- Josiah Willard Gibbs
box_width = 300px
name = J. Willard Gibbs
image_size = 300px
caption = Josiah Willard Gibbs
birth_date = birth date|1839|2|11|mf=y
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
death_date = death date and age|1903|4|28|1839|2|11|mf=y
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
residence = flag|USA
nationality = flag|USA|name=American
Hubert Anson Newton
Edwin Bidwell Wilson Irving Fisher Henry Andrews Bumstead
known_for = Father of physical chemistryCoining the term 'enthalpy'
Gibbs free energy Gibbs entropy Vector analysis Gibbs-Helmholtz equation Gibbs-Duhem equation Gibbs algorithm Gibbs distribution Gibbs state Gibbs phenomenon Gibbs paradox Gibbs' phase rule Gibbs-Thomson effect Gibbs isotherm Gibbs-Donnan effect The Gibbs lemma
Gustav Kirchhoff Hermann von Helmholtz
Rumford Prize(1880) Copley Medal(1901)
footnotes = He is the son of the theologian
Josiah Willard Gibbs, Sr.
Josiah Willard Gibbs (
February 11, 1839– April 28, 1903) was an American theoretical physicist, chemist, and mathematician. One of the greatest American scientists of all time, he devised much of the theoretical foundation for chemical thermodynamicsas well as physical chemistry. As a mathematician, he invented vector analysis (independently of Oliver Heaviside). It is in good part thanks to Gibbs that much of physical and chemical theory has since been exposited using vector analysis. Yale Universityawarded Gibbs the first American Ph.D.in engineeringin 1863, and he spent his entire career at Yale. [cite book | last = Wheeler | first = Lynde, Phelps | title = Josiah Willard Gibbs - the History of a Great Mind | publisher = Ox Bow Press | year = 1951 | id = ISBN 1-881987-11-6] His thesis was entitled: "On the Form of the Teeth of Wheels in Spur Gearing."
In 1901, Gibbs was awarded the highest possible honor granted by the international scientific community of his day, granted to only one scientist each year: the
Copley Medalof the Royal Society of London, for being "the first to apply the second law of thermodynamicsto the exhaustive discussion of the relation between chemical, electrical, and thermal energy and capacity for external work." [ [http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Josiah_Willard_Gibbs Josiah Willard Gibbs] - Britannica 1911] This is considered Gibbs's greatest scientific contribution.
Gibbs was the seventh in a long line of American academics stretching back to the 17th century. His father, a professor of sacred literature at the
Yale Divinity School, is now most remembered for his involvement in the "Amistad" trial. Although the father was also named Josiah Willard, the son is never referred to as "Jr." Five other members of Gibbs's extended family were named Josiah Willard Gibbs. His mother was the daughter of a Yale graduate in literature.
After attending the
Hopkins School, Gibbs matriculated at Yale College at the age of 15. He graduated in 1858 near the top of his class, and was awarded prizes in mathematicsand Latin.
In 1863, Gibbs was awarded the first Ph.D. degree in
engineeringin the USA from the Sheffield Scientific Schoolat Yale. He then tutored at Yale, two years in Latin and one year in what was then called natural philosophy, now comparable to the natural sciences, particularly physics. In 1866 he went to Europeto study, spending a year each at Paris, Berlin, and Heidelberg, where he was influenced by Kirchhoff and Helmholtz. At the time, German academics were the leading authorities in chemistry, thermodynamics, and theoretical natural science in general. These three years account for nearly all of his life spent outside New Haven.
In 1869, he returned to Yale and was appointed Professor of
Mathematical Physicsin 1871, the first such professorship in the United States and a position he held for the rest of his life. The appointment was unpaid at first, a situation common in Germany and otherwise not unusual at the time, because Gibbs had yet to publish anything. Between 1876 and 1878 Gibbs wrote a series of papers on the graphical analysis of multi-phase chemical systems. These were eventually published together in a monograph titled "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances", his most renowned work. It is now deemed one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 19th century, and one of the foundations of physical chemistry. In these papers Gibbs applied thermodynamicsto interpret physicochemical phenomena, successfully explaining and interrelating what had previously been a mass of isolated facts.
