# Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking

By William H. Cropper | Go to book overview

8
Rudolf Clausius

Scientific Siblings

The history of thermodynamics is a story of people and concepts. The cast of characters is large. At least ten scientists played major roles in creating thermodynamics, and their work spanned more than a century. The list of concepts, on the other hand, is surprisingly small; there are just three leading concepts in thermodynamics: energy, entropy, and absolute temperature.

The three concepts were invented and first put to use during a forty-year period beginning in 1824, when Sadi Carnot published his memoir on the theory of heat engines. Carnot was the pioneer, and the conceptual tools he had available to refine his arguments were primitive. But he managed, nonetheless, to invent highly original concepts and methods that were indispensable to his successors.

Carnot died in 1832, and his scientific work almost died with him. His memoir was first ignored and then resurrected, initially by his colleague Émile Clapeyron and later by two second-generation thermodynamicists, Rudolf Clausius and William Thomson. These two men were born almost at the same time as Carnot's revolutionary memoir: they were, so to speak, Carnot's scientific progeny. Just as the generation that had ignored Carnot was passing, Clausius and Thomson came of age, ventured into the world of scientific ideas, and took full advantage of Carnot's powerful, but neglected, message. Now it is Clausius's turn, but first I must digress on some mathematical matters.

Formulas and Conventions

To describe a system in the style of thermodynamics, one must first define the system's state with suitable state-determining variables such as the volume V and temperature t (t now stands for Celsius temperature). Small changes in V and t, brought on as the system is put through some process, are represented by dVand dt. These symbols can denote either increases or decreases, and that means dV and dt are implicitly either positive or negative. In an expansion, for example,

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Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking

• Title Page *
• Contents v
• Preface ix
• Acknowledgments xi
• I - Historical Synopsis 3
• 1 - How the Heavens Go 5
• 2 - A Man Obsessed 18
• II - Historical Synopsis 41
• 3 - A Tale of Two Revolutions 43
• 4 - On the Dark Side 51
• 5 - A Holy Undertaking 59
• 6 - Unities and a Unifier 71
• 7 - The Scientist as Virtuoso 78
• 8 - The Road to Entropy 93
• 9 - The Greatest Simplicity 106
• 10 - The Last Law 124
• III - Historical Synopsis 135
• 11 - A Force of Nature 137
• 12 - The Scientist as Magician 154
• IV - Historical Synopsis 177
• 13 - Molecules and Entropy 179
• V - Historical Synopsis 201
• 14 - Adventure in Thought 203
• VI - Historical Synopsis 229
• 15 - Reluctant Revolutionary 231
• 16 - Science by Conversation 242
• 17 - The Scientist as Critic 256
• 18 - Matrix Mechanics 263
• 19 - Wave Mechanics 275
• VII - Historical Synopsis 293
• 20 - Opening Doors 295
• 21 - On the Crest of a Wave 308
• 22 - Physics and Friendships 330
• 23 - Complete Physicist 344
• VIII - Historical Synopsis 363
• 24 - Iγ·∂ψ = Mψ 365
• 25 - What Do You Care? 376
• 26 - Telling the Tale of the Quarks 403
• IX - Historical Synopsis 421
• 27 - Beyond the Galaxy 423
• 28 - Ideal Scholar 438
• 29 - Affliction, Fame, and Fortune 452
• Chronology of the Main Events 464
• Glossary 469
• Invitation to More Reading 478
• Index 485
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