Herbert Callen

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Herbert Bernard Callen
DiedMay 22, 1993
Notable work
Author of the textbook Thermodynamics and an Introduction to Thermostatistics

Herbert Bernard Callen (1919 – May 22, 1993) was an American physicist best known as the author of the textbook Thermodynamics and an Introduction to Thermostatistics, the most frequently cited thermodynamic reference in physics research literature. During World War II he was also called upon to undertake theoretical studies of the principles underpinning the effort to create the atom bomb.[1]


A native of Philadelphia, Herbert Callen received his Bachelor of Science degree from Temple University.[2] He married in 1945, as the war and his work for the Manhattan Project were coming to an end, and subsequently studied for a PhD in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), receiving his degree in 1947. His graduate advisor was the eminent physicist László Tisza.[3]

In 1948, Callen joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Physics and, in 1984, received the Elliott Cresson Medal from the Franklin Institute. He was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for the academic year 1972/1973,[4] and his distinguished career in physics was capped by induction into the National Academy of Sciences in 1990. Specialists consider that his most lasting contribution to physics remains the proof of Nyquist's fluctuation-dissipation theorem, an extremely general result describing how a system's response to perturbations relates to its behavior at equilibrium; as well as his classic text on Thermodynamics, which was published in two editions, translated into many languages, and continues to be used at the graduate and undergraduate level in Thermodynamics courses around the world.

After battling Alzheimer's disease for eleven years, Herbert Callen died in the Philadelphia suburb of Merion at the age of 73. He and his wife, Sara Smith, had two children, Jed and Jill.[5]


Callen, Herbert B. (1985). Thermodynamics and an Introduction to Themostatistics (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-86256-8.


  1. ^ "Herbert B. Callen" (biography). College Park, Maryland: American Institute of Physics, retrieved online February 23, 2019.
  2. ^ Callen, Herbert Bernard, Biographies, The Lower Merion Historical Society
  3. ^ Burstein, Elias; Cohen, Michael; Harris, A. Brooks; Lubensky, Tom C. (August 1994). "Obituary: Herbert B. Callen". Physics Today. 47 (8): 74–75. Bibcode:1994PhT....47h..74B. doi:10.1063/1.2808620. Archived from the original on 2013-10-05.
  4. ^ Herbert B. Callen – John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Archived 2013-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Herbert B. Callen" (biography), American Institute of Physics.

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