History of Thermodynamics – Complete Information You Must Know

We all have studied thermodynamics in Chemistry as well as in Physics. There are courses in engineering such as Mechanical engineering and Chemical engineering which uses thermodynamics as a base for studying more complicated subjects. However, ever thought from exactly did this branch of Science come from? What is the story behind thermodynamics?

In this article, we shall understand the term thermodynamics, its origin, and the famous laws known as thermodynamics laws.

What is Thermodynamics?

History of Thermodynamics
History of Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is one of the branches of Science which deals with heat, temperature, energy, and work. Thermodynamics can be said as the study of the transfer of energy from one place to another.  The branch explains how heat can be transformed into mechanical energy.

Laws of Thermodynamics

There are four laws of thermodynamics and they are as follows:

  • The zeroth law of thermodynamics: According to the zeroth law of thermodynamics, if two systems are in thermal equilibrium with the third system, then then the first two systems are in thermal equilibrium with each other.
  • The first law of thermodynamics: According to the first law of thermodynamics, the energy can neither is created nor be destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another. This is known as the law of conservation of energy.
  • The second law of thermodynamics: According to the second law of thermodynamics, the conversion of heat energy is irreversible.
  • The third law of thermodynamics: According to the third law of thermodynamics, the entropy of a system is at absolute zero and is equal to the well-defined constant.

Introduction of Thermodynamics

In the early 1800, there were physicists who worked on heat, temperature, and other parameters that were related to Physics. Otto Von Guericke was one among them and he studied about vacuums, he also helped in the discovery of an experimental method that explained the electrostatic repulsion, and about absolute space. He invented an air pump which is used for removing the gas from the chamber.

Robert Boyle was also associated with thermodynamics in the early 1800s. He explained the relationship between the absolute pressure and the volume of the gas to be inversely proportional if the temperature is kept constant.

The concept of latent heat and specific heat that are used in thermodynamics was explained by Joseph Black. Latent heat is defined as the energy either released or absorbed by the body when the process is under constant temperature. While specific heat is defined as the amount of heat required per unit mass when there is a rise in temperature by 1oC.

But the introduction of thermodynamics happened only between 1848 to 1948. William Rankine introduced a new thermodynamic term which is known as entropy. It is defined as the measure of the number of specific ways in which the thermodynamic system can be arranged in order to measure the disorders.

However, Rudolph Clausius is considered to be one of the central founders of the thermodynamics and he also introduced the term heat.  In thermodynamics, heat definition is an energy that is transferred from the thermodynamic system to mechanical energy.

But Nicolas Leonard Sadi Carnot is considered to be the father of thermodynamics. Interested to learn more about him, please visit BYJU’S.


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