Bad Nauheim.
- "Glasgow University jubilee". The Times (36481). London. 14 June 1901. p. 10.
- Meltzer A. (2000). "Samuel James Meltzer, M.D. March 22, 1851 — November 7, 1920". Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. 223: 114–117. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1373.2000.22316.x. Previously published in PMID 3550812
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