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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

History of Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics: Atomism Throughout History

Introduction

This page contains  information about a host of major figures in the history of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics (TSM).

Below boxes are in order of birthdate and contain: links to works by the author that are in the Lehigh Library collections; biographical links and other background resources; and comments related to the narrative provided in the section of this guide about "Approaches to the History of TSM."

This is just a sampler of relevant works in the Lehigh collection. Search the online catalog for many other works. Sorting your search results by "date ascending" can help you locate older materials.

Many figures in the complex history of TSM are missing from below, given limitations of time and space, but consult the resources linked on this guide for books and articles that can help immerse you in the literature if you get interested in this fascinating history.

For one timeline, see Dateline for Thermodynamics (Northwestern University.)

Democritus (c. 460–c.370 BC)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

The Atomists : Leucippus and Democritus : fragments /Other Authors: Taylor, C. C. W., (Translator)Format: eBook. Published: Toronto, [Ontario] ; Buffalo, [New York] ; London, [England] : University of Toronto Press, 1999.


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Berryman. Democritus.

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The Galileo Project Atomism 

Francis Bacon (1561–1626)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

  • Sylva sylvarum: or, A natural history, in ten centuries.  [Location: Special Collections]    11th ed., "in which is added an epitomy of another piece of his lordship's works intitled Novum organum (being translated for the clearer understanding of his natural history) never before published in English."


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Rees. Atomism and 'subtlety' in Francis Bacon's philosophy. Annals of Science, 37 (1980), pp. 549-571.505.2 A613 in FM Library.

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Simpson. Francis Bacon (1561—1626).

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Klein  Francis Bacon.

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Ariew Descartes Among the Scholastics. (p. 138) comments on Bacon.  On that page, "Paracelsian" is presumably a reference to Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus (1493–1541). See reference to Paracelsus in this discussion of van Helmont,who is claimed to be the originator of the term "gas". See also the reference here to Paracelsus and van Helmont in John Read, From Alchemy to Chemistry.

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Meinel Early Seventeenth-Century Atomism: Theory, Epistemology, and the Insufficiency of Experiment.

Galileo Galilei (1564–1643)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

In Roma, Appresso Giacomo Mascardi, 1623.
Accademia nazionale dei Lincei.


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Ariew Descartes Among the Scholastics, pp. 138-139:

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Meinel Early Seventeenth-Century Atomism: Theory, Epistemology, and the Insufficiency of Experiment. See bibliography in fn. 21.

Robert Hooke (1635–1703)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

[Location: Special Collections]
London, Printed by J. Martyn and J. Allestry, 1665.


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

From Luthy Atomism, Lynceus, and the Fate of Seventeenth-Century Microscopy

(p. 15)      Although the allure of microscopy increased initially with the same slowness as the appeal of corpuscularian concepts of matter, the link between the two was obvious to all that used the new instrument...
The title-page of Hooke's Micrographia of 1665, a book with clear corpuscularian underpinnings, was adorned with
 a Horatian couplet which said:
                You may not be able, with your eyes, to see as far as Lynceus,
                Yet you would not on that account scorn to anoint them, if sore. 
     The ointment Hooke had in mind was, of course, again the microscope.

See page 7 for a discussion of the "Greek hero" Lynceus.

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Bennett The social history of the microscope

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Meinel Early Seventeenth-Century Atomism: Theory, Epistemology, and the Insufficiency of Experiment. Mentions Micrographia in passing.

Isaac Newton (1642–1727)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Fenby Heat: Its measurement from Galileo to Lavoiser. "Newton, in his Opticks, believed that heat may be caused by a 'vibrating motion' of the constituent parts of bodies."

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Schofield Atomism from Newton to Dalton

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Shapiro  Newton's optics and atomism

Daniel Bernoulli (1700–1782)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

Danielis Bernoulli ... Hydrodynamica, sive De viribus et motibus fluidorum commentarii. Opus academicum ab auctore, dum Petropoli ageret, congestum. [Location: Special Collections] Argentorati, sumptibus J. R. Dulseckeri, 1738.


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Cercignani, The Rise of Statistical Mechanics, pp. 26-27.

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Sklar.Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics

Joseph Black (1728–1799)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

Main Author: Black, Joseph, 1728-1799.
Other Authors: Robison, John, 1739-1805.


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography.from Access Science

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Neave, W.W.J. Joseph Black's Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry. 

