Talk:Josiah Willard Gibbs

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Featured articleJosiah Willard Gibbs is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
Main Page trophyThis article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on February 11, 2016.
Article milestones
DateProcessResult
June 25, 2012Good article nomineeListed
August 12, 2012Peer reviewReviewed
January 1, 2013Featured article candidateNot promoted
February 17, 2014Featured article candidatePromoted
Current status: Featured article

Image of commemorative tablet[edit]

As was suggested in the recent peer review by A. Parrot, it would be nice to have a picture, for the section on "Commemoration," of the bronze tablet that was paid for from the gift of Walther Nernst and designed by Lee Lawrie. A picture of it appears in the biography by Wheeler, but the quality is not very good and a scan of it would probably not be in the public domain. The only image of it that I've been able to find on the web is this one, which probably is also not in the public domain. If anyone can upload their own picture of the tablet, which is currently located at the J. W. Gibbs Laboratory (the large aqua-colored building at the far end of Kline courtyard, in the Yale University campus), I think it would make a nice addition to the article. - Eb.hoop (talk) 16:50, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

I looked back at this article and saw your request here. I added the "request a photo" template, up above, so the request is listed in a category (Category:Wikipedia requested photographs in Connecticut). The template hardly guarantees that the request will be fulfilled, but at least the request will be visible somewhere besides this page, where traffic is low. (Incidentally, I've listed my own image request at Talk:Metternich Stela, but I doubt either of us can help the other—if I were anywhere near Yale I'd also be near New York and able to photograph the stela, and if you were anywhere near New York you'd be near Yale and able to photograph the tablet.) A. Parrot (talk) 19:35, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
I happened to be passing near New Haven and made a detour to take a picture of the tablet. The result is not all I'd wished for: I don't own a real camera, and the tablet is installed in such a way that it's difficult to get either a good vantage point or favorable lightning. I still think that the result was adequate, but if you or others disagree I will remove the picture. - Eb.hoop (talk) 21:25, 12 November 2012 (UTC)
I've clarified the licensing for you. Grandiose (me, talk, contribs) 22:03, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

Since no one has complained about the picture that I took and uploaded, I've gone ahead and removed the request. (And, BTW, to A. Parrot, if I have time to visit the Met next week I'll see what I can do about getting a picture of the Metternich Stela.). - Eb.hoop (talk) 06:50, 16 November 2012 (UTC)

FA review[edit]

Hi. I nominated this as a Featured Article, and the review has been open for almost two weeks. A few questions of repeated links, reference formats, and image copyrights were raised, which I think I've addressed. Aside from that, only one person has voted on the nomination. I'd like to encourage other editors who've edited or reviewed this article before to express their opinion. - Eb.hoop (talk) 00:07, 29 November 2012 (UTC)

Publications[edit]

Here is a list of Gibbs' publications based on that given in Hastings 1909. It is probably too detailed for the article which already includes a reference to his collected papers. I've included links to scans which can be tricky to find as neither Google nor the Internet archive handle multi-volume publications sensibly.

Aa77zz (talk) 22:19, 4 December 2012 (UTC)

Nice work. To these should be added the book Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics, from 1902. But I agree that it might be better to stick, within the article, to giving the publication info. for the Scientific Papers and the Collected Works. I think that those also include the pamphlet on vector analysis that E. B. Wilson later used for this book. - Eb.hoop (talk) 20:28, 5 December 2012 (UTC)
  • Dates: The article currently has the text: "including the notions of chemical potential (1876), statistical ensemble (1878), and phase space (1901).[32][33]" The two parts of his "On the Equilibrium..." were published in the issues (Oct 1875 – May 1876), and (May 1877 – July 1878) so the first two dates look OK – but Gibbs has no publication in 1901. Should this be 1902? Aa77zz (talk) 12:19, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
Yes, you're right. Gibbs's contribution to phase space is from his 1902 book on statistical mechanics. The date 1901 was actually coming from the Wikipedia article on phase space, which gave an irrelevant ref. to a book about the phase rule. I've edited that article to fix the problem. It's a bit unfortunate that the word "phase" in "phase space" and "phase rule" should have totally different meanings, and that they should both be associated with Gibbs. On the history of phase space, see [1]. - Eb.hoop (talk) 16:05, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

Renominate for FA[edit]

In a few weeks, I'd like to renominate this for Featured Article. If you are interested in the subject, please either edit the article or suggest improvements here. One thing that I'm slightly anxious about is whether the fair-use rationale for the image of the cover of Fortune, currently used in the section about commerations of Gibbs in literature, will survive scrutiny by the editors. Opinions on that are welcome. -Eb.hoop (talk) 04:59, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

