Historical Background

Thermodynamics 2

Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Waterloo
Winter 2012

Date Event
1798 Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson) began the quantitative
study of the conversion of work into heat by means of his
famous cannon-boring experiments.
1799 Sir Humphry Davy studied the conversion of work into heat
by means of his ice-rubbing experiments.
1824 Sadi Carnot published his famous thesis " Reflections on the
Motive Power of Fire," which includes the new concept of
cycle and the principle that the reversible cyclic engine
operating between two heat reservoirs depends only on the
temperatures of the reservoirs and not on the working substance.
1842 Mayer postulated the principle of conservation of energy.
1847 Helmholtz formulated the principle of conservation of energy,
independent of Mayer.
1843-1848 James Prescott Joule laid the experimental foundation of the
first law of thermodynamics by performing experiments to
establish the equivalence of work and heat. We now honor
this great scientist by using J to denote the mechanical
equivalent of heat.
1848 Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) defined an absolute
temperature scale based on the Carnot cycle.
1850 Rudolf J. Clausius was probably the first to see that there
were two basic principles: the first and second laws of
thermodynamics. He also introduced the concept of U, which
we now call the internal energy.
1865 Clausius stated the first and second laws of thermodynamics
in two lines:
1. The energy of the universe is constant.
2. The entropy of the universe tends toward a maximum.
1875 Josiah Willard Gibbs published his monumental work " On
the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances," which
extends thermodynamics in a general form to heterogeneous
systems and chemical reactions. This work includes the
important concept of chemical potential.
1897 Max Planck stated the second law of thermodynamics in the
following form: "It is impossible to construct an engine
which, working in a complete cycle, will produce no effect
other than the raising of a weight and the cooling of a heat
1909 Caratheodory published his structure of thermodynamics on a
new axiomatic basis, which is entirely mathematical in form.

extracted from "Engineering Thermodynamics - Fundamentals and Applications"
by Francis F. Huang

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