Frank L. Lambert

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Frank L. Lambert
Born(1918-07-10)July 10, 1918
DiedDecember 28, 2018(2018-12-28) (aged 100)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materHarvard University
University of Chicago
Known forAdvocacy for teaching of entropy as energy dispersal
Scientific career
InstitutionsOccidental College
Getty Conservation Institute

Frank L. Lambert (July 10, 1918 – December 28, 2018) was an American academic who was Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Occidental College, Los Angeles. He is known for his advocacy of changing the definition of thermodynamic entropy as "disorder" in US general chemistry texts to its replacement by viewing entropy as a measure of energy dispersal. He died in December 2018 at the age of 100.[1]

Teaching career[edit]

Lambert graduated with honors from Harvard University with an AB, and received his doctorate (PhD) from the University of Chicago. After serving in the US Army in WWII and working briefly in industrial research and development, Lambert joined the faculty of Occidental College, teaching from 1948 to 1981.[2]

Lambert's primary concern was teaching. He advocated the abandonment of the standard lecture system, opting instead for a system more akin to a partnership with his students.[3][4][5] Additionally, his research in the synthesis and polarography of organic halogen compounds was designed for undergraduate collaboration and all but one of his articles were published with student co-authors.[2]

After retiring from teaching in 1981, Lambert as a Professor emeritus, became the scientific advisor to the J. Paul Getty Museum, and then the principal Aide to the Scientific Research Director when the Getty Conservation Institute was established.[2]

Technical writings[edit]

Lambert is known for his work on the energy dispersal model of entropy, publishing articles in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Chemical Education. After his initial 1999 article, "Shuffled Cards, Messy Desks, and Disorderly Dorm Rooms – Examples of Entropy Increase? Nonsense!",[6] a second article completed his critique of the inadequacy of describing entropy in terms of "disorder".[7] Then, in 2002 "Entropy Is Simple, Qualitatively" described the spontaneous increase in entropy as fundamentally due to the tendency of all types of energy to disperse in space, if they are not constrained – with molecular motion and energy content as the most important in chemistry.[8] Five further publications by Lambert and colleagues on the subject appeared through 2011.[9][10][11][12][13] The latest article briefly summarizes how Boltzmann’s 1898 statement produced the conceptual error of “entropy is disorder” for the 20th century.[13] In 2004, Science noted the emphases of his articles and listed his major website.[14] His ideas have been used by other authors in the Journal of Chemical Education.[15][16] Lambert's ideas on entropy have been examined in a broad review of entropy by Jesper Haglund, Fredrik Jeppsson and Helge Strömdahl.[17]

Most notably, his work has influenced the way in which entropy (a concept defined mathematically in the technical literature) is presented in introductory textbooks and in popular science writing.[18] Margulis and Eduard Punset have suggested that "The work of Frank Lambert, integrated into virtually all recent chemistry textbooks, makes clear that the second law is really a matter of energy dispersal."[19] In 1999 most general chemistry texts described entropy as disorder. Since then many have shifted their emphasis to that of energy dispersal. Lambert has extensively documented the way 29 textbooks have changed in this respect up to 2012.[20] While authors often do not acknowledge the source for changes that they make from one edition to the next, some authors have acknowledged Lambert's influence. The 2005 2nd Edition of "Chemistry: The Molecular Science" by Moore et al., on p. xiv states "Revised Chapters 14 and 18 to more clearly present entropy as dispersal of energy (See Lambert F. L. J. Chem. Educ. 1999,76, 1385; 2002, 79, 187)."[21] The 2006 4th edition of "Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter and Change" by Silberberg on p. xviii states "Chapter 20 has been completely rewritten to reflect a new approach to the coverage of entropy. The vague notion of "disorder" (with analogies to macroscopic systems) has been replaced with the idea that entropy is related to the dispersal of a system’s energy and the freedom of motion of its particles." Silberberg thanks "Frank Lambert of Occidental College for insightful advice and comments on the coverage of entropy".[22] In his "Chemistry: A Molecular Approach", Tro states on p. xxi "Thanks also to Frank Lambert for helping us all to think more clearly about entropy and his review of the entropy sections of this book."[23] His ideas were independently put forward in the context of physics, rather than chemistry, by Harvey Leff, who also treated entropy as a measure of the spreading of energy.[24] In 2012, Leff wrote a detailed five-part series for physics instructors treating entropy as the spreading of energy.[25] Joshua Floyd, an engineer, has used Lambert's ideas to critique the use of the second law of thermodynamics in futures studies and to criticize the application of the second law in general to areas not involving the physical sciences.[26]


