Timeline of thermodynamics

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A timeline of events in the history of thermodynamics.


Before 1800





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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Energy</span> Property that makes changes possible

In physics, energy is the quantitative property that is transferred to a body or to a physical system, recognizable in the performance of work and in the form of heat and light. Energy is a conserved quantity—the law of conservation of energy states that energy can be converted in form, but not created or destroyed. The unit of measurement for energy in the International System of Units (SI) is the joule (J).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Entropy</span> Property of a thermodynamic system

Entropy is a scientific concept, as well as a measurable physical property, that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty. The term and the concept are used in diverse fields, from classical thermodynamics, where it was first recognized, to the microscopic description of nature in statistical physics, and to the principles of information theory. It has found far-ranging applications in chemistry and physics, in biological systems and their relation to life, in cosmology, economics, sociology, weather science, climate change, and information systems including the transmission of information in telecommunication.

In physics, statistical mechanics is a mathematical framework that applies statistical methods and probability theory to large assemblies of microscopic entities. It does not assume or postulate any natural laws, but explains the macroscopic behavior of nature from the behavior of such ensembles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thermodynamics</span> Physics of heat, work, and temperature

Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of matter and radiation. The behavior of these quantities is governed by the four laws of thermodynamics which convey a quantitative description using measurable macroscopic physical quantities, but may be explained in terms of microscopic constituents by statistical mechanics. Thermodynamics applies to a wide variety of topics in science and engineering, especially physical chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering, but also in other complex fields such as meteorology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Second law of thermodynamics</span> Physical law for entropy and heat

The second law of thermodynamics is a physical law based on universal experience concerning heat and energy interconversions. One simple statement of the law is that heat always moves from hotter objects to colder objects, unless energy in some form is supplied to reverse the direction of heat flow. Another definition is: "Not all heat energy can be converted into work in a cyclic process."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Negative temperature</span> Physical systems hotter than any other

Certain systems can achieve negative thermodynamic temperature; that is, their temperature can be expressed as a negative quantity on the Kelvin or Rankine scales. This should be distinguished from temperatures expressed as negative numbers on non-thermodynamic Celsius or Fahrenheit scales, which are nevertheless higher than absolute zero.

In classical statistical mechanics, the H-theorem, introduced by Ludwig Boltzmann in 1872, describes the tendency to decrease in the quantity H in a nearly-ideal gas of molecules. As this quantity H was meant to represent the entropy of thermodynamics, the H-theorem was an early demonstration of the power of statistical mechanics as it claimed to derive the second law of thermodynamics—a statement about fundamentally irreversible processes—from reversible microscopic mechanics. It is thought to prove the second law of thermodynamics, albeit under the assumption of low-entropy initial conditions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Non-equilibrium thermodynamics</span> Branch of thermodynamics

Non-equilibrium thermodynamics is a branch of thermodynamics that deals with physical systems that are not in thermodynamic equilibrium but can be described in terms of macroscopic quantities that represent an extrapolation of the variables used to specify the system in thermodynamic equilibrium. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics is concerned with transport processes and with the rates of chemical reactions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ludwig Boltzmann</span> Austrian physicist and philosopher (1844–1906)

Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann was an Austrian physicist and philosopher. His greatest achievements were the development of statistical mechanics, and the statistical explanation of the second law of thermodynamics. In 1877 he provided the current definition of entropy, , where Ω is the number of microstates whose energy equals the system's energy, interpreted as a measure of statistical disorder of a system. Max Planck named the constant kB the Boltzmann constant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Irreversible process</span> Process that cannot be undone

In science, a process that is not reversible is called irreversible. This concept arises frequently in thermodynamics. All complex natural processes are irreversible, although a phase transition at the coexistence temperature is well approximated as reversible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laws of thermodynamics</span> Observational basis of thermodynamics

The laws of thermodynamics are a set of scientific laws which define a group of physical quantities, such as temperature, energy, and entropy, that characterize thermodynamic systems in thermodynamic equilibrium. The laws also use various parameters for thermodynamic processes, such as thermodynamic work and heat, and establish relationships between them. They state empirical facts that form a basis of precluding the possibility of certain phenomena, such as perpetual motion. In addition to their use in thermodynamics, they are important fundamental laws of physics in general, and are applicable in other natural sciences.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of thermodynamics</span>

The history of thermodynamics is a fundamental strand in the history of physics, the history of chemistry, and the history of science in general. Owing to the relevance of thermodynamics in much of science and technology, its history is finely woven with the developments of classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, magnetism, and chemical kinetics, to more distant applied fields such as meteorology, information theory, and biology (physiology), and to technological developments such as the steam engine, internal combustion engine, cryogenics and electricity generation. The development of thermodynamics both drove and was driven by atomic theory. It also, albeit in a subtle manner, motivated new directions in probability and statistics; see, for example, the timeline of thermodynamics.

The mathematical expressions for thermodynamic entropy in the statistical thermodynamics formulation established by Ludwig Boltzmann and J. Willard Gibbs in the 1870s are similar to the information entropy by Claude Shannon and Ralph Hartley, developed in the 1940s.

The principle of microscopic reversibility in physics and chemistry is twofold:

The concept of entropy developed in response to the observation that a certain amount of functional energy released from combustion reactions is always lost to dissipation or friction and is thus not transformed into useful work. Early heat-powered engines such as Thomas Savery's (1698), the Newcomen engine (1712) and the Cugnot steam tricycle (1769) were inefficient, converting less than two percent of the input energy into useful work output; a great deal of useful energy was dissipated or lost. Over the next two centuries, physicists investigated this puzzle of lost energy; the result was the concept of entropy.

This timeline lists significant discoveries in physics and the laws of nature, including experimental discoveries, theoretical proposals that were confirmed experimentally, and theories that have significantly influenced current thinking in modern physics. Such discoveries are often a multi-step, multi-person process. Multiple discovery sometimes occurs when multiple research groups discover the same phenomenon at about the same time, and scientific priority is often disputed. The listings below include some of the most significant people and ideas by date of publication or experiment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Table of thermodynamic equations</span>

This article is a summary of common equations and quantities in thermodynamics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Temperature</span> Physical quantity that expresses hot and cold

Temperature is a physical quantity that expresses quantitatively the perceptions of hotness and coldness. Temperature is measured with a thermometer.

Energy dissipation and entropy production extremal principles are ideas developed within non-equilibrium thermodynamics that attempt to predict the likely steady states and dynamical structures that a physical system might show. The search for extremum principles for non-equilibrium thermodynamics follows their successful use in other branches of physics. According to Kondepudi (2008), and to Grandy (2008), there is no general rule that provides an extremum principle that governs the evolution of a far-from-equilibrium system to a steady state. According to Glansdorff and Prigogine, irreversible processes usually are not governed by global extremal principles because description of their evolution requires differential equations which are not self-adjoint, but local extremal principles can be used for local solutions. Lebon Jou and Casas-Vásquez (2008) state that "In non-equilibrium ... it is generally not possible to construct thermodynamic potentials depending on the whole set of variables". Šilhavý (1997) offers the opinion that "... the extremum principles of thermodynamics ... do not have any counterpart for [non-equilibrium] steady states ." It follows that any general extremal principle for a non-equilibrium problem will need to refer in some detail to the constraints that are specific for the structure of the system considered in the problem.

The 19th century in science saw the birth of science as a profession; the term scientist was coined in 1833 by William Whewell, which soon replaced the older term of (natural) philosopher.


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