Ludwig Boltzmann

Austrian physicist (*1844 – †1906)

Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (February 20, 1844September 5, 1906) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher famous for his founding contributions in the fields of statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics. He was one of the most important advocates for atomic theory which was still highly controversial.

Ludwig Boltzmann


  • Who sees the future? Let us have free scope for all directions of research; away with dogmatism, either atomistic or anti-atomistic!
    • "Lectures on Gas Theory", translated by Stephen George Brush (1971), p. 26
  • In my view all salvation for philosophy may be expected to come from Darwin's theory
    • "Theoretical Physics and Philosophical Problems, Selected Writings", Ludwig Boltzmann, ed. B. McGuinness, 1974, p. 193


  • Philosophy gets on my nerves. If we analyze the ultimate ground of everything, then everything finally falls into nothingness. But I have decided to resume my lectures again and look the Hydra of doubt straight into the eye, and it be quite ominous if one values one's life.
    • "Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics and Life", Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan, 2005, p. 323
  • Eleganz sei die Sache der Schuster und Schneider
    • Elegance should be left to shoemakers and tailors
      • reported by Arnold Berliner, Curt Thesing (1946). Die Naturwissenschaften. Springer-Verlag. p. 36. 
      • also reported by Albert Einstein, translation by Robert W. Lawson (1921). Relativity. Plain Label Books. p. preface. ISBN 1-603-03164-2. 
  • O! immodest mortal! Your destiny is the joy of watching the evershifting battle!
  • Available energy is the main object at stake in the struggle for existence and the evolution of the world.
    • S. Rajasekar, N.Athavan, "Ludwig Edward Boltzmann"
  • Which is more remarkable fact about America: that millionaires are idealists or idealists become millionaires.
    • S. Rajasekar, N.Athavan, "Ludwig Edward Boltzmann"
  • Bring forward what is true, Write it so that it is clear, Defend it to your last breath!
    • S. Rajasekar, N.Athavan, "Ludwig Edward Boltzmann"
  • I am conscious of being only an individual struggling weakly against the stream of time. But it still remains in my power to contribute in such a way that, when the theory of gases is again revived, not too much will have to be rediscovered.
    • S. Rajasekar, N.Athavan, "Ludwig Edward Boltzmann"
  • The most ordinary things are to philosophy a source of insoluble puzzles. With infinite ingenuity it constructs a concept of space or time and then finds it absolutely impossible that there be objects in this space or that processes occur during this time.... the source of this kind of logic lies in excessive confidence in the so-called laws of thought.
    • S. Rajasekar, N.Athavan, "Ludwig Edward Boltzmann"

Quotes about BoltzmannEdit

  • The influence of Quetelet's ideas spread throughout the sciences, even to the physical sciences. The two primary founders of the modern kinetic theory of gases, based on considerations of probability, were James Clerk Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann. Both acknowledged their debt to Quetelet. ...historians generally consider the influence of the natural sciences on the social sciences, whereas in the case of Maxwell and Boltzmann, there is an influence of the social sciences on the natural sciences, as Theodore Porter has shown.
    • I. Bernard Cohen, The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life (2005)
  • Boltzmann summarized most (but not all) of his work in a two volume treatise Vorlesungen Uber Gastheorie [1896, 1898]. This is one of the greatest books in the history of exact sciences and the reader is strongly advised to consult it. It is tough going but the rewards are great.
    • Mark Kac, Probability and Related Topics in Physical Sciences (1959) p. 261.
  • Maxwell... during the 1860s... showed that when the [molecular] velocities reached the bell-shaped distribution, no further net change was likely. (...Ludwig Boltzmann further elaborated... and strengthened Maxwell's results). Any specific molecule would speed up or slow down, but... other molecules would change in speed to compensate. When a gas reached that state... the gas was at equilibrium. ...[T]his notion of equilibrium is precisely analogous to the Nash equilibrium in game theory. ...[J]ust as the Nash equilibrium is typically a mixed set of strategies, a gas seeks an equilibrium state with a mixed distribution of molecular velocities.
    • Tom Siegfried, A Beautiful Math (2006) Ch. 7: Quetelet's Statistics and Maxwell's Molecules, pp. 139-140.
  • Maxwell, and then Boltzmann, and then... J. Willard Gibbs consequently expended enormous intellectual effort in devising... statistical mechanics, or... statistical physics. The uses... extend far beyond gases... describing electric and magnetic interactions, chemical reactions, phase transitions... and all other manner of exchanges of matter and energy.
    The success... has driven the belief among many physicists that it could be applied with similar success to society. ...[E]verything from the flow of funds in the stock market to the flow of traffic on interstate highways ...
    • Tom Siegfried, A Beautiful Math (2006) Ch. 7: Quetelet's Statistics and Maxwell's Molecules, pp. 142-143.
  • Boltzmann... felt that all that we were really doing when we stated physical laws was using a series of linguistic representations of reality. To relate force and mass, as Newton had done in his laws of motion, was to relate labels in such a way that we could use the relations for predictive purposes. To read anything more into the terms force and mass was to presume more than we can know.
    • Brian L. Silver, The Ascent of Science (1998)
  • Boltzmann’s Lectures on Gas Theory is an acknowledged masterpiece of theoretical physics... still... [of] considerable scientific value today. It contains a comprehensive exposition of the kinetic theory of gases by a scientist who devoted a large pail of his own career to it, and brought it very nearly to completion as a fundamental part of modern physics. ...Ludwig Boltzmann ...played a leading role in the nineteenth-century movement toward reducing the phenomena of heat, light, electricity, and magnetism to "matter and motion"—in other words, to atomic models based on Newtonian mechanics. His own greatest contribution was to show how... mechanics... previously ...regarded as deterministic and reversible in time, could be used to describe irreversible phenomena in the real world on a statistical basis. His original papers on the statistical interpretation of thermodynamics, the H-theorem, transport theory, thermal equilibrium, the equation of state of gases... occupy about 2,000 pages... [N]ot even the handful of experts on kinetic theory could claim to have read everything he wrote. ...Boltzmann decided to publish his lectures, in which the most important parts of the theory, including his ...contributions, were carefully explained. ...[H]e included his mature reflections and speculations on such questions as the nature of irreversibility and the justification for using statistical methods in physics. His Vorlesungen über Gastheorie was... the standard reference... for advanced researchers, ...[and] a popular textbook ...for the first quarter of the [20th] century ...
    • Stephen G. Brush, Translator's Introduction to Lectures on Gas Theory (1964) a translation of Ludwig Boltzmann's Vorlesungen iiber Gastheorie (1896, 1898)

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