  1. ^ A Centenarian of Chemistry
  2. ^ a b c Curriculum Vitae
  3. ^ Editorial, Journal of Chemical Education, 1963, 40, 173-174. Online
  4. ^ Morrison, Robert T., The Lecture System in Teaching Science, Proceedings of the Chicago Conferences on Liberal Education, Undergraduate Education in Chemistry and Physics, The College Center for Curricular Thought: The University of Chicago, 1986. Online
  5. ^ Eubanks, David; Dean, Academic Services, Johnson C. Smith University, Alternatives to Lecturing, 2009
  6. ^ Lambert, Frank L., Shuffled Cards, Messy Desks, and Disorderly Dorm Rooms – Examples of Entropy Increase? Nonsense! Journal of Chemical Education, 1999, 76, 1385-1387. Online
  7. ^ Lambert, Frank L., Disorder – A Cracked Crutch for Supporting Entropy Discussions, Journal of Chemical Education, 2002, 79, 187-192. Archive of update on Lambert's site
  8. ^ Lambert, Frank L., Entropy Is Simple, Qualitatively, Journal of Chemical Education, 2002, 79, 1241-1246. Online
  9. ^ Kozliak, Evguenii I, Lambert, Frank L., "Order-to-Disorder" for Entropy Change? Consider the Numbers! The Chemical Educator, 2005, 10, 24-25. Online
  10. ^ Lambert, Frank L., Configurational Entropy Revisited, Journal of Chemical Education, 2007, 84, 1548-1550. Online
  11. ^ Kozliak, Evguenuii, Lambert, Frank L., Residual Entropy, the Third Law and Latent Heat, Entropy 2009, 10, 274-284; doi:10.3390/e10030274. Online
  12. ^ Lambert, Frank L., Leff, Harvey S., The Correlation of Standard Entropy with Enthalpy Supplied from 0 to 298.15K, Journal of Chemical Education, 2009, 86, 94-98. Online
  13. ^ a b Lambert, Frank L., The Conceptual Meaning of Thermodynamic Entropy in the 21st Century, International Research Journal of Pure and Applied Chemistry, 2011, Volume 1, Issue 3 (October-December).
  14. ^ Science, 12 March 2004: Vol. 303. no. 5664, p. 1589
  15. ^ William B. Jensen, Entropy and Constraint of Motion. Journal of Chemical Education, 2004, 81 (5), p 639, Online
  16. ^ Thomas H. Bindel, Teaching Entropy Analysis in the First-Year High School Course and Beyond. Journal of Chemical Education, 2004, 81 (11), p 1585,
  17. ^ Jesper Haglund, Fredrik Jeppsson and Helge Strömdahl, Different Senses of Entropy—Implications for Education, Entropy, 2010, 12, 490-515; doi:10.3390/e12030490 Online
  18. ^ See e.g. Bruce D. Olsen, Understanding Biology through Evolution, 2nd ed, Lulu, 2005, ISBN 1-4116-3667-8, p. vii. Preface
  19. ^ Lynn Margulis and Eduard Punset, Mind, Life, and Universe: Conversations with great scientists of our time, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007, ISBN 1-933392-43-6, p. 232. [1]
  20. ^ A list of texts (with ISBN numbers) that have deleted "disorder" from their definition of entropy and adopted viewing it as involving the dispersal or spreading out of energy.
  21. ^ Moore, J. W., Stanitski, C. L., and Jurs, P. C. Chemistry, The Molecular Science, 2nd ed., Thompson Brooks-Cole, 2005, ISBN 0-534-42201-2.
  22. ^ Silberberg, M. S., Chemistry, The Molecular Nature of Matter, 4th ed., McGraw-Hill, 2006, ISBN 0-07-310169-9.
  23. ^ Tro, N. J., Chemistry, A Molecular Approach, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008, ISBN 0-13-615491-3.
  24. ^ . Leff, Harvey S., Thermodynamic entropy: The Spreading and Sharing of Energy, American Journal of Physics, 1996, 64 (10) 1261-1271
  25. ^ Leff, Harvey, Removing the Mystery of Entropy and Thermodynamics, The Physics Teacher, Part 1, 50, 28-31 (Jan. 2012); Part 2, 50, 87-90 (Feb. 2012); Part 3, 50, 170-172 (March 2012); Part 4. 50, 215-217 (April 2012); Part 5, 50, 274-276 (May 2012). Direct links to publications of Harvey Lett
  26. ^ Floyd, J., Thermodynamics, entropy and disorder in futures studies, Futures, 2007, 39, 1029-1044. Direct link to this paper