Social physicists (generations)
The main social physics, turned 20th century sociophysics, pioneers, ranked by "generation", according to Iberall classification scheme, are shown, namely: French social thinker Henri Saint-Simon (1803), his graduate student Frenchman Auguste Comte (1823), and Belgian astronomer Adolphe Quetelet (1832); a subject that became superseded or rather upgraded into the late 19th century early 20th century "social mechanics" (mechanistic school). [19] The mechanistic schools, into the 1920s, were soon supplanted with the science upgraded: social physics school, sociophysics, physical sociology, physicochemical sociology, etc.
In science, social physics, the precursor to "sociophysics", give or take (e.g. some versions of sociophysics, e.g. Galam, don't actually use physics), is the study of social systems and social phenomena from the perspective of physics; or “the application of the concepts of physics in the social sciences” (Wilson, 1969). [8]

Social physics | Generations
In 1980, a three generation classification of social physicists, was alluded to by American physicist Arthur Iberall, himself being a second-generation social physicist, as follows: [6]

“There is an enlightenment literature, pre-sociology and anthropology, devoted to a first generation of social physics modelling of the social system. It includes contributors like Saint-Simon, Comte, and Quetelet. It ended in this century with the last desperate cry by historian, Henry Adams.”

The mention of Adams here denoted the separation of human physics (general subject) into the subsets of social physics (physics based sociology) and social thermodynamics (thermodynamics based sociology). An extrapolation of this Iberall scheme, in respect to the second and third generations, is shown adjacent.

The etymology of the term “social physics” has a bit of gradual and intertwined etymological origin, although it is a term that largely stems from the school of French science burgeoning at the beginning of the 19th century. American theologian Noah Porter, in his 1880 sociology essay, gives the following etymology of the term social physics, attributing the term to Comte: [18]

“The term Sociology was invented and adopted in its equivalent by Auguste Comte in his "Philosophie Positive." It makes its first appearance in the following sentence: "After Montesquieu, the next great addition to Sociology (which is the term I may be allowed to invent, to designate Social Physics) was made by Condorcet proceeding on the views suggested by his illustrious friend Turgot" (b. vi. chap. ii.). The term Social Physics, also used by Comte as its equivalent, is significant, suggesting as it does the materialistic theory of man which Comte takes no pains to conceal. For according to his teachings, the higher nature of man is simply the result of a more highly organized brain, and the psychical and social phenomena of humanity depend solely on the quality and conditions of cerebral activity.”

German historian Georg Iggers gives a fairly detailed account of the various “social science” etymologies, as discussed in his 1959 article “Further Remarks About Early Use of the Term ‘Social Science’”. [14]

Saint-Simon: The first dominate outline of a type of physical sociology was that outlined in French social thinker Henri de Saint-Simon’s first book, the 1803 Lettres d’un Habitant de Geneve, the concern of which, according to Iggers, was the application to the study of society of laws similar to those of the physical and biological sciences. [14] In the years to follow, Saint-Simon would go on to coin various terms and phrases, such as designating the study of society as the “physics of organized bodies”, as contrasted with the “physics of brute bodies”, the usages of which seemed to occur in several of his 1815 articles. [15]

Comte: In 1817, Saint-Simon offered the newly christened aged-nineteen École Polytechnique graduate Auguste Comte (who had steeped himself in the writings of Joseph Lagrange), a position of secretary. [7] The two then were said to have interacted for a period of seven years developing a theory of "social physics", with, in some cases, Comte publishing under Saint-Simon's name,

In 1819, according to one reference (1980) (Ѻ), Auguste Comte, who as a young man dreamed of studying political and social phenomena as if they were natural forces, conceived of a new science, called “social physics”.

In 1823 to 1825, the two, Comte and Saint-Simon, had a falling out.

English sociologist Alan Swingewood claims that during this period (1803-1825), Saint-Simon coined the term “social physics”. [10] This, however, may or may not be the case; although, as noted above, Saint-Simon did seem to have defined the study of society as the “physics of organized bodies” at least as early as 1815.

