Charles Sanders Peirce: Contributions to "The Nation" - Vol. 3

By Kenneth Laine Ketner; James Edward Cook | Go to book overview
Save to active project

1907

84 (24 January 1907) 92

The Scientific Papers of J. Willard Gibbs.

2 vols. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. $9 net.

CSP, identification: Haskell, Index to The Nation. See also: Burks, Bibliography,
Fisch and Haskell, Additions to Cohen's Bibliography; MS 1507 (draft).

Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903) was one of the greatest mathematicians of his time.
He was a Yale man throughout, having taken his undergraduate degree there and his Ph.D.
there in 1863. He was elected professor of mathematical physics at Yale in 1871. Gibbs
delivered a series of lectures at Johns Hopkins University during the time Peirce was asso-
ciated with that school. Gibbs is credited with the development of a new system of vector
notation, for which work he was elected to membership in the Royal Society of London in
1897.

That Josiah Willard Gibbs advanced science the world over more than it has ever been given to any other American researcher to do, can hardly be questioned. He published but one separate book, his "Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics" (Charles Scribner's Sons), which appeared in the Yale Bicentennial Series in 1902, the year before his death. Another volume in the same series, written by his pupil, Edwin B. Wilson, was founded on his lectures. His only other printed remains are the papers now collected, which are few but fundamental. They are substantially limited to three, not counting an unusually small number of preliminary and supplementary outputs.

Of the earliest, relating to diagrams and models representing the effects of temperature and pressure on all sorts of substances, Clerk Maxwell once spoke to the present reviewer in terms of warm laudation, before Gibbs had produced anything else, and when he was all but unknown in this country. His second work, on the equilibrium of heterogeneous substances, taught chemists how to reason about the final results of reactions (without reference to the processes by which they were reached), and it stands to-day the stone at the head of the corner of dynamical chemistry. The memoir itself (in which, by the way, was first given the now celebrated "phase rule") occupies three hundred pages of the first of these two volumes, a good many more pages being substantially parts of the same whole.

The second volume is mainly occupied with Gibbs's peculiar calculus called "vector analysis," which was designed to supersede quaternions and Grassmann's Ausdehnungslehre. It is now taught in sundry European universities; but its vogue was prevented or hindered by a trait of its author's character that struck everybody that ever met him, and that we know not how otherwise to designate than as diffidence. Yet this is not a fit name for it. It certainly was not that diffidence which consists in timidity; nor can we assent to his brilliant scholar Prof. Bumstead's apparent view that he was unconscious of his own superiority, which would come too near to making him a gifted idiot, rooting up his mathematical truffles like a Périgord pig, and as oblivious of being deprived of them. We should rather conceive of it as an exaggerated estimate of the possibility of any opinion of his being erroneous that might concern a difficult question not sus

-284-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Charles Sanders Peirce: Contributions to "The Nation" - Vol. 3
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 308

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?