Physical chemistry (book stack)
A physical chemistry book stack, by Rigoberto Hernandez (Ѻ) on the rise of physical chemistry, via thermodynamics, and later quantum mechanics, as seen by Wilder Bancroft, the graduate student of Wilhelm Ostwald and post-doctoral student of Jacobus van’t Hoff.
In chemistry, physical chemistry is the study of the thermodynamics, quantum chemistry, electrochemistry, kinetics, and macroscopic and microscopic structures of atoms, molecules, chemical species, and chemical systems. [1] Physical chemistry deals with the interpretation of chemical phenomena and properties in terms of the underlying physical processes and with the development of techniques for their investigation. [2]

It is said that the term ‘physical chemistry’ was coined by Russian chemist Mikhail Lomonosov, notable for having experimentally disproved the phlogiston theory in 1756 after having studied the works of Robert Boyle. [7] This, however, seems to be a mis-attribution, as physical chemistry, as the term is understood in modern times, is a result of the application of thermodynamics, a subject solidified in 1865 via German physicist Rudolf Clausius' The Mechanical Theory of Heat, in chemistry.

In 1885, German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald published Lehrbuh der Allgemeinen Chemie (Textbook of General Chemistry), the first textbook on physical chemistry (1885-87), and in 1887, together with Dutch chemist Jacobus van't Hoff, founded Zeitschrift fur Physikalische Chemie (Journal of Physical Chemistry), the first periodical in physical chemistry. [4] The subject of physical chemistry became a solidified “branch” of chemistry in 1895, according to the views of American chemist Charles Palmer, translator of the 1893 English edition of Nernst’s Theoretical Chemistry: from the Standpoint of Avogadro’s Rule and Thermodynamics. In the preface to the translated edition, Palmer comments: [6]

“For the last four of five decades, most of the advanced work in pure chemistry has been largely synonymous with organic chemistry. But with the growth of the science, another great branch has developed, which promises to become equally important; and that is the new physical chemistry.”

Palmer continues:

“It is to Ostwald that we are chiefly indebted for building up this new school; not only by his own extended and thorough investigations, which are already classic; but also by his remarkably successful efforts to concentrate the previously scattered work of others into a well-defined specialty. It has thus come about that Ostwald himself may almost be regarded as the father and founder of that school of physical chemistry the influence of which radiates from the Leipsic [University of Leipzig] all directions.”

Palmer here, to note, seems to use the term “school of physical chemistry” as a synonym for what others have referred to as the “energetics school”, although not exactly. Palmer continues:

“I would not, by any means, seem to ignore the great and classical work of such men as Thomsen [1854], Berthelot [1864], van't Hoff [1884], Raoult [François-Marie Raoult, 1882], Arrhenius [Svante Arrhenius, 1889], Roozeboom [1886], Ramsay [1898], Gibbs [1876], and others, or that brilliant student Nernst [1893], the writer of this timely treatise. It is largely by the concentration and discussion of all such material, both in Ostwald's text-books (viz. the Outlines, the Hand-und Hilfsbuch, and the Lehrbuck), and also and especially in the Zeitschrift fur Physikalische Chemie that Ostwald and van't Hoff have performed a task which puts t science under great obligation to them.”

Another so-called modern 'founding father' of physical chemistry, according to some, is Gilbert Lewis; although, technically, it is more-correct to refer to Lewis as one of the founders of chemical thermodynamics, assuming that physical chemistry can be divided into two parts (chemical thermodynamics + quantum mechanics). [5]

Human chemistry
Interestingly, the newly launched science-based dating site ScientificMatch claims that it is matching people according to "physical chemistry", using the 1995 results of the famous "sweaty T-shirt study", which finds that people are most sexually attracted to mates having the most dissimilar major histocompatibility complex. [3] This, obviously, is a terminological mishap referring to the chemistry of the "physical" body verses the "physics" of chemistry.

See also
Hmolpedia: Categories | Physical chemist

1. (a) Alberty, Silbey. (2001). Physical Chemistry, 3rd Ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
(b) Daintith, John. (2004). Oxford Dictionary of Chemistry. New York: Oxford University Press.
2. Licker, Mark D. (2004). McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Chemistry, New York: McGraw-Hill.
3. Physical chemistry defined –
4. Wilhelm Ostwald: the “Bruke” (Bridge) and other Connections to Other Bibliographic Activities at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century (PDF), 9-pages, by Thomas Hapke, [].
5. Edsall, J. 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". Mol. Cell. Biochem. Nov. 5 (1-2): 103–12.
6. Nernst, Walther. (1893). Theoretical Chemistry: from the Standpoint of Avogadro’s Rule and Thermodynamics (Theoretische Chemie vom Standpunkte der Avogadroschen Regel und der Thermodynamik). English trans. by Charles Palmer. MacMillan and Co., 1995.
7. Bartel, Hans-Georg, and Huebener, Rudolf P. (2010). Walther Nernst: Pioneer of Physics and Chemistry (ch. 1: Development of Physics and Physical Chemistry from about 1800-1870). World Scientific.

Further reading
● Washburn, Edward. (1921). An Introduction to the Principles of Physical Chemistry: from the standpoint of modern Atomistics and Thermodynamics. McGraw-Hill.
● Lewis, William C.M. and Rice, James. (1922). A System of Physical Chemistry: Thermodynamics (Vol. II). Longmans, Green and Co.
● Yates, John T. and Johnson, J. Karl. (2010). Molecular Physical Chemistry for Engineers. University Science Books.

External links
Physical chemistry – Wikipedia.

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