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|American physical chemist Gilbert Lewis' famous "broad highway of thermodynamics" quote. |
The following are quotes on the number of times one has to go through the subject of thermodynamics before one understands it:
“The subject [thermodynamics] cannot be fathomed in all its profundity in a single pass.”— Joseph Kestin (1966), A Course in Thermodynamics 
“Thermodynamics is a funny subject. The first time you go through it, you don't understand it at all. The second time you go through it, you think you understand it, except for one or two small points. The third time you go through it, you know you don't understand it, but by that time you are so used to it, it doesn't bother you anymore.”— Arnold Sommerfeld, when asked why he had never written a book on the subject (c.1950) 
If by the third time, one goes though thermodynamics, one is in a state of unbothered consciousness about lack of complete understanding, the question remains as to what number of times one has to go through the subject before absolute mastery is obtained seems remains an open ended question—even the great Willard Gibbs, left unfinished things to write, such as tentative draft unpublished writing for a section on entropy as mixed-up-ness.
The following are quotes with humorous aspects to them:
“With thermodynamics, one can calculate almost everything crudely; with kinetic theory, one can calculate fewer things, but more accurately; and with statistical mechanics, one can calculate almost nothing exactly.”Newly found— Eugene Wigner (date) 
“Luddites and anti-intellectuals do not master the differential equations of thermodynamics or the biochemical cures of illness ... they stay in thatched huts and die young.”— Edward Wilson, On Human Nature (1978) 
The following are newer additions:
“For the second law, I will burn at the stake.”— Heinz London, comment made to H. Montgomery during his time at Harwell “Frequent unqualified references to the principle of minimum entropy production, [are] quite often used to bolster teleological arguments.”— Irvin Richardson (1968) 
“[We] do not feed on negentropy [like] a cat laps up milk."— Linus Pauling (1987) 
“I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer—born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow. As an engineer, I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
See main: Human thermodynamics quotesThe following are noted quotes related to thermodynamics applied to questions of human concern, human existence, or human experience:
“Indeed, the true role of entropy in that great circle of sciences, including sociology, which may be classified as the energetic sciences, is far broader and more important than even these words may indicate.”— Sidney Reeve (1907), “The Question of Entropy” (see: what is entropy debate) 
“If thought is capable of being classified with electricity, or will with chemical affinity, as a mode of motion, it seems necessary to fall at once under the second law of thermodynamics. Of all possible theories, this is likely to prove the most fatal to professors of history.”
– Henry Adams (1910), A Letter to American Teachers of History 
“What can one say about the philosophical bravado, the cosmic effrontery, the sheer panache of this ailing philosopher with one foot in the grave talking down the second law of thermodynamics? It is a scene fit to set alongside the death of Socrates.”— Robert Richardson (2007) on William James' derogation of Henry Adams' 1910 A Letter to American Teachers of History. “The world has signed a pact with the devil; it had to. It is a covenant to which everything, even every hydrogen atom, is bound. The terms are clear: if you want to live, you have to die. The world came into being with the signing of this contract. A scientist calls it the second law of thermodynamics.”— Annie Dillard 
“He was a practical electrician fond of whiskey, a heavy, red-haired brute with irregular teeth. He doubted the existence of a Deity but accepted Carnot’s cycle, and he had read Shakespeare and found him weak in chemistry.”— H.G. Wells (1906), The Door in the Wall, and Other Stories, Lord of the Dynamos 
The following are classic quotes in thermodynamics:
“The fascination of a growing science lies in the work of the pioneers at the very borderland of the unknown, but to reach this frontier one must pass over well traveled roads; of these one of the safest and surest is the broad highway of thermodynamics.”