"It is universally recognised that its publication was an event of the first importance in the history of
chemistry. ... Nevertheless it was a number of years before its value was generally known, this delay was due largely to the fact that its mathematical form and rigorous deductive processes make it difficult reading for anyone, and especially so for students of experimental chemistry whom it most concerns... " (J J O'Connor and E F Robertson, " [http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_cmf/bio/gibbs.html J. Willard Gibbs] ")
Some important topics covered in his other papers on heterogeneous equilibria include:
* The concepts of
chemical potentialand free energy (available energy);
* A Gibbsian ensemble ideal, a foundation of
Gibbs phase rule.Gibbs also wrote on theoretical thermodynamics. In 1873, he published a paper on the geometric representation of thermodynamic quantities. This paper inspired Maxwell to make (with his own hands) a plaster cast illustrating Gibbs's construct which he then sent to Gibbs. Yale proudly owns it to this day.
In 1880, the new
Johns Hopkins Universityin Baltimore, Marylandoffered Gibbs a position paying $3000. Yale responded by raising his salary to $2000, and he did not leave New Haven. From 1880 to 1884, Gibbs combined the ideas of two mathematicians, the quaternionsof William Rowan Hamiltonand the exterior algebraof Hermann Grassmannto obtain vector analysis(independently formulated by the British mathematical physicistand engineer Oliver Heaviside). Gibbs designed vector analysis to clarify and advance mathematical physics.
From 1882 to 1889, Gibbs refined his vector analysis, wrote on
optics, and developed a new electrical theory of light. He deliberately avoided theorizing about the structure of matter, a wise decision in view of the revolutionary developments in subatomic particles and quantum mechanicsthat began around the time of his death. His chemical thermodynamics was a theory of greater generality than any other theory of matter extant in his day.
After 1889, he worked on
statistical mechanics, laying a foundation and "providing a mathematical framework for quantum theory and for Maxwell's theories" [J. J. O'Connor and E. F. Robertson, " [http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_cmf/bio/gibbs.html J. Willard Gibbs] ".] He wrote classic textbooks on statistical mechanics, which Yale published in 1902. Gibbs also contributed to crystallographyand applied his vector methods to the determination of planetary and comet orbits.
Not much is known about the names and careers of Gibbs's students.
Gibbs never married, living all his life in his childhood home with a sister and his brother-in-law, the Yale librarian. His focus on science was such that he was generally unavailable personally. His
protégéE.B. Wilson explains: "Except in the classroom I saw very little of Gibbs. He had a way, toward the end of the afternoon, of taking a stroll about the streets between his study in the old Sloane Laboratory and his home -- a little exercise between work and dinner -- and one might occasionally come across him at that time." Gibbs died in New Haven and is buried in Grove Street Cemetery.
Recognition was slow in coming, in part because Gibbs published mainly in the "Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Sciences", a journal edited by his librarian brother-in-law, little read in the USA and even less so in
Europe. At first, only a few European theoretical physicists and chemists, such as the Scot James Clerk Maxwell, paid any attention to his work. Only when Gibbs's papers were translated into German (then the leading language for chemistry) by Wilhelm Ostwaldin 1892, and into French by Henri Louis le Chatelierin 1899, did his ideas receive wide currency in Europe. His theory of the phase rule was experimentally validated by the works of H. W. Bakhuis Roozeboom, who showed how to apply it in a variety of situations, thereby assuring it of widespread use.
Gibbs was even less appreciated in his native America. Nevertheless, he was recognised as follows:
* In 1880, the
American Academy of Arts and Sciencesawarded Gibbs its Rumford Prizefor his work in heat. [cite book | last = Müller | first = Ingo | title = A History of Thermodynamics - the Doctrine of Energy and Entropy | publisher = Springer | year = 2007 | id = ISBN 978-3-540-46226-2]
*In 1910, the
American Chemical Society, Chicago section, at the instigation of William A. Converse, established the Willard Gibbs Medalin his memory. [ [http://membership.acs.org/C/Chicago/Gibbs_history.html Willard Gibbs Medal] - Founded by William A. Converse in 1910]
During his lifetime, American colleges and secondary schools emphasized classics rather than science, and students took little interest in his Yale lectures. (That scientific teaching and research are a fundamental part of the modern university emerged in Germany during the 19th century and only gradually spread from there to the USA.) Gibbs's position at Yale and in American science generally has been described as follows:
"In his later years he was a tall, dignified gentleman, with a healthy stride and ruddy complexion, performing his share of household chores, approachable and kind (if unintelligible) to students. Gibbs was highly esteemed by his friends, but American science was too preoccupied with practical questions to make much use of his profound theoretical work during his lifetime. He lived out his quiet life at Yale, deeply admired by a few able students but making no immediate impress on American science commensurate with his genius." (Crowther 1969: nnn)
This is not to say that Gibbs was unknown in his day. For example, the mathematician
Gian-Carlo Rota, while casually browsing the mathematical stacks of Sterling Library, stumbled on a handwritten mailing list attached to some of Gibbs's course notes. It listed over two hundred notable scientists of his day, including Poincaré, Hilbert, Boltzmann, and Mach. One can conclude that Gibbs's work was better known among the scientific elite of his day than published material suggests.
