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date: 16 May 2021

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.

Keywords: statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, heat, kinetic theory, gas theory, gases, entropy, statistical physics, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Albert Einstein

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