Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of Gases

Maxwell, James Clerk

Published by Taylor and Francis, London, 1860
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of ...

Publisher: Taylor and Francis, London

Publication Date: 1860

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Very Good

Edition: 1st Edition


FIRST EDITION of one of Maxwell's greatest and most influential contributions: the creation of the Maxwell distribution of molecular velocities. "In April 1859, Maxwell read a paper by the German physicist Rudolf Clausius, which captured his imagination at once. It was about diffusion in gases-for example, the speed at which the smell from a bottle of perfume will spread through the air when the bottle is opened. In his calculations, Clausius had assumed that at a given temperature all molecules of any one kind travel at the same speed. He knew this could not be exactly true but could not think what else to do. Not, at first, could Maxwell. But now he had an inspiration which, at a stroke, opened the way to huge advances in our understanding of how the world works. "The standard mathematical methods, derived from Newton's laws of motion, were of little use on their own because of the impossibility of analyzing so many molecular motions, one by one. Maxwell saw that what was needed was a way of representing many motions in a single equation, a statistical law. He derived one, now known as the Maxwell distribution of molecular velocities. It said nothing about individual molecules but gave the proportion which had velocities within any given range. This was the first-ever statistical law in physics. He presented his results when the British Association for the Advancement of Science met in Aberdeen in September 1859, and published the paper [Illustrations of the Dynamical Theory of Gases] in two parts the following year" (Basil Mahon, The Man who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell). In The London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science. Vol. XIX, Fourth Series, January-June, 1860, pp. 19-32; and Vol. XX, Fourth Series, July-December, 1860, pp. 21-37. London: Taylor and Francis, 1860. Two complete volumes, containing all the papers for 1860. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter navy polished calf, marbled boards, endpapers, and edges. Institutional stamp on two preliminaries of each volume. Bindings scuffed but text clean. Bookseller Inventory # 250

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