© 2011

Commentary on the Principles of Thermodynamics by Pierre Duhem

  • Paul Needham


  • Previously untranslated publications of Pierre Duhem

  • First definition of reversible process in thermodynamics

  • First critical study of Gibbs's "On the equilibrium of heterogeneous systems"


Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 277)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Study of the Thermodynamic Works of J. Willard Gibbs (1887)*

  3. Commentary on the Principles of Thermodynamics: The Principle of the Conservation of Energy (1892)*

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 35-36
    2. Paul Needham
      Pages 37-49
    3. Paul Needham
      Pages 65-82
  4. Commentary on the Principles of Thermodynamics: The Principle of Sadi Carnot and R. Clausius (1893)*

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 83-83
    2. Paul Needham
      Pages 85-97
    3. Paul Needham
      Pages 121-140
  5. Commentary on the Principles of Thermodynamics: The General Equations of Thermodynamics (1894)*

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 141-141
    2. Paul Needham
      Pages 143-155
    3. Paul Needham
      Pages 157-170
    4. Paul Needham
      Pages 171-190
    5. Paul Needham
      Pages 191-209
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 211-215

About this book


Pierre Duhem (1861–1916) held the chair of theoretical physics at Bordeaux from 1894 to his death. He established a reputation in both the history and philosophy of science as well as in science itself (physics and physical chemistry). Much of his work in the first two areas has been translated into English, but little of his technical scientific work. The present volume contains early work of Duhem’s illustrating his interest in the rigorous development of physical theory for which he is famous. It opens with what was the first critical discussion of Gibbs’ groundbreaking "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances" (1876-8), where Duhem addressed the problem that, as he put it, "Mathematicians regret that the principles of Thermodynamics should have been developed in general with so little precision that the same proposition can be regarded by some as a consequence, and by others as a negation, of these principles". The other papers, forming a three-part series, pursue this project of putting the foundations of thermodynamics on a clearer and more secure basis. This book will be of interest to scholars in history and philosophy of science, especially those interested in the development of physical chemistry and the work of Pierre Duhem.


Duhem Gibbs Thermodynamics

Editors and affiliations

  • Paul Needham
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. PhilosophyUniversity of StockholmStockholmSweden

Bibliographic information