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Determination of the equilibrium distribution

Statistical Theory of Heat pp 1-69 | Cite as

Part of the Hochschultext book series (HST)


Only since the beginning of our century has this sentence been one of the secured and generally recognized knowledge of physics. As a hypothesis, it has been around for maybe 700 years1). The first experimental findings for its validity (even if not recognized as such) existed about 300 years ago2). The first quantitative foundations of a molecular kinetic theory of heat are over 200 years old3). But Boltzmann, to whom we owe the kinetic interpretation of the second law of thermodynamics, wrote in the foreword of his “gas theory” in 18984): “It would therefore, in my opinion, be detrimental to science if the gas theory were temporarily forgotten by the currently prevailing, hostile mood, as, for example, once the undulation theory by the authority of Newton. I am aware of how powerless individuals remain against the trends of the times. But in order to do what I can to ensure that, when one goes back to gas theory, not too much has to be rediscovered, I have now included the most difficult and most misunderstood parts of guest theory in this book . ”

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  1. Roger Bacon (1214–1294) sees the internal movement of the body as the cause of warmth. Johannes Kepler (1605) regards heat as the movement of parts of a body, Francis Bacon (1561–1626) as the vibrating movement of the smallest parts, Robert Boyle (1665) as the state of movement of molecules.Google Scholar
  2. Leeuwenhoek (Phil.Trans.1673) observes irregular, seemingly arbitrary movements of the smallest particles in self-made microscopes. The appearance was not properly understood; one thought partly of living beings, partly of temperature currents or the effects of light. Even when the botanist Robert Brown (1828) made the same observation on pollen grains (Brownian motion), he could not give an explanation. Google Scholar
  3. Daniel Bernoulli in his hydrodynamics (1738) .Google Scholar
  4. He committed suicide in deep bitterness in 1906, two years before Perrin's investigations, which provided brilliant confirmation of statistical mechanics.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Technical University of MunichGarching near MunichGermany