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Atoms, Mechanics, and ProbabilityLudwig Boltzmann's Statistico-Mechanical Writings - An Exegesis$
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Olivier Darrigol

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198816171

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198816171.001.0001

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Theories of Heat: Some Background

Theories of Heat: Some Background

(p.31) 2 Theories of Heat: Some Background
Atoms, Mechanics, and Probability

Olivier Darrigol

Oxford University Press

This is a condensed history of thermodynamics and kinetic-molecular theory in Boltzmann’s times and earlier. In the second half of the nineteenth century, there was a widely shared belief in the kinetic-molecular nature of heat. This belief extended to the generally educated public, thanks to popular accounts such as John Tyndall’s Heat considered as a mode of motion (1863). There still was no consensus on the precise form of this motion. For instance, many French physicists persisted in favoring Ampère’s old vibrational picture. Also, there was no consensus on the fruitfulness of the kinetic-molecular theories. Most physicists did not need more than macroscopic thermodynamics, and there were voices, toward the end of the century, to denounce the disproportion between the difficulty of the kinetic-molecular theories and the amount of usable results. Boltzmann had to face such criticism although he was not alone in his quest for a comprehensive kinetic-molecular view of nature.

Keywords:   thermodynamics, kinetic theory of gases, Sadi Carnot, William Thomson, Rudolph Clausius, James Clerk Maxwell, energy, entropy, atomism

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