Josiah Willard Gibbs

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Josiah Willard Gibbs (February 11, 1839 – April 28, 1903) was an American theoretical physicist, chemist, and mathematician. He devised much of the theoretical foundation for chemical thermodynamics as well as physical chemistry. As a mathematician, he invented vector analysis (independently of Oliver Heaviside). Yale University awarded Gibbs the first American Ph.D. in engineering in 1863, and he spent his entire career at Yale.[1]

In 1901, Gibbs was awarded the highest possible honor granted by the international scientific community of his day, granted to only one scientist each year: the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London, for his greatest contribution of being "the first to apply the second law of thermodynamics to the exhaustive discussion of the relation between chemical, electrical, and thermal energy and capacity for external work."[2]

Contents

Biography

Early years

Gibbs was the seventh in a long line of American academics stretching back to the 17th century. His father, a professor of sacred literature at the Yale Divinity School, is now most remembered for his involvement in the Amistad trial. Although the father was also named Josiah Willard, the son is never referred to as "Jr." Five other members of Gibbs's extended family were named Josiah Willard Gibbs. His mother was the daughter of a Yale graduate in literature.

After attending the Hopkins School, Gibbs matriculated at Yale College at the age of 15. He graduated in 1858 near the top of his class, and was awarded prizes in mathematics and Latin.

Middle years

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