Friedrich Wilhelm Müller was born in Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad), on 2 April 1867. In 1885, he left Prussia to avoid military service and traveled throughout Europe, becoming a circus athlete and adopting Eugen Sandow as his stage name. In 1889, he moved to London to take part in a strongmen competition, during which he handily beat the reigning champion and won instant fame and recognition for his strength; he soon received requests from all over Britain for performances. In 1901, Sandow organised the world’s first major bodybuilding competition in London’s Royal Albert Hall. The venue was so full that people were turned away from the door. The three judges presiding over the contest were sculptor Sir Charles Lawes, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sandow himself.
By the years, Sandow refined his technique and crafted it into popular entertainment with specific posing, which he dubbed “muscle display performances.” At the time, the audience was fascinated by his physique, resembling the one of the Greek statues - which was indeed intended. Sandow’s “Grecian formula” to achieve ideal proportions was even laid out in details (specific prescriptions of weights, repetitions…) in his books System of Physical Training (1894), Strength and How to Obtain It (1897) and Body-Building (1904), which coined the current term ‘bodybuilding’.