Statistical Mechanics: Ancient and Modern


NOT so long ago, statistical mechanics was almost synonymous with the somewhat arid topic of the dynamical theory of gases, but the development of the quantum theory has vastly increased the number of subjects which can be treated by statistical methods. Nowadays statistical mechanics deals with the properties of matter in its widest sense, and there has been a steady stream of books concerned with the applications. But although the great development of the subject has been mainly due to the success of the quantum theory in dealing with the interactions of atoms and to the introduction of the Fermi-Dirac and Einstein-Bose distribution functions, yet the repercussions upon the foundations of statistical mechanics have been not less important. So far this part of the theory has been almost completely neglected; Prof. Tolman's important book is meant to fill this gap, and it leaves off where most books begin. The word “principles” in the title of the book does not mean that the book is an introduction to the subject-far from it-but that it is concerned with the logical development of the fundamental principles.

The Principles of Statistical Mechanics

By Prof. Richard C. Tolman. (International Series of Monographs on Physics.) Pp. xix + 662. (Oxford: Clarendon Press; London: Oxford University Press, 1938.) 40s. net.

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W., A. Statistical Mechanics: Ancient and Modern. Nature 144, 348–349 (1939).

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