Lord Kelvin formally states the second law of thermodynamics (124 words)

Historical Context Note

  • Editors


The theoretical physicist William Thomson, who was later to become known as Baron Kelvin after his elevation to the House of Lords, had first suggested a version of this thermodynamic law in 1851. In 1874, however, he stated it formally for the first time. This law, which stated that 'there is no natural process the only result of which is to cool a heat reservoir and do external work', effectively outlined the process of entropy. This meant that over time, differences in heat and energy will gradually decrease, and the amount of useable energy in the universe is therefore also gradually decreasing. This became a source of great anxiety in the late Victorian period, in particular the associated idea of the eventual death of the sun.

Editors. "Lord Kelvin formally states the second law of thermodynamics". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 August 2013
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=6344, accessed 30 April 2017.]

Related Groups

  1. Victorian Scientific Thought and Applications

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