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Ludwig Boltzmann
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Scientist
    (February 20, 1844-September 5, 1906)
    Born in Vienna, Austria
    Held professorships in mathematics and physics at the Universities of Vienna, Graz, Munich and Leipzig
    Developed statistical mechanics, which predicts how properties of atoms (such as mass, charge and structure) determine properties of matter (such as viscosity, diffusion and thermal conductivity)
    Showed that the Second Law of Thermodynamics could be derived by applying the laws of mechanics and theories of probability to the motions of atoms
    Namesake for the Boltzmann constant, Boltzmann equation and Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution
    He had a running feud with Ernst Mach and other German physicists who did not believe in the existence of atoms.
    His feud with Mach got so intense that he left the University of Vienna to avoid working with him, returning only after Mach retired for health reasons in 1901.
    He suffered wild mood swings.
    During a depressive episode, he committed suicide by hanging while on a summer vacation with his family.
    Promoters of pseudoscientific woo often present him as someone who was hounded to death by the scientific establishment for having unorthodox ideas, when in reality he was honored with memberships in the Imperial Austrian Academy of Sciences (1885), the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1888) and Britain’s Royal Society (1889).
    The formula S = k(log W), expressing a relationship between entropy (S) and probability (W) is inscribed on his tombstone even though the actual formula was first written by Max Planck.
    He graduated college with a doctorate in only three years.
    He met his future wife, Henriette von Aigentler, when she was denied entry to math and science lectures at the University of Graz and he helped her successfully challenged the ruling.
    His lectures on natural philosophy were so popular that, even though he held them at the largest hall in the University of Vienna, the crowds frequently overflowed onto the staircases.
    Shortly after his death, evidence for the existence of atoms became sufficiently compelling to convert the skeptics in the scientific community.
    His work laid a basis for quantum mechanics in the 20th century.

Credit: C. Fishel


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