The book presents the life and personality, the scientific and philosophical work of Ludwig Boltzmann, one of the great scientists who marked the passage from 19th to 20th century physics. His rich and tragic life, ending by suicide at the age of 62, is described in detail. A substantial part of the book is devoted to discussing his scientific and philosophical ideas and placing them in the context of the second half of the 19th century. The fact that Boltzmann was the man who did most to establish that there is a microscopic, atomic structure underlying macroscopic bodies is documented, as is Boltzmann's influence on modern physics, especially through the work of Planck on light quanta and of Einstein on Brownian motion. Boltzmann was the centre of a scientific revolution, and he has been proved right on many crucial issues. He anticipated Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions and proposed a theory of knowledge based on Darwin. His basic results, when properly understood, can also be stated as mathematical theorems. Some of these have been proved; others are still at the level of likely but unproven conjectures.
The main text of this biography is written almost entirely without equations. Mathematical appendices deepen knowledge of some technical aspects of the subject.
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(242mm x 162mm x 24mm)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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UK Kirkus Review »
Ludwig Boltzmann was one of the 19th-century pioneers who made the concept of atoms real. His major contribution was to work out the statistical rules which explain how large numbers of tiny particles interacting with one another behave; his work underpins the famous second law of thermodynamics; he puzzled over the nature of the arrow of time. And yet, he committed suicide, in 1906, in a fit of depression partly caused by what he perceived as the failure of the scientific community to take his ideas seriously. Carlo Cercignani doesn't make the most of the opportunity to present the life of Boltzmann in dramatic terms, but concentrates on his work and writes in a stiff, old-fashioned style ('let us consider, for example...'). Pretty heavy going, but Boltzmann was such an important figure in the history of science that it is likely to appeal to anyone with a serious interest in the subject. Perhaps only for the cognoscenti - but for them, essential. (Kirkus UK)
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