Ludwig Boltzmann

Ludwig Boltzmann

Ludwig Boltzmann was an Austrian physicist whose efforts radically changed several branches of physics. He is mostly noted for his role in the development of statistical mechanics and the statistical explanation of the second law of thermodynamics.


Early Life and Education:

Born in Vienna on February 20, 1844, Ludwig Boltzmann’s fater was a tax official. He earned his PhD degree in 1866 at the University of Vienna.

Contributions and Achievements:

Ludwig Boltzmann taught mathematics, experimental physics and theoretical physics at several universities, but theoretical physics was his main passion. He wrote his famous travelogue “Reise eines deutschen Professors ins Eldorado” during this time.

Boltzmann’s scientific approach was to attack the problem. He explained the second law of thermodynamics in the early 1870s on the basis of the atomic theory of matter. He demonstrated that the second law could be interpreted by blending the laws of mechanics, applied to the motions of the atoms, with the theory of probability. He clarified that the second law is an essentially statistical law. He formulated most of the structure of statistical mechanics, which was later researched by the mathematical physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs.

In addition to his contributions to statistical mechanics, Boltzmann made detailed calculations in the kinetic theory of gases. He was probably the first person to understand the significance of James Clerk Maxwell‘s theory of electromagnetism, on which he wrote a two-volume treatise. Boltzmann also worked on a derivation for black-body radiation based on the Stefan’s law, which was later termed by Hendrik Antoon Lorentz as “a true pearl of theoretical physics”. His work in statistical mechanics was vocally criticized by Wilhelm Ostwald and the energeticists who disregarded atoms and based physical science exclusively on energy conditions. They were unable to understand the statistical nature of Boltzmann’s logic.

His ideas were supported by the later discoveries in atomic physics in the early 1900, for instance Brownian motion, which can only be explained by statistical mechanics.

Later Life and Death:

Ludwig Boltzmann was greatly demoralized due to the harsh criticism of his work. He committed suicide on September 5, 1906 at Duino, Italy by hanging himself. He was 62 years old.