Thomsen–Berthelot principle

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In thermochemistry, the Thomsen–Berthelot principle is a hypothesis in the history of chemistry which argued that all chemical changes are accompanied by the production of heat and that processes which occur will be ones in which the most heat is produced. [1] This principle was formulated in slightly different versions by the Danish chemist Julius Thomsen in 1854 and by the French chemist Marcellin Berthelot in 1864. This early postulate in classical thermochemistry became the controversial foundation of a research program that would last three decades.

Thermochemistry study of the heat energy associated with chemical reactions and/or physical transformations

Thermochemistry is the study of the heat energy associated with chemical reactions and/or physical transformations. A reaction may release or absorb energy, and a phase change may do the same, such as in melting and boiling. Thermochemistry focuses on these energy changes, particularly on the system's energy exchange with its surroundings. Thermochemistry is useful in predicting reactant and product quantities throughout the course of a given reaction. In combination with entropy determinations, it is also used to predict whether a reaction is spontaneous or non-spontaneous, favorable or unfavorable.

History of chemistry Wikimedia history article

The history of chemistry represents a time span from ancient history to the present. By 1000 BC, civilizations used technologies that would eventually form the basis of the various branches of chemistry. Examples include extracting metals from ores, making pottery and glazes, fermenting beer and wine, extracting chemicals from plants for medicine and perfume, rendering fat into soap, making glass, and making alloys like bronze.

In a scientific sense, a chemical process is a method or means of somehow changing one or more chemicals or chemical compounds. Such a chemical process can occur by itself or be caused by an outside force, and involves a chemical reaction of some sort. In an "engineering" sense, a chemical process is a method intended to be used in manufacturing or on an industrial scale to change the composition of chemical(s) or material(s), usually using technology similar or related to that used in chemical plants or the chemical industry.

This principle came to be associated with what was called the thermal theory of affinity, which postulated that the heat evolved in a chemical reaction was the true measure of its affinity. This hypothesis was later disproved, however, when in 1882 the German scientist Hermann von Helmholtz proved that affinity was not given by the heat evolved in a chemical reaction but rather by the maximum work, or free energy, produced when the reaction was carried out reversibly.

Chemical reaction process that results in the interconversion of chemical species

A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the chemical transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Classically, chemical reactions encompass changes that only involve the positions of electrons in the forming and breaking of chemical bonds between atoms, with no change to the nuclei, and can often be described by a chemical equation. Nuclear chemistry is a sub-discipline of chemistry that involves the chemical reactions of unstable and radioactive elements where both electronic and nuclear changes can occur.

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.

Hermann von Helmholtz physicist and physiologist

Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz was a German physician and physicist who made significant contributions in several scientific fields. The largest German association of research institutions, the Helmholtz Association, is named after him.

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Chemistry is the scientific discipline involved with elements and compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances.

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.

Exothermic process

In thermodynamics, the term exothermic process describes a process or reaction that releases energy from the system to its surroundings, usually in the form of heat, but also in a form of light, electricity, or sound. Its etymology stems from the Greek prefix έξω and the Greek word θερμικός. The term exothermic was first coined by Marcellin Berthelot. The opposite of an exothermic process is an endothermic process, one that absorbs energy in the form of heat.

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.

Thermodynamic free energy

The thermodynamic free energy is a concept useful in the thermodynamics of chemical or thermal processes in engineering and science. The change in the free energy is the maximum amount of work that a thermodynamic system can perform in a process at constant temperature, and its sign indicates whether a process is thermodynamically favorable or forbidden. Since free energy usually contains potential energy, it is not absolute but depends on the choice of a zero point. Therefore, only relative free energy values, or changes in free energy, are physically meaningful.

Marcellin Berthelot French chemist and politician

Pierre Eugène Marcellin Berthelot was a French chemist and politician noted for the Thomsen–Berthelot principle of thermochemistry. He synthesized many organic compounds from inorganic substances, providing a large amount of counter-evidence to the theory of Jöns Jakob Berzelius that organic compounds required organisms in their synthesis. Berthelot was convinced that chemical synthesis would revolutionize the food industry by the year 2000, and that synthesized foods would replace farms and pastures. "Why not", he asked, "if it proved cheaper and better to make the same materials than to grow them?"

