Cover image for Walther Nernst and the transition to modern physical science
Walther Nernst and the transition to modern physical science
Buchwald, Diana Kormos, 1956-
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 288 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Nernst, the historiography of his science, and its context -- Nothing is more practical than theory: beginnings -- The early researchers -- The Göttingen years -- The Nernst-Planck exchange -- Electricity and iron: the electrolytic lamp -- High temperatures and the heat theorem -- Theory and the heat theorem -- Berlin: low temperatures -- The incorporation of quantum theory -- "The witches's sabbath": Nernst and the first International Solvay Congress in Physics -- Simply a matter of chemistry? The Noble Prize.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QD22.N39 B37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Primarily a scientific biography of Walther H. Nernst (1864-1941), one of Germany's most important, productive and often controversial scientists, this 1999 book addresses a set of specific scientific problems that evolved at the intersection of physics, chemistry and technology during one of the most revolutionary periods of modern physical science. Nernst, who won the 1920 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, was a key figure in the transition to a modern physical science, contributing to the study of solutions, of chemical equilibria, and of the behavior of matter at the extremes of the temperature range. A director of major research institutes, rector of the Berlin University, and inventor of a new electric lamp, Nernst was the first 'modern' physical chemist, an able scientific organizer, and a savvy entrepreneur. His career exemplified the increasing connection between German technical industry and academic science, between theory and experiment, and between concepts and practice.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Barkan (history, CalTech) has degrees in chemistry and history of science. Her 1990 doctoral dissertation at Harvard, done with Erwin Hiebert, forms the basis of this well-documented book. Nernst (1864-1941) received the 1920 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, particularly for thermochemistry. As a physical chemist strongly rooted in physics, Nernst is remembered especially for the Nernst equation of electrochemistry, for the Nernst glower or globar, and for the Nernst heat theorem, which became the basis for the Third Law of Thermodynamics. Nernst obtained patents for his lamp or glower and profited financially from its industrial development. Barkan emphasizes the importance of this lamp and related experimental work to the development of the heat theorem. She discusses the science and personal tensions related to Nernst's somewhat delayed Nobel Prize, including the role of Svante Arrhenius. Barkan's work is of similarly high quality to the related work of Elisabeth Crawford, Arrhenius: From Ionic Theory to the Greenhouse Effect (CH, Mar'97). Recommended for general readers and upper-division undergraduates through professionals, including teachers. A. Viste Augustana College (SD)

Table of Contents

Preface and acknowledgments
1 The invention of identity
2 Beginning
3 The early researchers
4 The Gottingen years
5 The Nernst-Planck exchange
6 Electricity and iron
7 High temperatures and the heat theorem
8 Theory and heat theory
9 Berlin and low temperatures
10 The incorporation of the quantum theory
11 The witches Sabbath: the Solvay Congress
12 The Nobel Prize