— Gilbert Lewis and Merle Randall, Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances (1923) 
“A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises, the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended its area of applicability. Therefore the deep impression that classical thermodynamics made upon me. It is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced will never be overthrown, within the framework of applicability of its basic concepts.”— Albert Einstein, Autobiographical Notes (c. 1940s) 
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
— Max Planck, on how Boltzmann's statistical thermodynamics and atomic hypothesis triumphed over those as Ernst Mach and others of the energetics school (c. 1947) 
“The concept of an independent system is a pure creation of the imagination. For no material system is or can ever be perfectly isolated from the rest of the world. Nevertheless it completes the mathematician’s ‘blank form of a universe’ without which his investigations are impossible. It enables him to introduce into his geometrical space, not only masses and configurations, but also physical structure and chemical composition. Just as Newton first conclusively showed that this is a world of masses, so Willard Gibbs first revealed it as a world of systems.”— Lawrence Henderson, The Order of Nature: An Essay (1917) 
Second law quotes
See main: Entropy quotesThe following are quotes related to the second law or entropy in general:
“The second law is the most metaphysical laws of physics since it points out without interposing symbols, without artificial devices of measurements, the direction in which the world is going.”— Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (1907)
“If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
— Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1928) 
“There’s as many formulations of the second law as there have been discussions of it.”– Percy Bridgman, The Nature of Thermodynamics (1941) 
“A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the second law of thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?”
— C. P. Snow, 1959 Rede Lecture, “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution”. 
“One of the most fabled and mystical principles in science.”
— Dennis Overbye, 2001 Einstein in Love. 
“The second law of thermodynamics has a complicated genealogy.”
— Luis Fernández-Galiano, Fire and Memory: On Architecture and Energy (1982) 
“Every question or effect has the right to exist if it does not contradict the second law of thermodynamics”.— Boris Pavlovich (c.1950) (link)
The following are other noted thermodynamics quotes:
“It must be admitted, I think, that the laws of thermodynamics have a different feel from most of the other laws of physics. There is something more palpably verbal about them—they smell more of their human origins. The guiding motif is strange to most of physics; namely, a capitalizing of the universal failure of human beings to construct perpetual motion machines of either the first or the second kind. Why should we expect nature to be interested either positively or negatively in the purposes of human beings, particularly purposes of such unblushingly economic tinge?”— Percy Bridgman, The Nature of Thermodynamics (1941) 
“Every mathematician knows it is impossible to understand any elementary course in thermodynamics.”
— Vladimir Arnold, “Contact Geometry: the Geometrical Method of Gibbs’ Thermodynamics” (1989) 
“All kinds of private metaphysics and theology have grown like weeds in the garden of thermodynamics.”
— Erwin Hiebert, 1966 “The Uses and Abuses of Thermodynamics in Religion”. 
“Gentle mathematicians and physicists still cling to their laws of thermodynamics, and are almost epileptic in their convulsive assurances that they have reached a generalization which will hold good. Perhaps it will. Who cares?”— Henry Adams, June letter, 1903 “What in the ever-loving blue-eyed world do these [Ulanowicz's] innocuous comments on thermodynamics have to do with ecology!”— Anonymous manuscript reviewer, The American Naturalist (1979); in Growth and Development (1986) by Robert Ulanowicz.
The following are miscellaneous oft-repeated quotes with thermodynamics mentions:
“In whatever system where the weight attached to the wheel should be the cause of motion of the wheel, without any doubt the center of the gravity of the weight will stop beneath the center of its axle. No instrument devised by human ingenuity, which turns with its wheel, can remedy this effect. Oh, speculators about perpetual motion, how many vain chimeras have you created in the like quest. Go and take you place with the seekers after gold.”— Leonardo da Vinci (1494) 
“To teach ethnology, the philosophy of history, political economy and the theory of the state, to men who have not learned these first principles of sociology, is like teaching astronomy or thermodynamics to men who have not learned the Newtonian laws of motion.”— Franklin Giddings, The Theory of Sociology (1894)
“The future belongs to those who can manipulate entropy; those who understand but energy will be only accountants.”Evolution— Frederic Keffer 
The following are evolution-related quotes:
— Roger Caillois, Coherences Aventureuses (1973), 
— Fritjof Capra (1996), The Web of Life 
The end chapter of Benjamin Gal-Or's 1974 book Modern Developments in Thermodynamics contains seven-pages of noted and or historical thermodynamics quotations, selected by Gal-Or, by a number of thinkers, including: 
“I hesitate to use the terms ‘first law’ and ‘second law’, because there are almost as many ‘first laws’ as there are thermodynamicists, and I have been told by these people for so many years that I disobey their laws that now I prefer to exult in my criminal status and non-condemning names to the concrete mathematical axioms I wish to use in my outlaw studies of heat and temperature. The term ‘entropy’ seems superfluous, also, since it suggest nothing to ordinary persons and only intense headaches to those who have studied thermodynamics but have not given in and joined the professionals.”— Clifford Truesdell (date) 
among others including: Arthur Eddington, John Wheeler, Henri Poincare, Olivier Beauregard, among others. 
