A Brief History of Thermodynamics, As Illustrated by Books and People

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The history of thermodynamics is briefly reviewed, with a particular focus on phases, phase equilibria, and the three laws. These themes are illustrated by tracing some of the books and people that played important roles in their development, including Robert Boyle, Sadi Carnot, Charles Cagniard de la Tour, émile Clapeyron, Julius Robert von Mayer, Hermann von Helmholtz, Rudolf Clausius, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), Thomas Andrews, James Clerk Maxwell, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Johannes Diderik van der Waals, François-Marie Raoult, émile-Hilaire Amagat, and Walter Nernst. The paper is intended to be of use to those who wish to learn about or teach the history of thermodynamics; in addition, the paper may be of interest to those who wish to consult or collect the original documents that first announced important thermodynamic discoveries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)298-311
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Chemical and Engineering Data
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 13 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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