In 1822, Comte introduced the precise term “social science” in the extended essay “Systeme de Politique Positive”, published as the “Troisieme Cahier” of Saint-Simon’s Catechisme des Industriels.

The precise term "social physics" (or “physique sociale”) appears in Le Produceur, a journal project by Saint-Simon, but published by his disciples in 1825 and 1826 after his passing. Comte, who by now had broken with Saint-Simon and the Saint-Simonian school, nevertheless contributed two articles. In these essays, Comte defined social physics (physique sociale) as follows: [14]

Social physics is that science which occupies itself with social phenomena, considered in the same light as astronomical, physical, chemical, and physiological phenomena, that is to say as being subject to natural and invariable laws of discovery of which is the special object of its researches.”

A 1826 article in the Revue Encyclopedique corroborates this, referring to the phrase "social physics" as the language of Comte:

French (original)
"Nous croyons donc que les savans chargés de la réorganisation spirituelle de la société ne feront pas seulement de la physique sociale, selon le langage de AM Comte, mais qu'ils feront aussi de la métaphysique sociale."

English (translation)
"We therefore believe that the learned spiritual charge of the reorganization of the company will not only social physics, in the language of A.M. Comte, but they will also of social metaphysics."

Other references also tend to state that Comte coined the term "social physics". [11] Comte defined social physics as the study of the laws of society or the science of civilization. [1] Specifically, in part six of series of books, written between 1830 and 1842, on the subject of Positive Philosophy, Comte argued that social physics would complete the scientific description of the world that Galileo, Newton, and others had begun: [4]

“Now that the human mind has grasped celestial and terrestrial physics, mechanical and chemical, organic physics, both vegetable and animal, there remains one science, to fill up the series of sciences or observation—social physics. This is what men have now most need of; and this it is the principal aim of the present work to establish.”

In the opening page to his 1856 Social Physics, Comte gives the following situation:

“The theories of social science are still, even in the minds of the best thinkers, completely implicated with the theologico-metaphysical philosophy (which he says is ‘in a state of imbecility’); and are even supposed to be, by a fatal separation from all other science, condemned to remain so involved forever.”

Curiously, this statement rings true even in modern times.

Quetelet: Some references, conversely, mis-attribute the coining of the term to Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet. Quetelet argued untiringly that mathematical probability was essential for social statistics. Quetelet hoped to create from these materials a new science, which supposedly he called at first “social mechanics”, but later began to refer to as “social physics”. He wrote often of the analogies linking this science to the most mathematical of the natural sciences, celestial mechanics. [13]

The term "social physics" formed the title of Quetelet's 1835 book Essay on Social Physics: Man and the Development of his Faculties, in which he outlines the project of a social physics and describes his concept of the "average man" (l'homme moyen) who is characterized by the mean values of measured variables that follow a normal distribution and collects data about many such variables. [5]

A well-told anecdote is that when Comte, who had also used the term social physics, discovered that Quetelet had appropriated the term 'social physics', found it necessary to invent a new term 'sociologie' (sociology) because he disagreed with Quetelet's collection of statistics.

Social physics (Dictionary of Human Geography)
A 2013 Oxford Dictionary of Human Geography definition of social physics, citing the so-called social physics school, of quantitative geography, of John Q. Stewart and William Warntz. [20]
Modern social physics
In 1947, American astrophysicist John Q. Stewart began to outline a version of "social physics" in the theme of the celestial mechanics introduced centuries earlier by Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton.

Likewise, in the 1940s and 1950s, Swedish geographer Reino Ajo, at the University of Helsinki, was said to have borrowed concepts from physics, such as gravity models and field theories, to formulate some variation of “social physics”; such as found in his 1953 “Contributions to ‘social physics’.” [9]

A noted social physics theorist of the late 20th century is Arthur Iberall.

