- The Oxford Handbook of The History of Physics
- List of Contributors
- Was There a Scientific Revolution?
- Galileo’s Mechanics of Natural Motion and Projectiles
- Cartesian Physics
- Physics and the Instrument-Makers, 1550–1700
- Newton’s <i>Principia</i>
- Newton’s Optics
- Experimentation in the Physical Sciences of the Seventeenth Century
- Mathematics and the New Sciences
- The Physics of Imponderable Fluids
- Physics on Show: Entertainment, Demonstration, and Research in the Long Eighteenth Century
- Instruments and Instrument-Makers, 1700–1850
- Mechanics in the Eighteenth Century
- Laplace and the Physics of Short-Range Forces
- Electricity and Magnetism to Volta
- Optics in the Nineteenth Century
- Thermal Physics and Thermodynamics
- Engineering Energy: Constructing a New Physics for Victorian Britain
- Electromagnetism and Field Physics
- Electrodynamics from Thomson and Maxwell to Hertz
- From Workshop to Factory: The Evolution of the Instrument-Making Industry, 1850–1930
- Physics Textbooks and Textbook Physics in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
- Physics and Medicine
- Physics and Metrology
- Rethinking ‘Classical Physics’
- The Emergence of Statistical Mechanics
- Three and a Half Principles: The Origins of Modern Relativity Theory
- Quantum Physics
- The Silicon Tide: Relations between Things Epistemic and Things of Function in the Semiconductor World
- Physics and Cosmology
- Name Index
- Subject Index
Abstract and Keywords
This article traces the history of statistical mechanics, beginning with a discussion of mechanical models of thermal phenomena. In particular, it considers how several circumstances, including the establishment of thermodynamics in the mid-nineteenth century, led to a focus on the model of heat as a motion of particles. It then describes the concept of heat as fluid and the kinetic theory before turning to gas theory and how it served as a bridge between mechanics and thermodynamics. It also explores gases as particles in motion, the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution, the problem of specific heats, challenges to the second law of thermodynamics, and the probabilistic interpretation of entropy. Finally, it examines how the results of the kinetic theory assumed a new meaning as cornerstones of a more broadly conceived statistical physics, along with Josiah Willard Gibbs and Albert Einstein’s development of statistical mechanics as a synthetic framework.
Olivier Darrigol is a CNRS research director in the SPHERE/Rehseis research team in Paris. He investigates the history of physics, mostly nineteenth and twentieth century, with a strong interest in related philosophical questions. He is the author of several books including From c-numbers to q-numbers: The classical analogy in the history of quantum theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), Electrodynamics from Ampère to Einstein (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), Worlds of flow: A history of hydrodynamics from the Bernoullis to Prandtl (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), and A history of optics from Greek antiquity to the nineteenth century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
Honorary Professor of the History of Science, Humboldt University, Berlin
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