Théophile de Donder

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Théophile de Donder

Theophile Ernest de Donder.jpg

Théophile Ernest de Donder (1872 – 1957) at the 1927 Solvay Conference. Appearing in front of de Donder is Paul Dirac.
Born(1872-08-19)19 August 1872
Brussels, Belgium
Died 11 May 1957(1957-05-11) (aged 84)
Brussels, Belgium
Residence Belgium
Nationality Belgian
Alma mater Université Libre de Bruxelles
Known for Being the father of irreversible thermodynamics
Scientific career
Fields Physicist and mathematician
Institutions Université Libre de Bruxelles
Academic advisors Henri Poincaré
Doctoral students Ilya Prigogine
Jules Géhéniau
Léon Van Hove
Raymond Coutrez
Théophile Lepage
Influences Albert Einstein

Théophile Ernest de Donder (French:  [də dɔ̃dɛʁ] ; 19 August 1872 – 11 May 1957) was a Belgian mathematician and physicist famous for his work (published in 1923) in developing correlations between the Newtonian concept of chemical affinity and the Gibbsian concept of free energy.

In chemical physics and physical chemistry, chemical affinity is the electronic property by which dissimilar chemical species are capable of forming chemical compounds. Chemical affinity can also refer to the tendency of an atom or compound to combine by chemical reaction with atoms or compounds of unlike composition.

Gibbs free energy gibbs energy of formation

In thermodynamics, the Gibbs free energy is a thermodynamic potential that can be used to calculate the maximum of reversible work that may be performed by a thermodynamic system at a constant temperature and pressure. The Gibbs free energy is the maximum amount of non-expansion work that can be extracted from a thermodynamically closed system ; this maximum can be attained only in a completely reversible process. When a system transforms reversibly from an initial state to a final state, the decrease in Gibbs free energy equals the work done by the system to its surroundings, minus the work of the pressure forces.



He received his doctorate in physics and mathematics from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1899, for a thesis entitled Sur la Théorie des Invariants Intégraux (On the Theory of Integral Invariants). [1]


He was professor between 1911 and 1942, at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Initially he continued the work of Henri Poincaré and Élie Cartan. From 1914 on, he was influenced by the work of Albert Einstein and was an enthusiastic proponent of the theory of relativity. He gained significant reputation in 1923, when he developed his definition of chemical affinity. He pointed out a connection between the chemical affinity and the Gibbs free energy.

Henri Poincaré French mathematician, physicist, engineer, and philosopher of science

Jules Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and philosopher of science. He is often described as a polymath, and in mathematics as "The Last Universalist," since he excelled in all fields of the discipline as it existed during his lifetime.

Élie Cartan French mathematician

Élie Joseph Cartan, ForMemRS was an influential French mathematician who did fundamental work in the theory of Lie groups, differential systems, and differential geometry. He also made significant contributions to general relativity and indirectly to quantum mechanics. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century.

Albert Einstein German-born physicist and developer of the theory of relativity

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

He is considered the father of thermodynamics of irreversible processes. [2] De Donder’s work was later developed further by Ilya Prigogine. De Donder was an associate and friend of Albert Einstein.

Thermodynamics branch of physics concerned with heat, work, temperature, and thermal or internal energy

Thermodynamics is the branch of physics that has to do with heat and temperature and their relation to energy and work. The behavior of these quantities is governed by the four laws of thermodynamics, irrespective of the composition or specific properties of the material or system in question. The laws of thermodynamics are explained in terms of microscopic constituents by statistical mechanics. Thermodynamics applies to a wide variety of topics in science and engineering, especially physical chemistry, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Ilya Prigogine Russian-Belgian physical chemist

Viscount Ilya Romanovich Prigogine was a physical chemist and Nobel laureate noted for his work on dissipative structures, complex systems, and irreversibility.

Books by De Donder

See also

Chemical thermodynamics is the study of the interrelation of heat and work with chemical reactions or with physical changes of state within the confines of the laws of thermodynamics. Chemical thermodynamics involves not only laboratory measurements of various thermodynamic properties, but also the application of mathematical methods to the study of chemical questions and the spontaneity of processes.

The harmonic coordinate condition is one of several coordinate conditions in general relativity, which make it possible to solve the Einstein field equations. A coordinate system is said to satisfy the harmonic coordinate condition if each of the coordinate functions xα satisfies d'Alembert's equation. The parallel notion of a harmonic coordinate system in Riemannian geometry is a coordinate system whose coordinate functions satisfy Laplace's equation. Since d'Alembert's equation is the generalization of Laplace's equation to space-time, its solutions are also called "harmonic".

In mathematical physics, the De Donder–Weyl theory is a generalization of the Hamiltonian formalism in the calculus of variations and classical field theory over spacetime which treats the space and time coordinates on equal footing. In this framework, the Hamiltonian formalism in mechanics is generalized to field theory in the way that a field is represented as a system that varies both in space and in time. This generalization is different from the canonical Hamiltonian formalism in field theory which treats space and time variables differently and describes classical fields as infinite-dimensional systems evolving in time.

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  1. Acad. Roy. Belg., Bull. Cl. Sc., page 169, 1968.
  2. Perrot, Pierre (1998). A to Z of Thermodynamics. Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-856556-9.
  3. Struik, D. J. (1930). "Review: The Mathematical Theory of Relativity, by Th. de Donder" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 36 (1): 34. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1930-04878-8.
  4. Reynolds Jr., C. N. (1926). "Review: Introduction à la Gravifique einsteinienne, by Th. de Donder" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 32 (5): 563. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1926-04273-7.
  5. Page, Leigh (1926). "Review: Théorie Mathématique de l'Électricité, by Th. de Donder" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 32 (2): 174. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1926-04191-4.
  6. Reynolds Jr., C. N. (1929). "Review: Théorie des Champs Gravifiques, by Th. de Donder" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 35 (6): 884. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1929-04828-6.
  7. Busemann, Herbert (1937). "Review: Théorie Invariantive du Calcul des Variations, by Th. de Donder" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 43 (9): 598–599. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1937-06582-7.