Since the magazine still exists, perhaps you could ask their permission to use this one image in the article. Dirac66 (talk) 01:41, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

Gibbs-governor.jpg nominated for deletion[edit]

File:Gibbs-governor.jpg has been nominated for deletion, having no source informaton. Edgepedia (talk) 07:47, 9 June 2013 (UTC)

Spectacles[edit]

Is there any truth to the rumour that Gibbs ground his own spectacle lenses? Deadlyvices (talk) 17:20, 24 June 2013 (UTC)

Um, none of the photos in the article even show him wearing spectacles. Dirac66 (talk) 18:36, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
It's mentioned by both Rukeyser and Wheeler. Apparently, the earliest medical account of how to diagnose and correct astigmatism dates from 1864. So in the 1860s Gibbs had to do it all himself. According to Wheeler, the story was repeated within Gibbs's family, but he does point out that in his later years Gibbs never wore glasses. - Eb.hoop (talk) 00:49, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
OK, perhaps this would be interesting to add. And I found another anecdote which may be of interest:

Mathematics is a language[edit]

The article now quotes Gibbs' statement that "Mathematics is a language" without any context. That may be because he gave none! An article by the physiologist Homer Smith, Circulation, 21, 808 (1960) has a footnote on p.809 citing Lewis and Randall's Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances,p.26 as follows: It is said that, during his long membership in the Yale faculty, Willard Gibbs made but one speech, and that of the shortest. After a prolonged discussion of the relative merits of language and mathematics as elementary disciplines, he rose to remark, 'Mathematics is a language.' Dirac66 (talk) 01:28, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Chemical potential[edit]

The definition is not quite right. Chemical potential can also called partial Gibbs free energy. It is partial because the amounts of the other chemical species are supposed to be constant. See chemical potential#Thermodynamic definitions. I don't like "constant entropy and volume". As the definitions show, partial Gibbs free energy is defined with pressure being constant, partial Helmholtz free energy is defined with volume being constant.Petergans (talk) 10:24, 29 December 2013 (UTC)

Actually there are several equivalent definitions which are all correct.
The first is most useful in physical chemistry, but the others are used in physics (statistical thermodynamics) and engineering as well. I think Gibbs derived them all (using symbols different from the modern) and underlined their equivalence. Dirac66 (talk) 12:52, 29 December 2013 (UTC)

Gibbs' importance in Mathematics[edit]

Gibbs is of top importance in mathematics. As recently pointed out at WikiProject Chemistry [2] he created vector calculus. His notes for his students were the first textbook in this field, and were widely used. Hamilton had paved the way for it, having already abandoned the commutative law and defined the vector product and scalar product (and invented those names, although the operations had been used previously by other names) as parts of his system of quaternions. But it was Gibbs who abandoned the notion that all the terms in an equation needed to be the same sort of numbers, and thus made the system workable. It's similar to Einstein's later simplification of the tensor calculus (for which he often receives as little credit).

And there was enormous opposition from some mathematicians of the time, who championed the quaternion and disparaged Gibbs and Grassman in very strong terms indeed.

That's straying into WP:OR as it's based on a paper which was never published and probably no longer exists, but I thought it might be of some use anyway. If I can find a copy I'll post its bibliography, which would make all the above more easily verifiable. Andrewa (talk) 15:29, 30 December 2013 (UTC)

Some of the above is now in this article's section on vector analysis. Perhaps you could expand that section if you have sources. Dirac66 (talk) 20:25, 30 December 2013 (UTC)
I had them once! But that was decades ago. I'll have a look. Andrewa (talk) 00:26, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
In addition to vector calculus, Gibbs made two other very significant mathematical contributions. His early papers on graphical methods in thermodynamics effectively pioneered what would later be called convex analysis. And his late work on statistical mechanics introduced several important concepts in pure mathematics. The article mentions some of this and gives references to discussions by Wiener, Wightman, and Simon. But by all means feel free to improve the discussion and add further references, if you have them. - Eb.hoop (talk) 19:23, 31 December 2013 (UTC)
As I said, it's a while ago, but it may be in one of my archive boxes. My main interest (fascination) was the chauvinistic and often cruel jibes leveled at Gibbs (particularly) and Grassman by their contemporaries for daring to tamper with the then-sacred quaternion. I actually found a copy of Gibbs' student text on vector calculus (in the library at Macquarie University I think), some reviews of it, and his replies to them (equally cruel in places), and it all makes fascinating reading. Gibbs of course did very well seen through mid 20th century eyes, which is a cautionary tale to those who criticise... Andrewa (talk) 21:11, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

