E.A. Guggenheim (1933)


Modern Thermodynamics by the methods of Willard Gibbs by E.A. Guggenheim, published by Methuen & Co. and printed in Great Britain. This copy, which once graced the library shelves of Christ’s College Cambridge, is a first edition from 1933.


This is one of the two books – Lewis and Randall was the other – which established chemical thermodynamics as a modern, practical science, and set the study curriculum at countless colleges around the world.


A typical spread from the 200+ page book, which contains 910 numbered equations and is organised into 14 chapters. Click on image for larger view.

The preface to this book, written in 1932 by the Irish physical chemist Frederick Donnan, nicely captures the spirit of the age and skilfully summarises Guggenheim’s post-Gibbs achievement:


The science of thermodynamics, as a branch of mathematical physics founded on the First and Second Laws, was developed in an exact and comprehensive form by Willard Gibbs in his famous paper on “The Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances.” No later writer on the subject has been able to improve on the elegance and generality of Gibbs’ treatment. Although this work has been accessible in English, French and German for many years, its highly condensed and abstract form has repulsed the great majority of students, with the result that the science of thermodynamics has been recast in many different moulds during the last fifty years. To those  acquainted with the power and beauty of Gibbs’ treatment it  has always been a source of regret that its outstanding merits have not become more widely known. Probably the reason is that no one has written a succinct and easily comprehensible book on Gibbsian lines. I consider it therefore of great importance that Mr. E. A. Guggenheim has undertaken to fill this lacuna, and that he has, in the present work, given to students of science an exact and yet very compendious account of thermodynamics as Gibbs conceived it. Mr. Guggenheim has, however done much more than this, for he has dealt very fully with the subject of solutions and shown how the modern concepts and uses of fugacity, activity-coefficient, osmotic-coefficient etc., which we owe to the important work of G. N. Lewis, J. N. Brönsted and N. Bjerrum, can be exactly related to the chemical potentials of Gibbs. This part of Mr. Guggenheim’s book is extremely valuable, and, in combination with his classification of different types of solutions, brings order and clarity of thought into an important branch of physical chemistry that has suffered much in the past from obscurity and inexactitude.

Another part of the book where the author shows in like manner both clarity of thought and originality is to be found in his treatment of electro-chemical cells and electro-chemical potentials. This is a very valuable contribution to science, and will certainly be welcomed by every student of physics and chemistry. The thermodynamical equations relating to osmotic, membrane and surface equilibria, equilibrium in a gravitational field, the Nernst Heat Theorem, and the thermodynamics of radiation, are all dealt with by the author in the same exact and logical manner, and all bear witness to the simplicity, power and elegance of Gibbs’ methods.

I heartily commend Mr. Guggenheim’s book to all students of physics and chemistry. They will find it an indispensable guide and lifelong friend, for age cannot wither the principles of thermodynamical science, enduring and incorruptible within their rightful domain.




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