Ludwig Boltzmann

The life of Ludwig Boltzmann, one of the greatest of all nations and all times, was outwardly quiet. From childhood he lived in a security and material comfort. In contrast of his revered teacher Josef Stefan and to his older, beloved frie nd, the remarkable physicist and chemist Josef Loschmidt, he did not have to work his way up from village poverty to a university position. He did not have to help illiterate parents on their farm like Stefan, nor did he have to tend cattle in his youth and then earn his way by tutoring and by working as a factory chemist like Loschmidt. Coming from a comfortable middle-class family and helped along by his devoted mother, he had the good fortune as a young man to be able to concentrate on his studies.

Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann was born on February 20, 1844 in a house on the main street of the Landstrasse district of Vienna, the son of an "Imperial and Royal Cameral-Concipist," a tax official. His grandfather, who had moved to Vienna fro m Berlin, was a clock manufacture. Lugwig’s mother, Katharina Pauernfeind, came form Salzburg.

Soon after Ludwig’s birth the family moved to the Upper Austria, first to Wels and later to Linz, where Lugwig attended high school. He was an ambitious and eager student - too eager, as he later thought with regret, having come to reject blind am bition. An interest in nature distinguished the boy who collected butterflies and studied plants. At 15, Boltzmann lost his father.

Later Boltzmann studied physics at the University of Vienna. Among his teachers were Joseph Petzval, who greatly advanced the construction of photographic lenses, Anrease von Ettingshausen, and above all, Josef Stefan, whose work on radiation Bolt zmann continued. He received his doctorate in 1866 and gave his inaugural address as Privationdozation (lecturer) in 1867. After working with Stefan for two more years he was appointed the Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Graz in the province (Kronland) of Styria.

Boltzmann spent several months at Heidelbery with Robert Bunsen and Leo Konigsberg in 1869 and then in Berling with Gustav Kirchoff and Herman von Helmholrz in 1871. After the period from 1873 to 1876 as the professor of Mathematics at the Univers ity of Vienna he returned to Graz to take the chair of Experimental Physics, this time for a longer period. By now Boltzmann was well know in the scientific world, and talented young people, such as Svante Arrhenius from Sweden and Walther Nernst from Ge rmany, came to study with him in the mid-eighties. Wilhelm Ostwald, one of the founders of physical chemistry, also visited Boltzmann at Graz. There he met Nernst, who later became his closest collaborator at Leipzig.

Around 1881, Boltzmann efforts were associated with J.C. Maxwell. Maxwell worked to try to explain the thermodynamics of gases. Boltzmann introduced the Ehrenfest urn Model, an example is the probability formulation in Markov chain terms. A discr eet parameter stochastic process is a collection of random variable {X(t), t=0,1,2,3,..}. The values of X(t) are called the states of process. The collection of states is call teh state space. The values of t usually represent points in time. The numb er of statis either finite or countable infinite. A discrete parameter stochastic process is called a Markov Chain if for any set of n time points t1<t2<....>tn, the conditional distribution of X(tn) given values for X(t1), X(t2),... X(tn) depe nds only on X(t(n-1)). It is expressed by

P[X(tn)<=xn\ X(t1)=x1,...X(t(n-1))=x(n-1)]

=P[X(tn) <=xn\ X(n-1)=x(n-1)].

A Marko Chain is said to be stationary if hte value of the conditional probability P[X(t(n+1))= x(n+1)\X(tn)=xn] is independant on n. This is for stationary Markov Chains. He was the first one to recognize the importance of Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory.

The versatility that permitted Boltzmann to teach both mathematics and experimental physics is astounding. But in 1890 the satisfying opportunity finally arose to devote himself fully to the subject closest to his heart. He was appointed to the c hair of Theoretical Physics at the University of Munich in Bavaria, Germany.

In1893 Stefan died and Boltzmann succeeded him as Professor of Theoretical Physics in his native Vienna. In1900, on the invitation of Ostwald, he went to the University of Leipzig, but in 1902 he returned to his former position, which had been ke pt open, in Vienna. The Emperor, Francis Joseph, reappointed him on condition that Boltzmann give his word of honor never to accept a position outside the Empire again. Boltzmann remained Professor in Vienna until his death on September 5, 1906. On his tombstone there is the inscprition S= K ln W.

At Vienna Boltzmann taught not only physics but in 1903 he also committed himself to teach a university course "Methods and General Theory of the Natural Sciences," in which he lectured three hours every week on problems of philosophy. T hus he became a kind of successor to Ernst Mach, who held the chair for "History and Theory of the Inductive Sciences" but who had been forced to retire prematurely in 1901 after a stroke.

Boltmann’s greatness was recognized during his lifetime. He was honored nationally and internationally. He was elected to membership or honorary membership in many academies, received an honorary doctorate from Oxford, and was also awarded medals . On the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, 117 of the world’s most prominent scientists- even including some from Russia, America, Australia, and Japan- contributed to the festschrift edited by Stefan Meyer, Boltzmann’s collaborator (Assistant). Meyer subsequently served for many years as the highly esteemed Director of the Radium Institute of the Austrian of Academy Sciences.

Boltzmann constant ws named after Lugwig Boltzmann, because he substantually contributed to the foundation and development of statistical mechanics, a branch of theortical physics. Boltzmann constant has a value of 1.380662 * 10^-23 joules per kel vin.