In thermodynamics schools, the Vienna school or "Viennese school" refers to the thermodynamics and statistical thermodynamics works, theories, and teachings developed at or in connection with the University of Vienna, Austria. [1] The Viennese school, according to Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine, was led by Gustav Jaumann, originating concepts such as energy production and entropy flow. [2] Noted thermodynamicists associated with this school include Ludwig Boltzmann, Josef Loschmidt, and Josef Stefan.

The core date of the Vienna school can be said to have been the year 1868 when Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann published a more convincing physical explanation of the formula James Maxwell had derived in his 1860 paper “Illustrations on the Dynamical Theory of Gases”. [3]

Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann is the best-known thermodynamicist associated with the Vienna school. Boltzmann studied physics at the University of Vienna, starting in 1863.

Loschmidt became professor of physical chemistry at the Vienna University in 1868.

Among his teachers were Austrians chemist and physicist Josef Loschmidt and mathematical physicist Joseph Stefan. Boltzmann received his PhD degree in 1866 working under the supervision of Stefan; his dissertation was on kinetic theory of gases.

In 1867 he became a Privatdozent (lecturer). After obtaining his doctorate degree, Boltzmann worked two more years as Stefan’s assistant. It was Stefan who introduced Boltzmann to Scottish physicist James Maxwell's work.

Loschmidt and his younger university colleague Boltzmann latter became good friends. His critique of Boltzmann's attempt to derive the second law of thermodynamics from kinetic theory became famous as the "reversibility paradox" or “Loschmidt’s paradox”. It led Boltzmann to his statistical concept of entropy as a logarithmic tally of the number of microscopic states corresponding to a given thermodynamic state.

In 1873, Boltzmann joined the University of Vienna as professor of mathematics and there he stayed until 1876.

In 1893, Boltzmann succeeded his teacher Joseph Stefan as professor of theoretical physics at the University of Vienna.

In circa 1899, a young Otto Weininger studied under Boltzmann at the University of Vienna.

Boltzmann, however, did not get along with some of his colleagues in Vienna, particularly Austrian physicist Ernst Mach, strong objector to the molecular hypothesis, who became a professor of philosophy and history of sciences in 1895. Thus in 1900 Boltzmann went to the University of Leipzig, on the invitation of Wilhelm Ostwald. After the retirement of Mach due to bad health, Boltzmann came back to Vienna in 1902. His students included Karl Przibram, Paul Ehrenfest and Lise Meitner.

In Vienna, Boltzmann not only taught physics but also lectured on philosophy. Boltzmann’s lectures on natural philosophy were very popular, and received a considerable attention at that time. His first lecture was an enormous success. Even though the largest lecture hall had been chosen for it, the people stood all the way down the staircase. Because of the great successes of Boltzmann’s philosophical lectures, the Emperor invited him for a reception at the Palace.

Austrian psychology thermodynamicist Sigmund Freud started medical school at the University of Vienna in 1873, where he was introduced to the first law of thermodynamics, through the teachings of German physiologist Ernst Brücke, a friend of Hermann Helmholtz.

1. Montroll, Elliott W. (1984). “On the Vienna School of Statistical Thought.”, AIP Conf. Proc. Feb. 28, Vol. 109, (pgs 1-10).
2. Kondepudi, Dilip and Prigogine, Ilya. (1998). Modern Thermodynamics: from Heat Engines to Dissipative Structures (pg. 87). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
3. Lindley, David. (2001). Boltzmann’s Atom: the Great Debate that Launched a Revolution in Physics (pgs. 17-18). The Free Press.

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