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Joshua C. Gregory. "An Aspect of the History of Atomism." Science Progress in the Twentieth Century (1919-1933)
Vol. 22, No. 86 (Oct. 1927), pp. 293-304.

check if following is from immediately above, p. 297

"The intrusion of incipient atomism upon disbelieving preconceptions in the earlier period was represented in the later by a combination of corpuscular explanations and anti-atomistic prejudice. Dr. Joseph Black (1728-99) delivered expositions in terms of atoms and attractions : corpuscular mechanisms were essential, or almost essential, to conceptual grip. He warned students that " attraction " was metaphorical in chemistry, and chemists that attention was more wisely directed to " the external phenomena " than to speculation about " the ultimate
 internal action." A chemical phenomenon, Black always insisted, was only explicable in the sense of establishing it as an instance of a more general behav"

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See here for Black's reservations about undue speculation about the role atomic interactions play in explaining chemical attraction: Lectures on the elements of chemistry : delivered ... v. 1.  This page corresponds to p. 283 in Lehigh's version of the work. (See surrounding text as well.)

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

 
 

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RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Fowler. Early Attempts to Understand Heat: Is It a Fluid, or What?

(Nicolas Léonard) Sadi Carnot (1796–1832)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

Reflections on the motive power of fire [Location: Fairchild - 7th Floor - North]
Main Author: Carnot, Sadi, 1796-1832.
Other Authors: Clapeyron, E. 1799-1864., Clausius, R. 1822-1888., Mendoza, E.

RELATED RESOURCES
 

Biography Access Science  "At the time he wrote Reflections, Carnot was a believer in the caloric theory of heat, which held that heat is a form of fluid. But this misconception of the nature of heat does not invalidate his conclusions."

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Fowler. Early Attempts to Understand Heat: Is It a Fluid, or What?

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Callendar."The Caloric Theory of Heat and Carnot's Principle."

Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius (1822–1888)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

Main Author: Clausius, R. 1822-1888.
 

RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Cercignani, The Rise of Statistical Mechanics, pp. 27-28, 30.

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Sklar.[use control f to find references]

William Thomson Kelvin (1824–1907)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTION

"On Vortex Atoms" in Mathematical and Physical Papers, Volume IV. 530 K29m. NOTE: The paper "On Vortex Atoms" appears in a section on Hydrodynamics. 


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Silliman.William Thomson: Smoke Rings and Nineteenth-Century Atomism

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Lomonaco  The Modern Legacies of Thomson's Atomic Vortex Theory in Classical Electrodynamics

James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

Maxwell on heat and statistical mechanics : on "avoiding all personal enquiries" of molecules  [Location: Fairchild - 7th Floor - North] Other Authors: Garber, Elizabeth., Brush, Stephen G., Everitt, C. W. F.  Bethlehem : Lehigh University Press, c1995.   Book Description.
 

RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Sklar.[use control f to find references]

Johannes Diderik van der Waals (1837–1923

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

Lehrbuch der Thermostatik  [Location: LMC]      
Waals, J. D. van der
Leipzig, J. A. Barth, 1927-


RELATED RESOURCES

BIography from Access Science

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Klein.The historical origins of the Van der Waals equation

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Sklar.Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics  use control f to find references to Van der Waals

(Josiah) Willard Gibbs (1839–1903)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

The collected works of J. Willard Gibbs ...[Location: Fairchild - 7th Floor - North]
New York [etc.] Longmans, Green and Co., 1928.


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Fleck Atomism in Late Nineteenth-Century Physical Chemistry 

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Sklar.Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics  [use control f to find references to Gibbs]

Ludwig Boltzmann (1844–1906)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

Dordrecht ; Boston : Reidel Pub. Co., c1974.  
Contains essays about atomism: Chapater 10 On the Indispensability of Atomism in Natural Science (1897); Ch. 11 More on Atomism (1897)
 

Wissenschaftliche Abhandlungen  [Location: LMC]          
Leipzig, J.A. Barth, 1882-95.       

Populäre Schriften   [Location: LMC]         
Leipzig, Barth, 1925.

Vorlesungen über Gastheorie    [Location: LMC]      
Leipzig, J. A. Barth, 1896-98.    


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Sklar. Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics  [use control f to find references]

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Uffink. Boltzmann’s Work in Statistical Physics

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Psillos 1.4 Boltzmann Against Historical Pessimism, in Realism and Theory Change in Science

Jean Baptiste Perrin (1870–1942)

WORK IN LEHIGH COLLECTIONS

Les *el*ements de la physique,  [Location: LMC]
Paris, Albin Michel [1929]

Les atomes   [Location: LMC]
[Paris] : F. Alcan, 1914 [c1913]


RELATED RESOURCES

Biography from Access Science

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Chalmers.Atomism from the 17th to the 20th Century [use control f to find references to Perrin]

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Newburgh  Einstein, Perrin, and the reality of atoms: 1905 revisited