|An example thermodynamics quote by American creationism spokesperson Ben Stein as found at IZQuotes.com. |
|An example thermodynamics quote by American broadcaster Mark Hyman from IZQuotes.com. |
1. (a) London, Heinz. (date). Comment made to H. Montgomery during his time at Harwell. In D. Shoenberg's obituary of H. London, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (1971), 17, 442.
(b) Thermodynamics quotations – TodayInSci.com.
2. (a) Lewis, Gilbert & Randall, Merle. (1923). Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances (pg. x). New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc.
(b) Cavazox-Gaither A.E. (2002). Chemically Speaking: A Dictionary of Quotations (section: “Thermodynamics”, pg. 427-28). CRC Press.
3. Eddington, Arthur S. (1928). The Nature of the Physical World (pg. 74). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
4. (a) Schlipp, P.A. (1973). Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist. La Salle, IL.: Open Court Publishing.
(b) Einstein, Albert. (author), Paul Arthur, Schilpp (editor). (1979). Autobiographical Notes. A Centennial Edition (p. 31). Open Court Publishing Company.
(c) As quoted by Don Howard, John Stachel. Einstein: The Formative Years, 1879-1909 (Einstein Studies, vol. 8). Birkhäuser Boston. 2000. (p. 1).
5. (a) Henderson, Lawrence J. (1917). The Order of Nature: An Essay (pg. 126). Harvard University Press.
(b) Bynum W.F. and Porter, Roy. (2005). Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (pg. 275:6). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
6. (a) Caillois, Roger. (1976). Coherences Aventureuses. Paris: Gallimard.
(b) Thaxton, Charles B., Bradley, Walter L., Olsen, Roger L. (1992). The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, (ch. 7: “Thermodynamics of Living Systems”, ch. 8: “Thermodynamics and the Origin of Life”). Lewis and Stanley.
(c) Bushev, Michael. (1994). Synergetics: Chaos, Order, Self-organization (pg. 130). World Scientific.
(d) Prigogine Ilya, (1981). From Being to Becoming: Time and Complexity in the Physical Sciences. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Co.
7. The Two Cultures - Wikipedia.
8. Overbye, Dennis. (2001). Einstein in Love (pg. 82). Penguin.
9. (a) Wilson, Edward O. (1978). On Human Nature (pg. 207). Harvard University Press.
(b) Dormer, Peter. (1997). The Culture of Craft (pg. 104). Manchester University Press.
(c) Thermodynamics (T-Shirts, shirts, and bumper stickers) – CafePress.com.
10. Richardson, Robert D. (2007). William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism: a Biography (pgs. 518-19). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
11. Angrist, Stanley W. and Helper, Loren G. (1967). Order and Chaos – Laws of Energy and Entropy (pg. 215). New York: Basic Books.
12. Fernández-Galiano, Luis and Carino, Gina (translator) (2000). Fire and Memory: On Architecture and Energy (pg. 49). MIT Press.