Gibbs' contributions, however, were not fully recognized until some time after the 1923 publication of
Gilbert N. Lewisand Merle Randall's "Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances", which introduced Gibbs's methods to chemists worldwide. These methods also became much of the foundation for chemical engineering.
According to the
American Mathematical Society, which established the Josiah Willard Gibbs Lectureship in 1923 to increase public awareness of the aspects of mathematicsand its applications, Gibbs is one of the greatest scientists America has ever produced. [ [http://www.ams.org/meetings/gibbs-lect.html Josiah Willard Gibbs Lectures] - American Mathematical Society]
In 1945, Yale University created the
J. Willard Gibbs Professorship in Theoretical Chemistry, held until 1973 by Lars Onsager, who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in chemistry. This appointment was a very fitting one, as Onsager, like Gibbs, was primarily involved in the application of new mathematical ideas to problems in physical chemistry, especially statistical mechanics. Yale's J. W. Gibbs Laboratory and J. Willard Gibbs Assistant Professorship in Mathematics are also named in his honor. On February 28, 2003, Yale held a symposium on the centennial of his death. [ [http://www.hssonline.org/profession/profession_frame.html?http://www.hssonline.org/action.lasso?-database=Guide_Events&-layout=web&nID=100749&-Search&-response=profession/meetings/detail.lasso J. Willard Gibbs and his Legacy: A Double Centennial] - Yale University (2003).] Rutgers Universityhas a [http://www.mechanics.rutgers.edu/Vita.pdf J. Willard Gibbs Professorship of Thermomechanics] presently held by Bernard D. Coleman. [ [http://chmwww.rutgers.edu/~mbcenter/Faculty.html J. Willard Gibbs Professor of Thermomechanics] - Rutgers University.]
In 1950, Gibbs was elected to the
Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
May 4, 2005, the United States Postal Serviceissued the "American Scientists" commemorative postage stampseries, depicting Gibbs, John von Neumann, Barbara McClintockand Richard Feynman.
Nobelists influenced by the work of Gibbs
The following individuals won a Nobel Prize in whole or in part by building on Gibbs's work:
*Johann van der Waals of the
Netherlandswon the 1910 Nobel prize in physics. In his Nobel Lecture, he acknowledged the influence on his work of Gibbs's equations of state.
Max Planckof Germany won the 1918 Nobel prize in physicsfor his work in quantum mechanics, particularly his 1900 quantum theory paper. This work is largely based on the thermodynamics of Rudolf Clausius, Gibbs, and Ludwig Boltzmann. Nevertheless, Planck said about Gibbs: "…whose name not only in America but in the whole world will ever be reckoned among the most renowned theoretical physicists of all times…".
*At the turn of the 20th century,
Gilbert N. Lewisand Merle Randallused and extended Gibbs's work on chemical thermodynamics, published their results in the 1923 textbook "Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances", one of the two founding books in chemical thermodynamics. In the 1910s, William Giauqueentered the College of Chemistry at Berkeley, where he received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, with honors, in 1920. At first he wanted to become a chemical engineer, but soon developed an interest in chemical research under Lewis's influence. In 1934, Giauque became a full Professor of Chemistry at Berkeley. In 1949, he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistryfor his studies in the properties of matter at temperatures close to absolute zero, studies guided by the third law of thermodynamics.
* Gibbs strongly influenced the education of the economist
Irving Fisher, who was awarded a Yale Ph.D. in economics in 1896. One of Gibbs's protegés was Edwin Bidwell Wilson, who in turn passed his Gibbsian knowledge to the American economist Paul Samuelson. In 1947, Samuelson published " Foundations of Economic Analysis", based on his Harvard Universitydoctoral dissertation. Samuelson explicitly acknowledged the influence of the classical thermodynamic methods of Gibbs. [Liossatos, Panagis, S. (2004). " [http://www.fiu.edu/orgs/economics/wp2004/04-14.pdf Statistical Entropy in General Equilibrium Theory,] " (pg. 3). Department of Economics, Florida International University.] Samuelson was the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1970, the second year of the Prize. [ [http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/1970/samuelson-lecture.html "Maximum Principles in Analytical Economics"] , Nobel Prize Lecture] In 2003, Samuelson described Gibbs as " Yale's great physicist". [http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/articles/samuelson-2/index.html How I Became an Economist] by Paul A. Samuelson, 1970 Laureate in Economics, 5 September 2003]
quote|The intellectual scientific forefather of the concepts of
Technocracy| Howard Scottleader of the Technical Allianceand later Technocracy Incorporated[ [http://www.technocracy.org/Archives/History%20&%20Purpose-r.htm History and Purpose of Technocracy by Howard Scott] ] [ [http://www.technocracy.org/origins-1.htm The Origins of Technocracy. From the Technocracy Movement website - Scott's statement is on the video] ] Gibbs work provided the basis for the concepts of Energy Accounting. [http://telstar.ote.cmu.edu/environ/m3/s3/05account.shtml Environmental Decision making, Science and Technology concepts of energy accounting]
*"Mathematics "is" a language." (reportedly spoken by Gibbs at a Yale faculty meeting)
*"A mathematician may say anything he pleases, but a physicist must be at least partially sane."
