thermodynamics

Robert Stirling and the Stirling Engine

Robert Stirling and the Stirling Engine

On October 25, 1790, Scottish clergyman Reverend Dr Robert Stirling was born. Stirling is best known for his invention of the Stirling engine, a heat engine that operates by cyclic compression and expansion of air or other gas (the working fluid) at different temperatures, such that there is a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work. Robert Stirling Youth and Education Robert Stirling was born at Cloag Farm near Methven, Perthshire,…
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Daniel Bernoulli and the Bernoulli Principle

Daniel Bernoulli and the Bernoulli Principle

On February 8, 1700, (January 29, according to the then valid Julian calendar), Swiss mathematician and physicist Daniel Bernoulli was born. Being one of the many prominent mathematicians in the Bernoulli family, Daniel Bernoulli is particularly remembered for his applications of mathematics to mechanics, especially fluid mechanics, and for his pioneering work in probability and statistics. His name is commemorated in the Bernoulli principle, a particular example of the conservation of energy,…
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James Prescott Joule and the True Nature of Heat

James Prescott Joule and the True Nature of Heat

On December 24, 1818, English physicist and brewer, James Prescott Joule was born. Joule studied the nature of heat, and discovered its relationship to mechanical work. This led to the law of conservation of energy, which led to the development of the first law of thermodynamics. The SI derived unit of energy, the joule, is named after James Joule. “My object has been, first to discover correct principles and then to suggest their practical…
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Lord Kelvin and the Analysis of Thermodynamics

Lord Kelvin and the Analysis of Thermodynamics

On December 17, 1907, Irish physicist William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin of Largs, passed away. Thomson did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honour. He was ennobled in 1892 in recognition of his achievements in thermodynamics. Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides; Go measure earth, weigh air, and state…
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Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and his Work on Gases

Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and his Work on Gases

On December 6, 1778, French chemist and physicist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac was born. He is known mostly for two laws related to gases, and for his work on alcohol-water mixtures, which led to the degrees Gay-Lussac used to measure alcoholic beverages in many countries. “I have not chosen a career that will lead me to a great fortune, but not my principal ambition. In fact, later in life he enjoyed comfortable income…
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Jean-Charles-Athanase-Peltier and the Peltier Effect

Jean-Charles-Athanase-Peltier and the Peltier Effect

On October 27, 1845, French physicist Jean Charles Athanase Peltier passed away. Peltier is best known today for the introduction of the eponymous Peltier effect, a thermoelectrical effect, i.e. the presence of heating or cooling at an electrified junction of two different conductors, as well as for the electrostatic induction. Jean Charles Athanase Peltier – Early Years as Clockmaker Peltier was born to a poor family; his father earned a living as a…
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Macquorn Rankine and the Laws of Thermodynamics

Macquorn Rankine and the Laws of Thermodynamics

On July 5, 1820, Scottish mechanical engineer William John Macquorn Rankine was born. He was a founding contributor, with Rudolf Clausius and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), to the science of thermodynamics, particularly focusing on the first of the three thermodynamic laws. “Discrepancy between theory and practice, which in sound physical and mechanical science is a delusion, has a real existence in the minds of men; and that fallacy, through rejected by their…
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Walther Nernst and the third Law of Thermodynamics

Walther Nernst and the third Law of Thermodynamics

On June 25, 1864, German physicist Walther Hermann Nernst was born. One of the founders of modern physical chemistry he is best known for his theories behind the calculation of chemical affinity as embodied in the third law of thermodynamics, for which he won the 1920 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Nernst contributed to electrochemistry, thermodynamics and solid state physics. He is also known for developing the Nernst equation. “No effect that requires…
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Ilya Prigogine and the Irreversibility of Time

Ilya Prigogine and the Irreversibility of Time

On January 25, 1917, Belgian physical chemist and Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine was born. He is noted for his work on dissipative structures, complex systems, and irreversibility. The main theme of Prigogine‘s work was the search for a better understanding of the role of time in the physical sciences and in biology. He attempted to reconcile a tendency in nature for disorder to increase with so-called “self-organisation“. “The problem of time in physics…
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Henry Cavendish and the Weight of the Earth

Henry Cavendish and the Weight of the Earth

On October 10, 1731, British natural philosopher Henry Cavendish was born. A scientist as well as an important experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist, Cavendish is noted for his discovery of hydrogen or what he called “inflammable air“. Most notably, he determined the mass and density of the Earth. Henry Cavendish Henry Cavendish was born in Nice and attended a private school near London. He enrolled the University of Cambridge, but left without…
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