Into the 1990s, American physicist Mark Buchanan began to notice a large number of papers themed on social science viewed through the lens of physics, whole working as an editor of Nature. This seeded him into the writing of three "social physics" type books, including: Ubiquity (2000), Nexus (2002), and The Social Atom (2007).

In recent years, building on the development of the kinetic theory and statistical mechanics, some authors have begun to incorporate a statistical thermodynamic perspective in models of social physics in which people are viewed as atoms or molecules (human molecules) such that the law of large numbers yields social behaviors such as, for instance, the 80-20 rule, wherein, typically, 80 percent of a country's wealth is distributed among 20 percent of the population. [2]

When one applies statistical thought or the "logic of large numbers" to society, according to English chemist and physicist Philip Ball, the concept of human free will is the first question in the minds of those encountering the new "physics of society" for the first time. The debate on this topic, according to Ball, began to rage in the 19th century and still preoccupies sociologists today. [3]

In 2012, American hobbyist researcher Kurt Johnson, curator of the newly-launched, was lecturing to local groups around the Chicagoland area on his “Physical Theory of Peace”, wherein he extolled his agenda-loaded view that physical sciences can be used to eliminate war and find sustainable peace. [16] The entire presentation, however, seems to be but a bloated diatribe on the motto that “if we can learn to fly” then “we can learn to eliminate war”, largely inspired by his hero English railroad and aeronautical engineer George Cayley (1773-1857), but little to do with actual “physics” other than superficial namesake.

The following are related quotes:

Gauss and Goethe were Quetelet's intellectual parents and Goethe predominated.”
— Author (1998), (Ѻ)

See also
Social thermodynamics
Sociological thermodynamics
Social atom
Social bond
Social pressure
Social temperature
사회적 원자 (The Social Atom) 350pxWhy Society is a Complex Matter (2012)Social Physics (2015)
Left: The cover of 사회적 원자 (The Social Atom) a 2010 Korean translation reprint of American-born English physicist Mark Buchanan's social physics themed book The Social Atom (2007), a science he says launched following Thomas Schelling's famous 1971 article on the physics of racial segregation. Middle: English chemist and physicist Philip Ball's 2012 social physics booklet Why Society is a Complex Matter, wherein he argues that science that can help to explain and perhaps even to predict social behavior. [17] Right: Alex Pentland’s 2015 Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter. (Ѻ)

