4 October 2002
WAALS, Johannes Diderik van der (1837-1923). Over de continuitet van den gas- en vloeistoftoestand. Leiden: A.W. Sijthoff, 1873.
8o. Half-title. Errata leaf. (Light foxing to first and last few leaves). Folding plate (foxed). Modern half cloth and marbled boards. Provenance: Dr. H.W.C.E. Bückmann, Amsterdam (ink stamp on half-title).
FIRST EDITION of van der Waals's dissertation on the continuity of gaseous and liquid states. SCARCE. "Van der Waals' idea of continuity was that there is no essential difference between gaseous and liquid states of matter, although one must consider other factors in addition to motion of the molecules in the determination of pressure. The important factors are the attraction between particles and their proper volume. . . . From these considerations van der Waals arrived at the equation
FIX FORMULAS ON SCREEN
?p + a/v2 ) (v-b) = RT
where a expresses the mutual attraction of the molecules, and b is their volume. . . . Other experimenters have suggested different models and equations of state, but van der Waals's model is probably the most useful because it emphasizes the essential features of molecules that determine liquidity, without introducing too many 'realistic' complications. . . . An important practical application of the theory is the prediction of conditions necessary for the liquefaction of a gas; this was an important guide in the liquefaction of the 'permanent' gases" (Weber, Pioneers of Science, p. 41; see also p. 40). Van der Waals was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1910 for his work on the equation of state of gases and liquids. The son of a carpenter, van der Waals began his career as a primary school teacher, advancing after additional training to the secondary school level where he became a Headmaster. He received his doctorate at Leiden at the age of 36 with one of the most famous dissertations in the history of physics, becoming professor of physics at the University of Amsterdam in 1877. Remarkably he wrote very little after his dissertation-a few articles and a book on thermodynamics co-authored in 1912. His Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery first published in his dissertation.
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