Willard Gibbs

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In existographies, Willard Gibbs (116-52 BE) (1839-1903 ACM) (IQ:205|#5) (ID:3.20|64) (RGM:573|1,350+) (Gottlieb 1000:825) (GTE:#) (GCE:27) (GPE:#) (GEE:#) (EPD:M16) (TR:660) (LH:18) (TL:877|#3) was an American mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, mathematical physicist, and thermodynamicist; noted for []


In Dec 1873, Gibbs, in his “A Method of Geometrical Representation of the Thermodynamic Properties of Substances by Means of Surfaces”, stated the following:[1]

“If we wish to express in a single equation the necessary and sufficient condition of thermodynamic equilibrium for a substance when surrounded by a medium of constant pressure P and temperature T, this equation may be written:
or in modern notation:
when Delta.png refers to the variation produced by any variations in the state of the parts of the body, and (when different parts of the body are in different states) in the proportion in which the body is divided between the different states. The condition of stable equilibrium is that the value of the expression in the parenthesis shall be a minimum.”

In 1876, Gibbs in his On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances , opened to the following:

“The comprehension of the laws which govern ANY material system is greatly facilitated by considering the energy and entropy of the system in the various states of which it is capable. As the difference of the values of the energy for any two states represents the combined amount of work and heat received or yielded by the system when it is brought from one state to the other [state two], and the difference of entropy is the limit of all the possible values of the integral Int dQ over T.png, dQ denoting the element of the heat received from external sources, and T the temperature of the part of the system receiving it, the varying values of the energy and entropy characterize in all that is essential the effects producible by the system in passing from one state to another.”
— Willard Gibbs (1876), On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (pg. 1)

The material system, in focus, herein is the "social" system, and hence the comprehension of the "laws" governing the social system is the aim.



Gibbs was the only son of Josiah Gibbs (1790-1861), a linguist, theologian, and sacred literature professor, and Mary Gibbs (1805-1855).[2] After the death of his mother, when he was 16, and his father, in 1861, when he was 24, he inherited enough money to become financially independent.[3]


In 1858, Gibbs completed his undergraduate degree at Yale, mentored by Hubert Newton, aka the “grandfather of American mathematics. In 1863, Gibbs completed his PhD in engineering, with a dissertation on: “On the Form of the Teeth of Wheels in Spur Gearing”, which was the first engineering PhD awarded in the US. Gibbs then studied abroad touring the various “great” universities in Europe and Germany. In 1871, Gibbs became Yale’s first professor of mathematical physics.

Gibbs medal

Gibbs Medal
Front Back
Gibbs medal (front) 1000px.jpg Gibbs medal (back) 1000px.png

In 1964, a Gibbs medal, shown adjacent, made of bronze, designed by artist Stanley Martineau (1915-1977)[4][5], a native of Connecticut, Gibbs state of residence, was built by the Medallic Art Company. The medallion is either presently located in the Yale University Art Gallery[6] or was sold in an auction:[7] The quote encircling the face of Gibbs reads:

“Whose name not only in America but in the whole world will ever be recognized among the most renowned physicists of all time.”
Max Planck (1909), Eight Lectures on Theoretical Physics [8]

The back of the medallion shows Gibbs drafting On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (1876) by what seems to be the divine wisdom of the rays of light of the heat of the sun, from the results of which brews and bubbles a reacting beaker of chemical thermodynamics. The Gibbs medal was cited in the 2009 Hmolpedia forum discussions about attempts to establish a human thermodynamics themed medal.[9]



Gibbs was influenced by: Hubert Newton, Rudolf Clausius, Athanase Dupre, Francois Massieu, and James Maxwell.


Gibbs influenced: Johannes Waals (CR:28), Jacobus Hoff, Bakhuis Roozeboom (CR:10), Fritz Haber, Friedrich Bergius, Henri Chatelier, Pierre Duhem (CR:37), Wilhelm Ostwald, Gilbert Lewis, and Edward Guggenheim.


Gibbs’ students include: Henry Bumstead, Irving Fisher, Edwin Wilson, Lynde Wheeler, Lee de Forest[10], among a few others.


Quotes | Employed

The following are quotes employed by Gibbs:

“The entropy of the world [welt] is constant. The entropy of the world tends to a maximum.”
Rudolf Clausius (1865), The Mechanical Theory of Heat; opening quote of Gibbs On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances

Quotes | On

The ship USNS Josiah Willard Gibbs, named after Gibbs, was active, in the US Navy, from 1958 to 1971, as an oceanic research ship.[11]

The following are quotes on Gibbs:

