Josiah Willard Gibbs facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Josiah Willard Gibbs



Josiah Willard Gibbs


Born  New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.

February 11, 1839
Died  April 28, 1903 New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.

(aged 64)
Nationality  USAmerican 
Alma mater  Yale College 
Known for 

Awards 

Scientific career  
Fields  Physics, chemistry, mathematics 
Institutions  Yale College 
Thesis  On the form of the teeth of wheels in spur gearing (1863) 
Doctoral advisor  Hubert Anson Newton 
Doctoral students  Edwin Bidwell Wilson, Irving Fisher, Henry Andrews Bumstead, Lynde Wheeler, Lee De Forest 
Influences  Rudolf Clausius, Hermann Grassmann, James Clerk Maxwell, Ludwig Boltzmann 
Signature  
Josiah Willard Gibbs (February 11, 1839 – April 28, 1903) was an American scientist who made significant theoretical contributions to physics, chemistry, and mathematics. His work on the applications of thermodynamics was instrumental in transforming physical chemistry into a rigorous inductive science. Together with James Clerk Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann, he created statistical mechanics (a term that he coined), explaining the laws of thermodynamics as consequences of the statistical properties of ensembles of the possible states of a physical system composed of many particles. Gibbs also worked on the application of Maxwell's equations to problems in physical optics. As a mathematician, he invented modern vector calculus (independently of the British scientist Oliver Heaviside, who carried out similar work during the same period).
In 1863, Yale awarded Gibbs the first American doctorate in engineering. After a threeyear sojourn in Europe, Gibbs spent the rest of his career at Yale, where he was a professor of mathematical physics from 1871 until his death. Working in relative isolation, he became the earliest theoretical scientist in the United States to earn an international reputation and was praised by Albert Einstein as "the greatest mind in American history." In 1901, Gibbs received what was then considered the highest honour awarded by the international scientific community, the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London, "for his contributions to mathematical physics."
Commentators and biographers have remarked on the contrast between Gibbs's quiet, solitary life in turn of the century New England and the great international impact of his ideas. Though his work was almost entirely theoretical, the practical value of Gibbs's contributions became evident with the development of industrial chemistry during the first half of the 20th century. According to Robert A. Millikan, in pure science, Gibbs "did for statistical mechanics and thermodynamics what Laplace did for celestial mechanics and Maxwell did for electrodynamics, namely, made his field a wellnigh finished theoretical structure."
Images for kids

The sine integral function, which gives the overshoot associated with the Gibbs phenomenon for the Fourier series of a step function on the real line

Graphical representation of the free energy of a body, from the latter of the papers published by Gibbs in 1873. This shows a plane of constant volume, passing through the point A that represents the body's initial state. The curve MN is the section of the "surface of dissipated energy". AD and AE are, respectively, the energy (ε) and entropy (η) of the initial state. AB is the "available energy" (now called the Helmholtz free energy) and AC the "capacity for entropy" (i.e., the amount by which the entropy can be increased without changing the energy or volume).

A calcite crystal produces birefringence (or "double refraction") of light, a phenomenon which Gibbs explained using Maxwell's equations for electromagnetic phenomena.