13. Rock, Peter. (2003). Chemical Thermodynamics (pg. 7). University Science Books.
14. Prigogine, Ilya. (1984). Order Out of Chaos – Man’s New Dialogue with Nature (pg. 128). New York: Bantam Books.
15. Arnold, Vladimir I. (1989). “Contact Geometry: the Geometrical Method of Gibbs’ Thermodynamics”, pgs. 163-80; in Proceedings of the Gibbs Symposium: Yale University, May 15-17. AMS Bookstore.
16. (a) Hiebert, Erwin N. (1966). “The Uses and Abuses of Thermodynamics in Religion”, Daedalus, 95: 1046-80 (quote: pg. 1075).
(b) Hiebert, Erwin N. (1986). “Modern Physics and Christian Faith” (pgs. 424-47) in: God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science (pg. 427), by: Lindberg, David C. and Numbers, Ronald L. University of California Press.
17. Bridgman, Peter W. (1941). The Nature of Thermodynamics (pg. 116). New York: Harper Torchbooks.
18. (a) Planck, Max. (1949). Scientific Autobiography, and Other Papers (pgs. 33-34). Trans. by Frank Gaynor. Philosophical Library.
(b) Hokikian, Jack. (2002). The Science of Disorder: Understanding the Complexity, Uncertainty, and Pollution in Our World (pg. 179). Los Feliz Publishing.
19. Adams, Henry, Samuels, Ernest. (1992). Henry Adams, Selected Letters (thermodynamics, pgs. 438 (quote), 466, 517). Harvard University Press.
20. (a) Wells, H.G. (1906). The Door in the Wall, and Other Stories, Lord of the Dynamos, Chapter 7; The Daily Chronicle, Summer No. July 14th.
(b) Gaither, Carl C. and Cavazos-Gaither, Alma E. (2002). Chemically Speaking: a Dictionary of Quotations (pg. 125). CRC Press.
21. Truesdell, Clifford A. (1969). Rational Thermodynamics: A Course of Lectures on Selected Topics (pg. 11). Springer-Verlag.
22. Gal-Or, Benjamin. (1974). Modern Developments in Thermodynamics: an Interdisciplinary Collective Treatise (§: Thought-Provoking and Thought-Depressing Quotations” (43 quotes selected by B. Gal-Or), pgs. 435-42). Wiley.
23. (a) Adams, Henry. (1910). A Letter to American Teachers of History (pg. 102). Washington; in The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma (pg.195). MacMillan, 1919.
(b) Matthias, Ruth. (2011). “Entropy, Economics, and Policy”, in: Thermodynamics and the Destruction of Resources (ch. 16, pgs. 402-28; quote, pg. 402). Cambridge University Press.
24. Haddad, Wassim, M., Chellaboina, VijaySekhar, and Nersesov, Sergey, G. (2005). Thermodynamics: a Dynamical Systems Approach (quotes, pg. vi. Princeton University Press.
25. Pauling, Linus. (1987). “Schrödinger's contribution to chemistry and biology”, in: Schrödinger: Centenary of a Polymath. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
26. Reeve, Sidney. (1907). “The Question of Entropy”, Harvard Engineering Journal (pgs. 138-54), Vol. 6.
27. Wood, Scott E. and Battino, Rubin. (1990). Thermodynamics of Chemical Systems (pg. 1). Cambridge University Press.
28. Richardson, Irvin W. (1969). “On the Principle of Minimum Entropy Production” (abs), Letter to Editor, Biophysical Journal, 9(2): 265-267.
29. Thermodynamics – IZQuotes.com.
30. Capra, Fritjof. (1996). The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems (pg. 48). Anchor books.
31. Kestin, Joseph. (1966). A Course in Thermodynamics (Preface, pgs. vii-ix). London: Blaisdell Publishing Co.
32. Astarita, Gianni. (1989). Thermodynamics: and Advanced Textbook for Chemical Engineers (pg. 19). Springer.
● Thermodynamics Quotations – Today in Science History.
● Heat quotes – TodayInSci.com
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