*"It has been said that 'the human mind has never invented a labor-saving machine equal to algebra.' If this be true, it is but natural and proper that an age like our own, characterized by the multiplication of labor-saving machinery, should be distinguished by the unexampled development of this most refined and most beautiful of machines." (1887, quoted in Meinke and Tucker 1992: 190)
Science: Information theory, Information entropy
Electricity: Maxwell's equations
Mathematics: Gibbs phenomenon, Vector Analysis (Gibbs/Wilson), cross product
Physical chemistry: Matter phase, Gibbs phase rule, Statistical mechanics, Free energy
* Named for Gibbs:
Gibbs free energy, Gibbs entropy, Gibbs inequality, Gibbs paradox, Gibbs-Helmholtz equation, Gibbs algorithm, Gibbs distribution, Gibbs state, Gibbs sampling, Gibbs-Marangoni effect, Gibbs-Duhem relation, Gibbs phenomenon, Gibbs-Donnan effect
Gilbert N. Lewis, William Rowan Hamilton, Lars Onsager, Ludwig Boltzmann, William Stanley, Oliver Heaviside
Copley Medal, Yale University, Grove Street Cemetery
List of physicists, Timeline of thermodynamics, List of physics topics, List of notable textbooks in statistical mechanics
* 1947. "The Early Work of Willard Gibbs in Applied Mechanics", New York, Henry Schuman
* 1961. "Scientific Papers of J Willard Gibbs", 2 vols. Bumstead, H. A., and Van Name, R. G., eds. ISBN 0918024773
* " [http://print.google.com/print?hl=en&id=KRMIzI8z6H8C&pg=PR5 Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics] ".Secondary :
* [http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/References/Gibbs.html Online bibliography.]
* American Institute of Physics, 2003 (1976). [http://www.aip.org/history/gap/Gibbs/Gibbs.html "Josiah Willard Gibbs"]
* Bumstead, H. A., 1903. "Josiah Willard Gibbs" "American Journal of Science XVI(4)".
* Crowther, J. G., 1969. "Famous American Men of Science". ISBN 0836900405
* Donnan, F. G., Haas, A. E., and Duhem, P. M. M., 1936. "A Commentary on the Scientific Writings of J Willard Gibbs". ISBN 0405125445
* Hastings, Charles S. ,1909. "Josiah Willard Gibbs." Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences 6:372–393.
* Longley, W. R., and R. G. Van Name, eds., 1928. "The Collected Works of J Willard Gibbs".
*Meinke, K., and Tucker, J. V., 1992, "Universal Algebra" in Abramsky, S., Gabbay, D., and Maibaum, T. S. E., eds., "Handbook of Logic in Computer Science: Vol. I". Oxford Univ. Press: 189-411. ISBN 0198537611
Muriel Rukeyser, 1942. "Willard Gibbs: American Genius". Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press. ISBN 0918024579.
* Seeger, Raymond John, 1974. "J. Willard Gibbs, American mathematical physicist par excellence". Pergamon Press. ISBN 0080180132
* Wheeler, L. P., 1952. "Josiah Willard Gibbs, The History of a Great Mind". ISBN 1881987116
Edwin Bidwell Wilson(1931) "Reminiscences of Gibbs by a student and colleague", "Scientific Monthly" 32:211-27.
* Friel, Charles Michael, " [http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_cmf/bio/gibbs.html J. Willard Gibbs] ".
* Jolls, Kenneth R., and Daniel C. Coy, " [http://www.public.iastate.edu/~jolls/ Gibbs models] ". Iowa State University.
NAME= Gibbs, J. Willard
DATE OF BIRTH=
February 11, 1839
PLACE OF BIRTH= New Haven,
DATE OF DEATH=
April 28, 1903
PLACE OF DEATH= New Haven,
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