History of human thermodynamicsThis is a featured page

Under construction 250px
This page is only partially complete, in a limited manner; see: HT pioneers (500+) timeline table for a more rigorous history.
In thermodynamics, the history of human thermodynamics traces the timeline of ideas and people involved in the development and inception of the modern theory of human thermodynamics. In a sense, the history of human thermodynamics traces the use and application of the laws of thermodynamics in the understanding of the process of human life, both internally (with in the body) and externally (between bodies).

The development of the logic of a "thermodynamics of human life" can be said to have begun in 1852 when William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) published his "On a Universal Tendency in Nature to the Dissipation of Mechanical Energy" in which he set forth the generalized over-simplified view, for many readers, that all natural systems tend to down grade in energy over time and that this logic defines the course of human history, to the modern view that each person is a human molecule, a term used by English physicist Charles Galton Darwin, and that sets of reactive human molecules, constitute thermodynamic systems. Human thermodynamics, itself, is a relatively new science. The first view on how the new science of heat, energy, and work might apply or govern human life or life in general were very approximate.

Early history
In 1824, French physicist Sadi Carnot, the founder of thermodynamics, published his turning-point paper “Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire”, which outlined the basics of the laws of generalized heat engines, i.e. any generalized body whatsoever that performs work due to the action of heat. In the decades to follow, scientists, researchers, and philosophers have been forever since striving to understand how the process of human life operates through the lens of thermodynamics.

In 1856, Danish civil engineer and physicist Ludwig Colding published a paper titled "Scientific reflections on the relationship between intellectual life’s activity and the general forces of nature" in relation to his work in the calculation of the mechanical equivalent of heat.

In 1869, Irish author Joseph Murphy applied the then-developing principles of thermo-dynamics, which he define as the theory that proved that “heat consists in molecular motions, and that the laws of heat are only a particular case of the laws of force”, to develop a loose outline of the “dynamics of life”. [4] In doing so, he compared the animal organism to the steam engine, and reasoned that a “vital energy”, a variable quantity of static actual energy, which is capable of being transformed when needed either into heat or into muscular motor power. He regarded vital energy as “a distinct form of actual energy, just like heat, electricity, magnetism, or the energy of motion.

In 1873, French scientist Etienne-Jules Marey, in his La Machine Animale or Animal Mechanism: A Treatise on Terrestrial and Aërial Locomotion (1874 English translation), devoted a small section to what he called "thermo-dynamics applied to living beings". In it he stated, in reference to a theory of animal thermo-dynamics, wherein energies (or forces) involved in digestion, respiration, and excretion, etc., would need to be accounted for, that: “this complication in the measure of force among organized beings shows what difficulties await those who are endeavoring to verify the principles of thermo-dynamics in animals; yet, nevertheless, he continues, “it would be illogical to admit without proof that, in living beings, the physical forces do not obey natural laws”. [5]

He continues, “several savants, firmly convinced of the generality of the laws of thermo-dynamics, have attempted to demonstrate them upon animal organism.” He cites, among others, French physicist Gustave-Adolphe Hirn, known for 1856 experimental calculations of the mechanical equivalent of heat of humans and for his 1868 book Philosophical Implications of the theory of thermodynamics.

One of the first to make a connection between life and thermodynamics was Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, the founder of statistical thermodynamics, who in 1886 reasoned that: "the general struggle for existence of animate beings is not a struggle for raw materials – these, for organisms, are air, water and soil, all abundantly available – nor for energy, which exists in plenty in any body in the form of heat Q, but of a struggle for entropy S, which becomes available through the transition of energy from the hot sun to the cold earth."

In 1895, American historian and lawyer Brooks Adams published his Law of Civilization and Decay arguing that history was governed by the laws of energetics.

Likewise, in 1910, Brooks Adams' older brother, American historian Henry Adams published his "Letter to American Teachers of History" in which he discussed the seeming contradictions apparent between the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy), the second law of thermodynamics (dissipation of energy), and the law of evolution (the power of organisms to rise and grow in potential by the absorption of solar energy).

Hirn’s 1856 human thermo-dynamics
Gustave-Adolphe HirnThe first use of the term "human thermo-dynamics" is found in the 1893 Transactions of the Manchester Association of Engineers, with the hyphenated version listed in the index (referring to page 176), chapter five, with the subsections as indicated below: [6]

Human Thermodynamics
(a) vital heat of the body
(b) experiments on the amount of heat developed by human beings when in action
(c) measurement of oxygen inhaled
(d) respiration shown to be the principle source of heat.

In this type of rudimentary human thermodynamics, the exodermal layer of a single human body is considered as the boundary with the body considered as the system. The seven-page chapter presented the results of French physicist Gustave-Adolphe Hirn’s 1856 experiments in the determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat of a human being in working action. In particular, Hirn calculated a value for the mechanical equivalent of heat for a man doing work, i.e. running on a paddle-wheel like stair-climber treadmill, in a sealed chamber. To achieve this end, a man was placed in a hermetically closed chamber, and made to turn a wheel which could, at choice, revolve with or without doing work. The heat given out in the chamber was then ascertained by the ordinary calorimetric process. From these experiments, Hirn deduced a valuation of the mechanical equivalent of heat for animated motors; but the number which he obtained differed considerably from the standard obtained by Joule via physico-mechanical methods. [5]
C.G. Darwin (1956)
C.G. Darwin's 1952 human thermodynamics
The first recorded use of the term "human thermodynamics", in which collections of interacting, evolving, work-producing humans are considered as the thermodynamic system, was made by Charles Galton Darwin (adjacent), the Grandson of Charles Darwin, in his terse 1952 book The Next Million Years. [1] The purpose his book was to use the principles and laws of science to predict the outcome of the future of the human race. To make his historical predictions, first he positioned the idea of the "human molecule" and argued that the interactions and collisions of human molecules would actuate in what are called ‘conservative dynamic systems’. Moreover, he reasoned, the process or evolution of these molecular interactions, i.e. life, would be predictable according to the laws of statistical thermodynamics.

