Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 468 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RUDOLF JULIUS EMMANUEL CLAUSIUS (1822-1888), German physicist, was born on the 2nd of January 1822 at Koslin, in Pomerania. After attending the Gymnasium at Stettin, he studied at Berlin University from 1840 to 1844. In 1848 he took his degree at Halle, and in 185o was appointed professor of physics in the royal artillery and engineering school at Berlin. Late in the same year he delivered his inaugural lecture as Privatdocent in the university. In 1855 he became an ordinary professor at Zurich Polytechnic, accepting at the same time a professorship in the university of Zurich. In 1867 he moved to Wifrzburg as professor of physics, and two years later was appointed to the same chair at Bonn, where he died on the 24th of August 1888. During the Franco-German War he was at the head of an ambulance corps composed of Bonn students, and received the Iron Cross for the services he rendered at Vionville and Gravelotte. The work of Clausius, who was a mathematical rather than an experimental physicist, was concerned with many of the most abstruse problems of molecular physics. By his restatement of Carnot's principle he put the theory of heat on a truer and sounder basis, and he deserves the credit of having made thermodynamics a science; he enunciated the second law, in a paper contributed to the Berlin Academy in 185o, in the well-known form, " Heat cannot of itself pass from a colder to a hotter body." His results he applied to an exhaustive development of the theory of the steam-engine, laying stress in particular on the conception of entropy. The kinetic theory of gases owes much to his labours, Clerk Maxwell calling him its principal founder. It was he who raised it, on the basis of the dynamical theory of heat, to the level of a theory, and he carried out many numerical determinations in connextion with it, e.g. of the mean free path of a molecule. To Clausius also was due an important advance in the theory of electrolysis, and he put forward the idea that molecules in electrolytes are continually interchanging atoms, the electric force not causing, but merely directing, the interchange. This view found little favour until 1887, when it was taken up by S.A. Arrhenius, who made it the basis of the theory of electrolytic dissociation. In addition to many scientific papers he wrote Die Potentialfunktion and das Potential, 1864, and Abhandlungen uber die mechanische lVarmetheor•ie, 1864-1867.

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