Person: Boltzmann, Ludwig
Ludwig Boltzmann was an Austrian mathematician who made important advances in electromagnetism and thermodynamics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Boltzmann was awarded a doctorate from the University of Vienna in 1866 for a thesis on the kinetic theory of gases supervised by Josef Stefan.
- Boltzmann taught at Graz, moved to Heidelberg and then to Berlin.
- In 1869 Boltzmann was appointed to a chair of theoretical physics at Graz.
- Boltzmann, at least half jokingly, used to say that the reason he moved around so much was that he was born during the dying hours of a Mardi Gras ball.
- After another three years, in 1894, Boltzmann moved back to Vienna, this time to the chair of theoretical physics which became vacant on the death of his teacher Josef Stefan.
- Boltzmann had many scientific opponents but, to Boltzmann, Mach was more than a scientific opponent as the two were on bad personal terms.
- In 1900, because of his dislike of working with Mach, Boltzmann moved to Leipzig but here he became a colleague of his strongest scientific opponent Wilhelm Ostwald.
- Despite their scientific differences Boltzmann and Ostwald were on good personal terms.
- Despite this, depressed by scientific arguments with Ostwald which are described below Boltzmann unsuccessfully attempted suicide during his time in Leipzig.
- In 1901 Mach retired from Vienna due to ill health, and because of this Boltzmann's reason for moving from Vienna had gone.
- In addition to his teaching in mathematical physics, Boltzmann was given Mach's philosophy course to teach.
- Because of the fame of these lectures Boltzmann was invited to the Palace of Franz Josef.
- Boltzmann's fame is based on his invention of statistical mechanics.
- Boltzmann obtained the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution in 1871, namely the average energy of motion of a molecule is the same for each direction.
- Boltzmann worked on statistical mechanics using probability to describe how the properties of atoms determine the properties of matter.
- Boltzmann asserted that entropy increases almost always, rather than always.
- Boltzmann's ideas were not accepted by many scientists.
- Sommerfeld, who was at the meeting, described the resulting battle between Ostwald and Boltzmann.
- Boltzmann was seconded by Felix Klein.
- The battle between Boltzmann and Ostwald resembled the battle of the bull with the supple fighter.
- The arguments of Boltzmann carried the day.
- We, the young mathematicians of that time, were all on the side of Boltzmann ...
- Ostwald led the opposition to Boltzmann's ideas which were opposed by many European scientists, they misunderstood them, not fully grasping the statistical nature of his reasoning.
- However some, including Mach, thought the arguments were too violent, and this certainly appeared to be the case when Boltzmann attempted suicide while a colleague of Ostwald.
- In 1904 Boltzmann visited the World's Fair in St Louis, USA.
- Boltzmann continued to defend his belief in atomic structure and in a 1905 publication Populäre Schriften Ⓣ(Popular writing) he tried to explain how the physical world could be described by differential equations which represented the macroscopic view without representing the underlying atomic structure.
- Depressed and in bad health, Boltzmann committed suicide just before experiment verified his work.
Born 20 February 1844, Vienna, Austria. Died 5 September 1906, Duino (near Trieste), Austria (now Italy).
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Austria, Physics
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive