Clifford Truesdell

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Clifford Truesdell
Clifford Truesdell.jpg
Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III

(1919-02-18)February 18, 1919
DiedJanuary 14, 2000(2000-01-14) (aged 80)
Scientific career
Natural philosophy
History of science
Doctoral advisorSolomon Lefschetz
Harry Bateman
Doctoral studentsWalter Noll

Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III (February 18, 1919 – January 14, 2000) was an American mathematician, natural philosopher, and historian of science.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


Truesdell was born in Los Angeles, California. After high school, he spent two years in Europe learning French, German, and Italian, and improving his Latin and Greek. His linguistic skills stood him in good stead in his later historical investigations. At Caltech he was deeply influenced by the teaching of Harry Bateman. In particular, a course in partial differential equations "taught me the difference between an ordinary good teacher and a great mathematician, and after that I never cared what grade I got in anything."[7] He obtained a B.Sc. in mathematics and physics in 1941, and an MSc. in mathematics in 1942.

In 1943, he completed a Ph.D. in mathematics at Princeton University. For the rest of the decade, the U.S. Navy employed him to do mechanics research.

Truesdell taught at Indiana University 1950–61, where his students included James Serrin, Jerald Ericksen, and Walter Noll. From 1961 until his retirement in 1989, Truesdell was professor of rational mechanics at Johns Hopkins University.[8][9] He and Noll contributed to foundational rational mechanics, whose aim is to construct a mathematical model for treating (continuous) mechanical phenomena.[10]

Truesdell was the founder and editor-in-chief of the journals Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis and Archive for History of Exact Sciences, which were unusual in several ways. Following Truesdell's criticisms of awkward style in scientific writing,[11] the journal accepted papers in English, French, German, and Latin.

In addition to his original work in mechanics, Truesdell was a major historian of science and mathematics, editing or co-editing six volumes of the collected works of Leonhard Euler.

Criticism of Truesdell's support of rational thermodynamics[edit]

In the words of Bernard Lavenda if there is something rational in rational thermodynamics it is well-hidden.[12] Ironically, the 'rational' theory even failed in fields where the authors assumed expertise: "More damage was suffered by rational thermodynamics when it was found that the theory could not be applied to non-Newtonian fluids.".[13]

Truesdell become also famous by his attacks on Lars Onsager (Nobel Prize 1968 for nonequilibrium thermodynamics) and related scientists. As Ingo Müller reports:[13]

"Truesdell’s outspoken partisanship of rational thermodynamics and his flamboyant style fuelled some lively controversies between adherents of TIP [thermodynamics of irreversible processes] and the protagonists of rational thermodynamics, chiefly Truesdell himself. His attacks on Onsagerism were advanced with much satirical verve, that makes them fun to read for those who were not targeted. However, the defenders of TIP tried their best to pay Truesdell back in his own coin. Woods pointed out some awkward features of rational thermodynamics in a paper entitled “The bogus axioms of continuum mechanics.”57 And Ronald Samuel Rivlin (1915–2005) delighted a worldwide audience with a frequently repeated humorous lecture under the title “On red herrings and other sundry unidentified fish in modern continuum mechanics.”

An article written by Müller (On the frame dependence of stress and heat flux)[14] was later refuted by Truesdell (Correction of two errors in the kinetic theory of gases which have been used to cast unfounded doubt upon the principle of material frame-indifference).[15]


Selected writings[edit]

  • An Essay towards a Unified Theory of Special Functions, Princeton University Press, 1948.[17]
  • A First Course in Rational Continuum Mechanics, Academic Press, 1977.[18]
  • Vorticity and the Thermodynamic State in a Gas Flow, Gauthier-Villars, 1952.[19]
  • The Kinematics of Vorticity, Indiana University Press, 1954.[20]
  • Rational fluid mechanics, 1687–1765, Orell Füssil, 1954.[21]
  • Rational Thermodynamics, McGraw-Hill, 1969.
  • The Elements of Continuum Mechanics, Springer-Verlag.
  • The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics, 1822-1854. ISBN 0-387-90403-4. see [22] and another by I. Grattan-Guinness.
  • Great Scientists of Old As Heretics in "the Scientific Method", University of Virginia Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8139-1134-6.
  • Classical Field Theories of Mechanics, with Toupin, vol. III/1 of Handbuch der Physik edited by Siegfried Flügge.
  • "Non-linear Field Theories of Mechanics", with Walter Noll, volume III/3 of Handbuch der Physik edited by Siegfried Flügge.
  • An Introduction to the Mechanics of Fluids, with K. R. Rajagopal, Birkhauser, Boston, 1999.
  • Essays in the History of Mechanics, Springer-Verlag, 1968.


