Willard Gibbs

Josiah Willard Gibbs;J. Willard Gibbs

1839 (New Haven, Conn.) – 1903 (New Haven)

Gibbs helped found chemical thermodynamics, and did fundamental work on vector analysis (sparked by reading Maxwell), while his work in theoretical physics paved the way for quantum mechanics. Maxwell, one of the first to recognise Gibbs’ genius, later made and sent him a plaster model. Although Gibbs, self-contained, rarely travelled, his mailing-list of 300 prominent scientists included his correspondents Peirce, Rayleigh and Ostwald (who translated his work). In Germany he sat in on lectures by Kirchhoff, Helmholtz, Bunsen and Magnus (influences all); however it’s not known whether he actually met them.

Willard Gibbs knew…