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Rudolf Clausius

Rudolf Clausius
founding thermodynamicist and
originator of the concept of entropy
Born 2 January 1822(1822-01-02)
Died 24 August 1888 (aged 66)
Nationality German
Fields Physics
Known for Thermodynamics

Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius (Born Rudolf Gottlieb,[1] January 2, 1822 – August 24, 1888), was a German physicist and mathematician and is considered one of the central founders of the science of thermodynamics.[2] By his restatement of Sadi Carnot's principle known as the Carnot cycle, he put the theory of heat on a truer and sounder basis. His most important paper, On the mechanical theory of heat, published in 1850, first stated the basic ideas of the second law of thermodynamics. In 1865 he introduced the concept of entropy.



Clausius was born in Köslin (now Koszalin) in the Province of Pomerania. He started his education at the school of his father. After a few years, he went to the Gymnasium in Stettin (now Szczecin). Clausius graduated from the University of Berlin in 1844 where he studied Mathematics and Physics with, among others, Heinrich Magnus, Johann Dirichlet and Jakob Steiner. He also studied History with Leopold von Ranke. During 1847, he got his doctorate from the University of Halle on optical effects in the Earth's atmosphere. He then became professor of physics at the Royal Artillery and Engineering School in Berlin and Privatdozent at the Berlin University. In 1855 he became professor at the ETH Zürich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, where he stayed until 1867. During that year, he moved to Würzburg and two years later, in 1869 to Bonn.

In 1870 Clausius organized an ambulance corps in the Franco-Prussian War. He was wounded in battle, leaving him with a lasting disability. He was awarded the Iron Cross for his services.

His wife, Adelheid Rimpham, died in childbirth in 1875, leaving him to raise their six children. He continued to teach, but had less time for research thereafter.

In 1886 he remarried Sophie Stack, and then had another child.

Two years later, on August 24, 1888 he died in Bonn, Germany.


Clausius' PhD thesis concerning the refraction of light proposed that we see a blue sky during the day, and various shades of red at sunrise and sunset (among other phenomena) due to reflection and refraction of light. Later, Lord Rayleigh would show that it was in fact due to the scattering of light, but regardless, Clausius used a far more mathematical approach than his predecessors.

His most famous paper, "Über die bewegende Kraft der Wärme" ("On the Moving Force of Heat and the Laws of Heat which may be Deduced Therefrom") [3] was published in 1850, and dealt with the mechanical theory of heat. In this paper, he showed that there was a contradiction between Carnot's principle and the concept of conservation of energy. Clausius restated the two laws of thermodynamics to overcome this contradiction (the third law was developed by Walther Nernst, during the years 1906–1912). This paper made him famous among scientists.

During 1857, Clausius contributed to the field of kinetic theory after refining August Krönig's very simple gas-kinetic model to include translational, rotational and vibrational molecular motions. In this same work he introduced the concept of 'Mean free path' of a particle. [4] [5] [6]

Clausius deduced the Clausius-Clapeyron relation from thermodynamics. This relation, which is a way of characterizing the phase transition between two states of matter such as solid and liquid, had originally been developed in 1834 by Émile Clapeyron.



In 1865, Clausius first gave a mathematical version of the concept of entropy, and gave it its name. He used the now abandoned unit 'Clausius' (symbol: Cl) for entropy. Clausius chose the word "entropy" because the meaning, from Greek, en+tropein, is "content transformative" or "transformation content" ("Verwandlungsinhalt"). [7] [8]

1 Cl = 1 cal/°C = 4.1868 joules per kelvin (J/K)



The following are two famous quotes made by Clausius in 1865:

The energy of the universe is constant.

The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.

See also


  1. ^ Atkins, P.W. (1984), The Second Law, New York: Scientific American Library, ISBN 0-7167-5004-X 
  2. ^ Cardwell, D.S.L. (1971), From Watt to Clausius: The Rise of Thermodynamics in the Early Industrial Age, London: Heinemann, ISBN 0-435-54150-1 
  3. ^ Clausius, R. (1850), "Über die bewegende Kraft der Wärme, Part I, Part II", Annalen der Physik 79: 368–397, 500–524 . See English Translation: On the Moving Force of Heat, and the Laws regarding the Nature of Heat itself which are deducible therefrom. Phil. Mag. (1851), 2, 1–21, 102–119.
  4. ^ Clausius, R. (1857), "Über die Art der Bewegung, die wir Wärme nennen", Annalen der Physik 100: 353–379 
  5. ^ Clausius, R. (1862), "Über die Wärmeleitung gasförmiger Körper", Annalen der Physik 115: 1–57 
  6. ^ Clausius, R. (1864), Abhandlungen über die Mechanische Wärmetheorie. Electronic manuscript from the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
  7. ^ Clausius, R. (1865), "Über die Wärmeleitung gasförmiger Körper", Annalen der Physik 125: 353–400 
  8. ^ Clausius, R. (1865). The Mechanical Theory of Heat – with its Applications to the Steam Engine and to Physical Properties of Bodies. London: John van Voorst, 1 Paternoster Row. MDCCCLXVII.

External links


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