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The Free Expansion of Gases: Memoirs by Gay-Lussac, Joule, and Joule and Thomson

Nature volume 60, page 7 | Download Citation



THIS forms the first of a series of handy small volumes containing reprints and translations of classical papers, relating to various branches of physics, which are to be issued under the title of “Harper's Scientific Memoirs.” Messrs. Harper are to be congratulated on their enterprise in launching a venture which should at least prove of great service to students, especially to students of the comparatively advanced type. They are also to be congratulated on having secured so well qualified a general editor as Prof. Ames, who is personally responsible for the contents of this first volume. That such a series should be issued at all is a remarkable evidence of the development of physical study and research in America, for it presupposes a considerable public to whom such papers are matters of sufficient interest to induce a purchase. Each paper is accompanied by a few lines of biography, and is printed in a practically complete form, with the omission only of tabular or illustrative matter which could be spared without serious loss. A few notes, giving corrections or explanations, are added, and the volume is completed by a list of books and articles of reference. In a short preface Prof. Ames draws attention to Gay-Lussac's experiments—the account of which forms the first paper in the volume—as affording a justification of Robert Mayer's assumption that the heat developed in compressing a gas is the equivalent of the work spent, the assumption, namely, on which Mayer's estimate of the mechanical equivalent of heat was founded. But it does not appear that Gay-Lussac's work, even if Mayer was acquainted with it, supplied the lacuna in his reasoning, or in any way detracted from the credit due to Joule for his later settlement of the matter.

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