Willard Gibbs is the greatest mind in American history. Lorentz, comparatively, is the greatest and most powerful thinker I have ever known. I never met Gibbs, but, perhaps, had I done so, I might have placed him beside Lorentz.”
Albert Einstein (c.1925/54), aggregate quote
“In the last generation, this country produced one of the most eminent men of science in the whole world. His name was quite unknown among us while he lived, and it is still unknown. Yet I may say without too great exaggeration that when I heard it mentioned in a professional assembly in the Netherlands two years ago, everybody got down under the table and touched their foreheads to the floor. His name was Josiah Willard Gibbs”.
— Albert Nock (1931), The Theory of Education in the United States (pg. 104)[12]
Gibbs is perhaps the most brilliant person that most people have never heard of. Modest to the point of near invisibility, he passed virtually the whole of his life, apart from three years spent studying in Europe, within a three-block area bounded by his house and the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut. For his first ten years at Yale he didn’t even bother to draw a salary. (He had independent means.) From 1871, when he joined the university as a professor, to his death in 1903, his courses attracted an average of slightly over one student a semester. His written work was difficult to follow and employed a private form of notation that many found incomprehensible. But buried among his arcane formulations were insights of the loftiest brilliance. His Equilibrium has been called the Principia of thermodynamics.”
— Bill Bryson (2003), A Short History of Nearly Everything (pg. 116-117)
“Branches of the United States government have twice acknowledged Josiah Willard Gibbs for his contributions to thermodynamics; and thus indirectly acknowledged the importance of thermodynamics. The first acknowledgement was the US Navy with the USNS Josiah Willard Gibbs which was a ship of the line between 1958 and 1971. The second example was the US Postal Service by including him as one four great American scientists on a series of postage stamps that were issued in 2005. "The greatest thermodynamicist of them all" (John Fenn, 2002 Nobel Prize in Chemistry).”
— Michael Johnson (2009), Biothermodynamics, Part A (pg. xv)[13]
“At least within the field of ‘statistical mechanics’ with which I straddle, I would put Josiah Gibbs as the premium genius of the field. Gibbs reformulated the quaternions into vector algebra, mathematically linked classical thermodynamics with statistical mechanics in a much more rigorous fashion than Boltzmann did, was named with for Gibbs Sampling, and his formulation of using free energy as the basis for Chemical thermodynamics is entirely due to him. I would consider him at least on par with Gauss or Lagrange.”
— Sang Noh (2018), “Geniuses: Who are the Most Brilliant Minds in your Field” (Ѻ), Quora, May 30
“You see on these slides, Josiah Willard Gibbs, American scientist. I love him. I like him very much, after my wife.”
Alec Groysman (65AE), “Thermodynamics, Humanities, Art” (YT) (0:15-0:30), Conference, Jun 24[14]

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Gibbs:

“Before Clausius, truth and error were in a confusing state of mixture, and wrong answers were confidently urged by the highest authorities.”
— Willard Gibbs (1889), “Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius” [15]

End matter

See also


  1. Gibbs, Willard. (1873). "A Method of Geometrical Representation of the Thermodynamic Properties of Substances by Means of Surfaces", Transactions of the Connecticut Academy, II. pp.382-404, Dec; in: The Scientific Papers of Willard Gibbs, Volume One: Thermodynamics (pgs. 33-). Longmans, 1906.
  2. Mary Anna – FindAGrave.com.
  3. Rukeyser, Muriel. (1942). Willard Gibbs: American Genius (financial independence, pgs. 120, 142). Doubleday.
  4. Stanley Martineau – AskArt.com.
  5. Behrens, Roy. (2012). “Camouflage Artist: Stanley Martineau”, blog, Camoupedia, Mar 15.
  6. Gibbs Medal – Yale University Art Gallery.
  7. Gibbs medallion – Invaluable.com.
  8. Planck, Max. (1909). Eight Lectures on Theoretical Physics (pdf) (Lecture 2: Thermodynamic States of Equilibrium in Dilute Solutions, pg. 20). Columbia University.
  9. Thermodynamics Medal (proposal) (subdomain) – Hmolpedia 2020.
  10. Lee de Forest – Wikipedia.
  11. USS San Carlos (AVP-51) – Wikipedia.
  12. Nock, Albert J. (1931). The Theory of Education in the Unites States (pg. 104). Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia; Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1932; Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1949.
  13. Johnson, Michael; Holt, Jo; Ackers, Gary. (2009). Biothermodynamics, Part A. Academic Press.
  14. Groysman, Alec. (65AE). “Thermodynamics, Humanities, Art” (YT.) (0:15-0:30), Conference, Jun 24; Thermodynamics, 2.0, Jul 5
  15. (a) Gibbs, Willard. (1889). “Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius” (pg. 459), Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences¸16:458-65.
    (b) Garrison, Fielding H. (1909). “Josiah Willard Gibbs and his Relation to Modern Science, Parts I-IV” (pdf) (§1: 475), Popular Science Monthly, Part I: 74(27):470-84, May; Part II: 74:551-61, Jun; Part III: 75:41-48, Jul; Part IV: 75:191-203, Aug.
    (c) Josiah Willard Gibbs and his Relation to Modern Science: I, II, III, IV – Wikisource.


Further reading

  • Dais, Photis. (2021). “Impact of Gibbs’ and Duhem’s Approaches to Thermodynamics on the Development of Chemical Thermodynamics” (RG), Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 75(18):1-74.


  • Anon. (2017). “The History of Josiah Willard Gibbs” (YT), A. Hemingway, May 2.

External links

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