Ever since the works of J. Willard Gibbs were first published, people have struggled to understand him. Back in 1892 Lord Rayleigh, by all accounts a capable physicist and mathematician, complained to Gibbs that his masterwork *On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances* was “too condensed and too difficult for most, I might say all, readers”.

In 1927 faculty members at Yale University where Gibbs taught decided to do something about it. A committee was appointed to oversee the creation of a work that would elucidate and facilitate understanding of Gibbs’ writings and the result of their labors was a two-volume Commentary published in 1936. The first volume was on Thermodynamics and the second on Theoretical Physics.

Volume 1 Thermodynamics is over 700 pages long and was written by ten authors of high standing including Edward Guggenheim whose influential textbook *Modern Thermodynamics by the Methods of Willard Gibbs* had been published by Methuen & Co., London in 1933.

The volume is organized in 13 sections, all but three of which refer to *On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances*, reflecting the exceptional difficulty of this milestone monograph:

A. Note on symbols and nomenclature, *F.G. Donnan*

B. Mathematical note, *J. Rice*

C. Papers I and II as illustrated by Gibbs’ lectures on Thermodynamics, *E.B. Wilson*

D. The general thermodynamic system of Gibbs, *J.A.V. Butler*

E. Osmotic and membrane equilibria, including electrochemical systems, *E.A. Guggenheim*

F. The quantities ψ, χ and ζ, and the criteria of equilibrium, *E.A. Milne*

G. The Phase Rule and heterogeneous equilibrium, *G.W. Morey*

H. The graphical representation of equilibria in binary systems by means of the Zeta (Free Energy) function, *F.A.H. Schreinemakers*

I. The conditions of equilibrium for heterogeneous masses under the influence of gravity (and centrifugal force), *D.H. Andrews*

J. The fundamental equations of ideal gases and gas mixtures, *F.G. Keyes*

K. The thermodynamics of strained elastic solids, *J. Rice*

L. The influence of surfaces of discontinuity upon the equilibrium of heterogeneous masses. The theory of capillarity, *J. Rice*

M. The general properties of a perfect electrochemical apparatus. Electrochemical thermodynamics, *H.S. Harned*

Sadly this book has long been out of print and today hardly anyone knows of its existence. A revival of interest is this amazingly useful Guide to Gibbs is greatly deserved and long overdue, so if you happen to read this post please check out the link below and spread the word in your scientific community.

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**See the whole book on the Internet Archive**

https://archive.org/details/commentaryonscie01donn/page/n3/mode/2up

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P Mander January 2022