Building on this, he rounds of his argument with a discussion on the efficiency of engines and thermodynamics, and states that if we determine ‘some kind of laws of human thermodynamics’ we shall be more successful in doing good in the world. He concludes by saying that ‘I am going to try to see what these laws of human thermodynamics are; of course they cannot be expected to have the hard outline of the laws of physical science, but still I think some of them can be given a fairly definite form.’ He reasons that it will be up to someone more skilled in biology than he is to perfect, or perhaps correct, his attempts at a possible formulation of the laws of human thermodynamics.

Karlis UllisUllis' 1999 human thermodynamics
A human body (as a thermodynamics system) approach to a theory of "human thermodynamics" was proposed in the 1999 book Age Right by American sports medicine physician Karlis Ullis (shown adjacent). In a chapter called "The Critical Point and the Theory of Human Thermodynamics", Ullis outlines his views on the relation between performance track and field racing, the critical point (the point before over-training begins) balance between anabolism and catabolism, and the thermodynamics of the human body, which he views as a "physiological engine" or "anabolic biomachine". His theories are very basic and off on many points. He defines entropy, for instance, as a person's resting metabolic rate or the amount of heat given off by the body at rest, and defines extropy as a state of antientropy. [3]

Other views
Beginning in about the early 1970s, a number of theories began to emerge concerning the thermodynamic operation of human life, such as Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's "second law theory of economics" (1971), Ilya Prigogine's "dissipative structure" theory (1977), and Georgi Gladyshev's "hierarchical thermodynamics" theory (1978), among others.

In the years to follow, a number of human thermodynamic pioneers began to develop theories on the thermodynamic operation of human life. In the new millennium, book publications on thermodynamic theories on aspects of human life have begun to appear at about a yearly rate.

Libb ThimsThims' 2002 human chemical thermodynamics
In 1995, American chemical engineering student Libb Thims began to wonder how the logic of reaction prediction in chemical thermodynamics, as embodied in free energy tables, applied to the calculation of human chemical reactions. This remained as a sort of puzzling but curious hobby until November 15, 2001, at 3:00 AM, when, after a reading of Steven Hawking's A Brief History of Time, which outlined a relationship between neurological entropy and knowledge attainment, Thims began to a see a clear picture of how human chemical thermodynamics operated, in terms of daily changes in Gibbs free energy, enthalpy, and entropy, as bond-changing reactions occur between human molecules over time.

In this frame of mind, over the next five years, Thims wrote up the following collection of manuscripts in rough-draft, single pass, outline form, totalling about 1,100 pages. Copies, numbered up to a dozen, for the human thermodynamics series, and up to one-hundred, for the cessation thermodynamics manuscript, were printed and bound by hand and distributed locally around Chicago (primarily) for feedback and first impression:

  • Thims, Libb. (2002). Human Thermodynamics (Volume One). 330-pgs. Chicago: Institute of Human Thermodynamics
  • Thims, Libb. (2003). Human Thermodynamics (Volume Two). 330-pgs. Chicago: Institute of Human Thermodynamics
  • Thims, Libb. (2004). Human Thermodynamics (Volume Three). 330-pgs. Chicago: Institute of Human Thermodynamics
  • Thims, Libb. (2005). Cessation Thermodynamics. 100-pgs. Chicago: Institute of Human Thermodynamics

The first fully-published chapter on "human thermodynamics", with global distribution, representing the modern view, in which systems of humans constitute chemical systems of substrate attached human molecules, was published in 2007 textbook Human Chemistry by American chemical engineer Libb Thims. [2]

1. (a) Darwin, Charles G. (1952). The Next Million Years (pg. 26). London: Rupert Hart-Davis.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One), (preview). (pgs. 25-35) Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
2. Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One), (preview), (Ch. 16: "Human Thermodynamics", pgs. 653-702). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
3. Ullis, Karlis (1999). Age Right - Turn Back the Clock with a Proven Antiaging Program, (section: "Human Thermodynamics", pg. 34-36). New York: Simon & Schuster.
4. Murphy, Joseph J. (1869). Habit and Intelligence in Their Connexion with the Laws of Matter and Force (ch. 8: “The Chemistry of Life”, pgs. 84-89; ch. 9: “The Dynamics of Life”, pgs. 90-109). Macmillan and Co.
5. Marey, Étienne-Jules. (1973). La Machine Animale (Animal Mechanism: A Treatise on Terrestrial and Aërial Locomotion), (pg. 13-18). D. Appleton and Co.
6. M.A.E. (1893). Transactions of the Manchester Association of Engineers, (ch. 5: "Human Thermodynamics", pgs. 176-183). Manchester: Herald & Walker, Printers.

External links
‚óŹ Human Thermodynamics: History - Institute of Human Thermodynamics

EoHT symbol

Latest page update: made by Sadi-Carnot , Feb 13 2012, 7:26 PM EST (about this update About This Update Sadi-Carnot Edited by Sadi-Carnot

1 word added
1 word deleted

view changes

- complete history)
Keyword tags: history human thermodynamics
More Info: links to this page

Anonymous  (Get credit for your thread)

There are no threads for this page.  Be the first to start a new thread.

Related Content

  (what's this?Related ContentThanks to keyword tags, links to related pages and threads are added to the bottom of your pages. Up to 15 links are shown, determined by matching tags and by how recently the content was updated; keeping the most current at the top. Share your feedback on WikiFoundry Central.)