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Wednesday, 6 July 2011



In 1738 Daniel Bernoulli published Hydrodynamica, which laid the basis for the kinetic theory of gases. In this work, Bernoulli positioned the argument, still used to this day, that gases consist of great numbers of molecules moving in all directions, that their impact on a surface causes the gas pressure that we feel, and that what we experience as heat is simply the kinetic energy of their motion. The theory was not immediately accepted, in part because conservation of energy had not yet been established, and it was not obvious to physicists how the collisions between molecules could be perfectly elastic.
Other pioneers of the kinetic theory (which were neglected by their contemporaries) were Mikhail Lomonosov (1747),[3] Georges-Louis Le Sage (ca. 1780, published 1818),[4] John Herapath (1816)[5] and John James Waterston (1843),[6] which connected their research with the development of mechanical explanations of gravitation. In 1856 August Krönig (probably after reading a paper of Waterston) created a simple gas-kinetic model, which only considered the translational motion of the particles.[7]
In 1857 Rudolf Clausius, according to his own words independently of Krönig, developed a similar, but much more sophisticated version of the theory which included translational and contrary to Krönig also rotational and vibrational molecular motions. In this same work he introduced the concept of mean free path of a particle. [8] In 1859, after reading a paper by Clausius, James Clerk Maxwell formulated the Maxwell distribution of molecular velocities, which gave the proportion of molecules having a certain velocity in a specific range. This was the first-ever statistical law in physics.[9] In his 1873 thirteen page article 'Molecules', Maxwell states: “we are told that an 'atom' is a material point, invested and surrounded by 'potential forces' and that when 'flying molecules' strike against a solid body in constant succession it causes what is called pressure of air and other gases.”[10] In 1871, Ludwig Boltzmann generalized Maxwell's achievement and formulated the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution. Also the logarithmic connection between entropy and probability was first stated by him.
In the beginning of twentieth century, however, atoms were considered by many physicists to be purely hypothetical constructs, rather than real objects. An important turning point was Albert Einstein's (1905)[11] and Marian Smoluchowski's (1906)[12] papers on Brownian motion, which succeeded in making certain accurate quantitative predictions based on the kinetic theory.

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