1. (a) Ball, Philip. (2004). Critical Mass - How One Things Leads to Another, (pg. 58). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
(b) Nisbet, Robert A. (1970). The Social Bond - an Introduction to the Study of Society, (pg. 29). New York: Alfred A Knopf.
2. Buchanan, Mark. (2007). The Social Atom - why the Rich get Richer, Cheaters get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You, (pgs. x-xi). New York: Bloomsbury.
3. Ball, Philip. (2004). Critical Mass - How One Things Leads to Another (pgs. 71-72). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
4. Comte, Auguste. (1856). Social Physics: from the Positive Philosophy. New York: Calvin Blanchard.
5. (a) Quetelet, Adolphe. (1835). Essay on Social Physics: Man and the Development of his Faculties (Sur l'homme et le Développement de ses Facultés, ou Essai de Physique Sociale, Vol. 1, Vol. 2). Paris: Imprimeur-Libraire.
(b) Quetelet, Adolphe. (1842). Treatise on Man: and the Development of His Faculties. Ayer Publishing.
6. Iberall, Authur. (1980). “Contributions to a Physical Science for the Study of Civilizations”, Annual Conference of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations, Syracuse, May; in Foundations for Social and Biological Evolution (essay IV), 1993.
7. Hayek, Friedrich A. (1952). Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason,Volume 13 (editor: Bruce Caldwell) (ch. 13: Social Physics: Saint-Simon and Comte, pgs. 200-). University of Chicago Press, 2010.
8. Wilson, Alan. (1969). “Notes on Some Concepts in Social Physics” (abs), Regional Science, 22(1): 159-93.
9. Ajo, Reino. (1953). “Contributions to “Social Physics”: a Programme Sketch with Special Regard to National Planning”, Royal University of Lund.
10. (a) Swingewood, Alan. (1998). “Industrialization and the Rise of Sociological Positivism”, in: Early Modern Social Theory (pg. 81), edited by Murray E.G. Smith. Canadian Scholars’ Press.
(b) Swingewood, Alan. (2000). A Short History of Sociological Thought (Saint-Simon coined “social physics”, pg. 13, Saint-Simon and Comte, 14-7). Palgrave MacMillan.
11. Overman, E. Sam. (1989). “Principles of a New Social Physics” (“social physics” coined, pg. 80), Knowledge in Society, Volume 2. Transaction Periodicals Consortium, Rutgers University.
12. Author. (1826). Revue Encyclopedique (pg. 378), Volume 29.
13. Social physics – Encyclopedia Britannica.
14. Iggers, Georg G. (1959). “Further Remarks About Early Use of the Term ‘Social Science’”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 20: 433-36. Jul-Sep. in: John Stuart Mill: Critical Assessments, Volume 4 (Ch., 80, pgs. 154-). Edited by John Wood.
15. Saint-Simon, Henri de. (date). “Introduction aux Travaux Scientifique du 19 Siecle”, in Oeuvres Choisies (Brussels, 1859), Vol. I; and “Travail Sur la Gravitation Universelle” (1815), in Oeuvres Choisies, II, 179, 180, 182.
16. (a) Home -
(b) Johnson, Kurt. (2012). “A Physical Theory of Peace”, 2:52-hour talk, College of Complexes, Apr 7.
(c) Johnson, Kurt. (2012). “The Essential Physics of Humanity”, 2:52-hour talk, College of Complexes, Aug 25.
17. Ball, Philip. (2012). Why Society is a Complex Matter: Meeting Twenty-First Century Challenges with a New Kind of Science. Springer.
18. Porter, Noah. (1880). “Herbert Spencer’s Theory of Sociology: A Critical Essay”, The Princeton Review, 6: 268-296.
19. Ball, Philip. (2001). “The Physical Modeling of Society: A Historical Perspective” (abs) (pdf); A Talk Presented at Messina, Sicily; in: Physica A (2002), 314(1-4):1-14 (2002).
20. Castree, Noel. (2013). A Dictionary of Human Geography (§:Social physics, pg. 472). Oxford University Press.

Further reading
● White, Leslie A. (1943). “Sociology, Physics, and Mathematics” (abs), American Sociology Review, 8(4): 373-79.
● Foley, Vernard. (1976). The Social Physics of Adam Smith (thermodynamics, pgs. 191-94; entropy, pg. 199). Purdue University Press.
● Knowles, Eric S. (1978). "The Gravity of Crowding: Application of Social Physics to the Effects of Others." In A. Baum and Y. Epstein, eds., Human Response to Crowding. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
● Glymour, Clark. (1983). “Social Science and Social Physics” (abs), Behavioral Science, 28(2): 126-34, April.
● Iberall, A.S. (1985). “Outlining Social Physics for Modern Societies: Locating Cultures, Economics, and Politics: the Enlightenment Reconsidered.” (abstract), Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 82(17): 5582-84.
● Mirowski, Philip. (1989). More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature’s Economics. Cambridge University Press.
● Pennebaker, James W. (2003). “Social Physics: the Metaphorical Application of Principles of Physics to Social Behavior”, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin.
● Urry, John. (2004). “Small Worlds and the New ‘Social Physics’,” (html) (abstract) Global Networks, 4(2): 109-30.
● Pentland, Alex. (2014). Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread—the Lessons from a New Science. Penguin.

● Austwick, Martin. (2012). “Social Physics in the Big City” (Ѻ), UCL Minds Lunch Hour Lectures, Dec 4.

External links
Social Physics – Oxford
Physics of Society - A collection of articles by English chemist and physicist Phillip Ball.
SociablePhysics (blog by self-defined “social physicist” Martin Austwick) –

TDics icon ns