Person: Gibbs, Josiah Willard
J Willard Gibbs was an American mathematician best-known for the Gibbs effect seen when Fourier-analysing a discontinuous function.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Gibbs was educated at the local Hopkins Grammar School where he was described as friendly but withdrawn.
- Remaining at Yale, Gibbs began to undertake research in engineering, writing a thesis in which he used geometrical methods to study the design of gears.
- From 1866 to 1869 Gibbs studied in Europe.
- Gibbs returned to Yale in June 1869 and, two years later in 1871, he was appointed professor of mathematical physics at Yale.
- Perhaps it is also surprising that Gibbs did not publish his first work until 1873 when he was 34 years old.
- Few scientists who produce such innovative work as Gibbs did are 34 years of age before producing signs of their genius.
- Gibbs' important 1873 papers were Graphical Methods in the Thermodynamics of Fluids and A Method of Geometrical Representation of the Thermodynamic Properties of Substances by Means of Surfaces.
- In 1876 Gibbs published the first part of the work for which he is most famous On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances, publishing the second part of this work in 1878.
- The second paper extended the diagrams into three dimensions and this work impressed Maxwell so much that he constructed a three dimensional model of Gibbs's thermodynamic surface and, shortly before his death, sent the model to Gibbs.
- Gibbs' work on vector analysis was also of major importance in pure mathematics.
- Using ideas of Grassmann, Gibbs produced a system much more easily applied to physics than that of Hamilton.
- A series of five papers by Gibbs on the electromagnetic theory of light were published between 1882 and 1889.
- Gibbs was highly esteemed by his friends, but U.S. science was too preoccupied with practical questions to make much use of his profound theoretical work during his lifetime.
- The American Mathematical Society named a lecture series in honour of Gibbs.
Born 11 February 1839, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Died 28 April 1903, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive