In hmolscience, energetic imperative refers to Wilhelm Ostwald's energy-themed categorical imperative about how one should utilize their own personal energies, as a form of an ethical principle; the gist of which is "waste energy not", but one that tends to be found in may overly read-into mis-translations.

In circa 1906, Wilhelm Ostwald conceptualized an energy-themed reformulation of German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s 1785 categorical imperative, which he states as follows:

German original

English translations

“Vergeude keine Energie: verwerte sie.”
“Do not waste energy; exploit/recycle it.” (Google translate, 2015)

“Waste not free energy; treasure it and make the best use of it.” (William Bayliss, 1915)

“Waste no (free) energy; use it well.” (John Edsall, 1974) [3]

“Do not waste energy, but convert it into a more useful form.” (Thomas Hapke, 1998) [2]

“Waste no energy; turn it all to account.” (Helge Kragh, 2008) [1]

In the above William Bayliss (1915) and John Edsall (1974) translations we see a mis-translation of "free energy" being read into Ostwald's imperative, which is not correct, being that Ostwald was not a free energy theorist.

In 1912, Ostwald published Die Energetische imperativ, a book of essays. [1]

In 1959, American physicist Robert Lindsay's extened Ostwald's ideas into the form of what he called a thermodynamic imperative.

In 1997, Robert Clark outlined some type of entropy-based global imperative.

1. Kragh, Helge. (2008). Entropic Creation: Religious Contexts of Thermodynamics and Cosmology, (pg. 229). Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
2. (a) Hapke, Thomas. (1998). “Wilhelm Ostwald: the “Bruke” (Bridge) and other Connections to Other Bibliographic Activities at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century”, in: Proceedings of the Conference on the History and Heritage of Science Information Systems (pgs. 139-47). Information Today, 1999.
(b) Holt, N.R. (1970). "A Note on Wilhelm Ostwald's Energism", Isis, 61, pgs. 368-89, (esp. 388).
3. Edsall, John T. (1974). “Some Notes and Queries on the Development of Bioenergetics. Notes on some ‘Founding Fathers’ of Physical Chemistry: J. Willard Gibbs, Wilhelm Ostwald, Walther Nernst, Gilbert Newton Lewis” (abs) (energetic imperative, pg. 104), Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 5(1-2): 103–12, Nov 15.

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