So I was poking around Amazon.com looking at biographies of some of the founding names of thermodynamics and kinetic theory — Boltzmann of course was an interesting character, but there are a lot of good stories out there. The American physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs obviously was a major player — among other things, he introduced the concept of the statistical ensemble, the primary tool by which we nowadays think of thermodynamic systems.
One of the notable biographies of Gibbs, it turns out, is by none other than Muriel Rukeyser. That’s a name that should be familiar to long-time blog readers, as she was the author of the delightful poem The Conjugation of the Paramecium. Any poet who spends her free time writing biographies of the titans of statistical mechanics is my kind of poet.
Now, if there is a poet who writes a biography of Gibbs, she is my kind of poet too. There is more biographical information about Rukeyser in Sean’s post (and an excerpt from a poem of hers too). Have fun!