Hesss law relationship in physical chemistry

Hess' law of constant heat summation, also known as Hess' law, is a relationship in physical chemistry named after Germain Hess, a Switzerland-born Russian chemist and physician who published it in 1840. The law states that the total enthalpy change during the complete course of a chemical reaction is the same whether the reaction is made in one step or in several steps.

The vast majority of explosives are chemical explosives. Explosives usually have less potential energy than fuels, but their high rate of energy release produces a great blast pressure. TNT has a detonation velocity of 6,940 m/s compared to 1,680 m/s for the detonation of a pentane-air mixture, and the 0.34-m/s stoichiometric flame speed of gasoline combustion in air.

Joseph Black British chemist

Joseph Black was a Scottish physicist and chemist, known for his discoveries of magnesium, latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide. He was Professor of Anatomy and Chemistry at the University of Glasgow for 10 years from 1756, and then Professor of Medicine and Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh from 1766, teaching and lecturing there for more than 30 years.

Germain Henri Hess Swiss chemist

Germain Henri Hess was a Swiss-Russian chemist and doctor who formulated Hess's law, an early principle of thermochemistry.

Paul Sabatier (chemist) French chemist

Prof Paul Sabatier FRS(For) HFRSE was a French chemist, born in Carcassonne. In 1912, Sabatier was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Victor Grignard. Sabatier was honoured for his work improving the hydrogenation of organic species in the presence of metals.

Hans Peter Jørgen Julius Thomsen Danish chemist and scientist

Hans Peter Jørgen Julius Thomsen was a Danish chemist noted in thermochemistry for the Thomsen–Berthelot principle.

Hammonds postulate

Hammond's postulate, is a hypothesis in physical organic chemistry which describes the geometric structure of the transition state in an organic chemical reaction. First proposed by George Hammond in 1955, the postulate states that:

If two states, as, for example, a transition state and an unstable intermediate, occur consecutively during a reaction process and have nearly the same energy content, their interconversion will involve only a small reorganization of the molecular structures.

In the history of science, the principle of maximum work was a postulate concerning the relationship between chemical reactions, heat evolution, and the potential work produced there from. The principle was developed in approximate form in 1875 by French chemist Marcellin Berthelot, in the field of thermochemistry, and then later in 1876 by American mathematical physicist Willard Gibbs, in the field of thermodynamics, in a more accurate form. Berthelot's version was essentially: "every pure chemical reaction is accompanied by evolution of heat.". The effects of irreversibility, however, showed this version to be incorrect. This was rectified, in thermodynamics, by incorporating the concept of entropy.

Thomsen is a Danish patronymic surname meaning "son of Tom ", itself derived from the Aramaic תום or Tôm, meaning "twin". There are many varied surname spellings, with the first historical record believed to be found in 1252. Thomsen is uncommon as a given name.

Physical organic chemistry, a term coined by Louis Hammett in 1940, refers to a discipline of organic chemistry that focuses on the relationship between chemical structures and reactivity, in particular, applying experimental tools of physical chemistry to the study of organic molecules. Specific focal points of study include the rates of organic reactions, the relative chemical stabilities of the starting materials, reactive intermediates, transition states, and products of chemical reactions, and non-covalent aspects of solvation and molecular interactions that influence chemical reactivity. Such studies provide theoretical and practical frameworks to understand how changes in structure in solution or solid-state contexts impact reaction mechanism and rate for each organic reaction of interest.

Camille Matignon chemist

Arthème Camille Matignon was a French chemist noted for his work in thermochemistry. He was a member of the Académie des Sciences, President of the French Chemical Society and an honorary Fellow of the British Chemical Society.


  1. William H. Cropper (2004). Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking. Oxford University Press. pp. 128–. ISBN   978-0-19-517324-6.

See also