New FA review[edit]

If you have an opinion about the quality of this article, please participate in the current FA review. As it is, it looks like it will expire without any substantive feedback at all. - Eb.hoop (talk) 00:37, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

FA is Featured Article and the question is whether this article should be featured on Wikipedia. To participate, go to the top of this talk page and click on leave comments. I have added a brief note of support. I do not know why the review is called Archive2 since it is only two weeks old, or when it will expire. Dirac66 (talk) 01:31, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

Spoken languages[edit]

Which languages did Gibbs understand? He attendended lectures in french and german. -- Room 608 23:33, 28 May 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Roomsixhu (talkcontribs)

He was proficient in Latin, French, and German (in addition to English, of course). Before he became a professor of mathematical physics at Yale, he actually taught both Latin (as a college tutor) and French (privately, to engineering students). I'm not sure if he had a reading knowledge of any other languages. - Eb.hoop (talk)
Thanks. I think his knowledge of german was due to the german publications in physics and he was only a shot time in Germany. It lasted some time until he was translated into german.-- Room 608 18:23, 31 May 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Roomsixhu (talkcontribs)
With Kirchhoff and Bunsen he knew somehow the foundations of spectral analytics, also a thermodynamic theme. -- Room 608 18:30, 31 May 2014 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Roomsixhu (talkcontribs)

Free energy[edit]

Every student of chemistry will know the name of Gibbs. The Gibbs free energy, symbol G, is a fundamental property of systems at constant pressure, as contrasted with the Helmholtz free energy which applies at constant volume. An important application is that the Gibbs free energy change for a chemical reaction at atmospheric pressure and chemical equilibrium is zero; indeed this can be used as a definition of what constitutes chemical equilibrium. Petergans (talk) 09:03, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Thanks for your recent contribution to the article. I'm afraid, though, that it might be too detailed and technical for the biography of Gibbs, as opposed to the article on the Gibbs free energy. As it stands, several of the symbols (like and K) aren't even defined in the text, and doing so would only make the discussion longer. I vote that we return to something more like what there was in the article previously. - Eb.hoop (talk) 19:26, 13 February 2016 (UTC)

"large ensembles of particles"[edit]

The phrase "statistical properties of large ensembles of particles" which occurs twice in the article (and was included on the wiki front page today) is embarrassingly wrong.

You don't have ensembles of particles. You have ensembles of states of the whole system.

This is fundamental to the difference between the calculations of Gibbs and the earlier calculations of Boltzmann, and it is fundamental to statistical mechanics.

It's this aspect of the method (and the related idea of Gibbs statistical entropy, with probabilities taken over states of the entire system) -- rather then any vague "carefully constructed"-ness -- that is why everything still works when you go over to quantum mechanics. The details and the nature of what constitutes a state of the system changes. But how you apply statistical mechanics to those sets of possible states remains much the same.

So it would be good if this could be fixed. The ensembles are not ensembles of particles, they are ensembles of states. Jheald (talk) 00:45, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

I agree and have changed ensembles of particles to ensembles of states of a system. Readers who want more detail can of course follow the link to Statistical ensemble. Dirac66 (talk) 01:32, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
I think that it might be less confusing to the lay reader if we say something like "ensembles of the possible states of a system composed of many particles". Someone who hasn't encountered ensembles will not know what it means for one of them to be "large", whereas it's intuitively clearer that the laws of thermodynamics apply to systems composed of a very large number of particles. -Eb.hoop (talk) 05:29, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that your new wording is clearer. Perhaps we could use it exactly in the Intro, and even add a little more detail in the Statistical mechanics section. Dirac66 (talk) 14:45, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
I tried my hand at it. Let me know if you've any objetions. - Eb.hoop (talk) 19:29, 12 February 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I think that's good. I added one more link to define Ensemble in the statistical mechanics section, for the reader who may have skipped that link in the Intro.Dirac66 (talk) 21:00, 12 February 2016 (UTC)

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Bibliography section[edit]

I changed the "Bibliography" section to a subsection. This is a relatively minor adjustment but as a section this title is usually placed first in the appendixes related to biographies or named "Works or publications", "Discography", or "Filmography" per MOS:BIB. Using a separate source related "Bibliography" section is confusing and out of place. We commonly practice placing relate subjects in a subsection so it seems appropriate to follow this with source links (generally listed), and links providing inline text-source integrity, that combined form the citations. Otr500 (talk) 16:43, 25 July 2018 (UTC)