Edgar Buckingham (1900)

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An Outline of the Theory of Thermodynamics by Edgar Buckingham, originally published by the Macmillan Company in New York in 1900. This new print-on-demand copy from Bibliolife.com was purchased from a leading online bookseller.

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Edgar Buckingham was an American physicist who graduated from Harvard and went on to study with the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Wilhelm Ostwald at the University of Leipzig where he received a PhD. From 1902 to 1906 Buckingham worked at the USDA Bureau of Soils; in 1907 his famous work on soil water was published in Bulletin 38.

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Edgar Buckingham 1867-1940

Buckingham’s textbook was published in the US just three years after Max Planck’s treatise Vorlesungen über Thermodynamik appeared in Germany. Whereas Planck’s book – based on his thermodynamics lecture course at Berlin University – is clearly aimed at undergraduates, Buckingham’s is definitely not a book for the beginner, being reminiscent of Gibbs in its abstractness and austerity. His reasons for writing it are recorded in his preface to the book (see below), so I need not mention them here.

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As an illustration of the general tenor of Buckingham’s text, here is a page taken from Chapter IV, article 43, in which he imagines a bizarre mechanical contraption attached to a soap bubble. At the bottom of the previous page the first line begins, “We may, if we choose, imagine the system to be connected, …”

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