  1. ^ Clifford Truesdell at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Capriz, G. (2000). "Obituary – Clifford Ambrose Truesdell (1919–2000)". Meccanica. 35 (5): 463–466. doi:10.1023/A:1010368106989.
  3. ^ Giusti, E. (2003). "Clifford Truesdell (1919–2000), Historian of Mathematics". Journal of Elasticity. 70 (1–3): 15–22. doi:10.1023/B:ELAS.0000005636.90348.2b.
  4. ^ Serrin, J. (2005). "An Appreciation of Clifford Truesdell". The Rational Spirit in Modern Continuum Mechanics. pp. 31–38. doi:10.1007/1-4020-2308-1_4. ISBN 1-4020-1828-2.
  5. ^ Speiser, D. (2003). "Clifford A. Truesdell's Contributions to the Euler and the Bernoulli Edition". Journal of Elasticity. 70 (1–3): 39–53. doi:10.1023/B:ELAS.0000005663.42447.08.
  6. ^ Ball, J. M.; James, R. D. (2002). "The Scientific Life and Influence of Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III" (PDF). Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis. 161 (1): 1–26. Bibcode:2002ArRMA.161....1B. doi:10.1007/s002050100178.
  7. ^ Truesdell, C. (1984). An idiot's fugitive essays on science: methods, criticism, training, circumstances. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-90703-3. page 422
  8. ^ Remembering Clifford Truesdell Archived 2007-04-02 at the Wayback Machine, from Turin's Accademia delle Scienze
  9. ^ Coleman, B. D. (2003). "Memories of Clifford Truesdell". Journal of Elasticity. 70 (1–3): 1–3. doi:10.1023/B:ELAS.0000005576.29772.a7.
  10. ^ Noll, W. (2003). "The Genesis of Truesdell's Nonlinear Field Theories of Mechanics". Journal of Elasticity. 70 (1–3): 23–30. doi:10.1023/B:ELAS.0000005581.36943.75.
  11. ^ See "A Comment on Scientific Writing" in Truesdell (1984).
  12. ^ Lavenda, Bernard (1978). Thermodynamics of Irreversible Processes. Macmillan Press.
  13. ^ a b Müller, Ingo (2007). A History of Thermodynamics: the Doctrine of Energy and Entropy. Springer.
  14. ^ Müller, Ingo (1972). "On the frame dependence of stress and heat flux". Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis. 45 (4): 241–250. Bibcode:1972ArRMA..45..241M. doi:10.1007/BF00251375.
  15. ^ Truesdell, Clifford (1976). "Correction of two errors in the kinetic theory of gases which have been used to cast unfounded doubt upon the principle of material frame-indifference". Meccanica. 11 (4): 196–199. Bibcode:1976Mecc...11..196T. doi:10.1007/BF02128292.
  16. ^ "Honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden".
  17. ^ Friedman, Bernard (1948). "Review: An essay towards a unified theory of special functions, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 56 (3): 268–269. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1950-09382-3.
  18. ^ Bloom, Frederick (1981). "Review: A first course in rational continuum mechanics, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.). 5 (3): 359–364. doi:10.1090/s0273-0979-1981-14957-0.
  19. ^ McVittie, G. C. (1954). "Review: Vorticity and the thermodynamic state in a gas flow, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 60 (5): 493–494. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1954-09843-9.
  20. ^ McVittie, G. C. (1955). "Review: The kinematics of vorticity, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 61 (4): 356–358. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1955-09945-2.
  21. ^ Struik, D. J. (1955). "Review: Rational fluid mechanics, 1687–1765, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 61 (5): 451–454. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1955-09952-x.
  22. ^ Channell, D. F.; Truesdell, C. (1982). "The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics, 1822-1854". Technology and Culture. 23 (1): 104–106. doi:10.2307/3104457. JSTOR 3104457.

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