Worlds greatest thermodynamicist
World's Greatest Thermodynamicist T-shirt designed by Jobs in 2007. [3]
In intellectual rankings, greatest thermodynamicist ever is an epitaph given to a person, depending on ranking methodology, some rankings of which are listed below, that classify, list, or describe someone as being the greatest thinker in the field of thermodynamics of all time.

The term "greatest thermodynamicist" is a niche query, on the topic of ranking famous thermodynamicists, opinions of which seem to differ depending on the background of the population queried, e.g. chemistry, physics, or engineering, or expertise of the author of the the book the tribute is found in, such as shown below. The following page discusses some of these views. To clarify, up front, for those in the know, the greatest thermodynamicist is German physicist Rudolf Clausius, the founder of the subject. On the heels of Clausius, the vote seems to go to either Gibbs, in the chemist's view, or Boltzmann, in the physicist's view.

“The translation of your main work is nearly complete and I cannot resist repeating here my amazement. If you had published this work over a longer period of time in separate essays in an accessible journal, you would now be regarded as by far the greatest thermodynamicist since Clausius—not only in the small circle of those conversant with your work, but universally—and as one who frequently goes far beyond him in the certainty and scope of your physical judgment. The German translation, hopefully, will more secure for it the general recognition it deserves.”
Wilhelm Ostwald, German chemist, letter to Willard Gibbs, August (1891) [5]

“To the memory of the greatest thermodynamicist of them all: Josiah Willard Gibbs.”
– John Fenn, American chemical engineer, Engines, Energy, and Entropy (1992) [1]

Ludwig Boltzmann was the greatest thermodynamicist of them all.”
– Rick Fleeter, American thermodynamicist, Travels of a Thermodynamicist (2007) [2]

Another repeated quote, which seems to have originated from New Zealand philosopher and psychologist Rom Harre in 1975, declares English physicist William Thomson to be the greatest: [6]

Kelvin, who was both one of the greatest physicists of his time, the greatest thermodynamicist in any case, proved, by his calculations that the life of the solar system could not possibly have exceeded about twenty-five million years.”

Thomson, was not a core thermodynamicist, never actually writing a full treatise on the subject, although he was significantly noted for having introduced the work of Carnot to Clausius, via his proto-thermodynamics articles (1849-54), and for his work on the absolute temperature scale; this shows through in the fact that the quoter above is not a thermodynamicist, let alone a physicist or chemist. Thomson, true to note, however, is often considered a great thermodynamicist, by the layperson, owing to the fact that most of his contributions to thermodynamics were of the verbal type, and often grandiose in there proclamations, and thus easier to understand; yet as discussed below, none of his equations are used in modern thermodynamics textbooks.

Generational thermodynamicists
Another way to rank thermodynamicists, according to American physics historian and chemist William Cropper, who defines Gibbs as the “principle third generation thermodynamicist”, and eludes to the idea that Clausius and Thomson were the principle second generation thermodynamicists, with Carnot being first generation or initiator of the "Carnot legacy", is to compare thermodynamicists by generation and not which generation was the greatest.

The following shows the results of a poll run at the EoHT founders of thermodynamics page (2007-2010), started by American chemical engineer Libb Thims, in which 15 votes were submitted, and another run at the science blog "Uncertain Principles: Physics, Politics, Pop Culture" (2009-2010), started by American astrophysicist Chad Orzel, in which 196 votes were submitted: [4]

Encyclopedia of Human Thermodynamics
( (2007-2010)

Who is the greatest thermodynamicist
of all time?


Uncertain Principles: Physics, Politics, Pop Culture ( (2009-2010)
Which of these thermodynamicists
is the best?


GT poll (6-10)GT poll (1-5) 1. Clausius (53.3%)
2. Gibbs (26.7%)
3. Boltzmann (13.3%)
4. Maxwell (6.7%)
GT poll (2009) bottom 1. Boltzmann (59%) (115 votes)
2. Carnot (17%) (34 votes)
3. Boyle (10%) (19 votes)
4. Thomson (5%) (10 votes)
5. Other chemist (3%) (5 votes)
6. Other per comment (2%) (4 votes)
7. Clausius (2%) (3 votes)
8. Joule (2%) (3 votes)
9. Other physicist (2%) (3 votes)

See also
● Greatest chemist ever
● Greatest physicist ever
● Greatest mathematician ever
● Greatest thermodynamicist ever
● Polymath
● Last person to know everything
● Universal genius
● Last universal genius

1. Fenn, John, B. (1982). Engines, Energy, and Entropy, (pg. v). San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Co.
2. Fleeter, Rick. (2007). Travels of a Thermodynamicist (description). Outskirt Press.
3. Jobs. (2007). “World’s Greatest Thermodynamicist”,
4. Orzel, Chad. (2009). “Historical Physicist Smackdown: Thermodynamics Edition”, Science Blogs, Uncertainty Principles.
5. Deltete, Robert J. (1995). “Gibbs and the Energeticists” (pgs. 135-170), in: No Truth Except in the Details: Essays in honor of Martin J. Klein (quote, pg. 149), by Martin J. Klein, Anne J. Kox, Daniel M Siegel. Springer.
6. (a) Harre, Rom. (1975). Problems of Scientific Revolutions (pg. 14). Clarendon Press.
(b) Ridley, Mark. (1997). Evolution (pg. 391). Oxford University Press.
7. Cropper, William H. (2001). Great Physicists: the Life and Times of the Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking (pg. 90). Oxford University Press.

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