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Johannes Diderik van der Waals

Johannes van der Waals

Johannes Diderik van der Waals
BornNovember 23 1837(1837-11-23)
Leiden, Netherlands
DiedMarch 8 1923 (aged 85)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
InstitutionsUniversity of Amsterdam
Alma materUniversity of Leiden
Academic advisor  Pieter Rijke
Notable students  Diederik Korteweg
Known forvan der Waals equation of state
Notable prizes Nobel Prize for Physics (1910)
He is notably the father of the poet Jacqueline Elisabeth and the physicist Johannes Diderik Jr.

Johannes Diderik van der Waals (November 23, 1837 – March 8, 1923) was a Dutch scientist and thermodynamicist famous for his work on the equation of state for gases and liquids which describe the relation between the pressure, volume, and temperature of fluids (gases and liquids). In 1873 he obtained his doctor's degree at Leiden University for a thesis entitled Over de Continuïteit van den Gas- en Vloeistoftoestand (On the continuity of the gas and liquid state). In this thesis he derived the equation of state bearing his name. This work gave a model in which the liquid and the gas phase of a substance merge into each other in a continuous manner. It shows that the two phases are of the same nature. In deriving his equation of state van der Waals assumed not only the existence of molecules (which in physics was disputed at the time), but also that they are of finite size and attract each other. Since he was one of the first to postulate an intermolecular force, however rudimentary, such a force is now sometimes called a van der Waals force.

A second great discovery of van der Waals was published in 1880: The Law of Corresponding States. This law shows, that after scaling temperature, pressure, and volume by their respective critical values, a general form of the equation of state is obtained which is applicable to all substances. This law served as a guide during the experiments that led to the liquefaction of helium by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes.

Van der Waals found his incentive for his life's work after reading the 1857 treatise by Rudolf Clausius entitled Über die Art der Bewegung welche wir Wärme nennen (On the Kind of Motion we Call Heat).[1] Van der Waals was later greatly influenced by the writings of James Maxwell, Ludwig Boltzmann, and Willard Gibbs. For his work he won the 1910 Nobel Prize in physics.



  • spouse: Anna Magdalena Smit (m. 1864)
  • children: Anne Madeleine, Jacqueline Elisabeth (poet), Johanna Diderica, Johannes Diderik Jr. (physicist)


Van der Waals was born in Leiden, the Netherlands, as the son of Jacobus van der Waals and Elisabeth van den Burg. He became a school teacher, and was later allowed to study at the university, in spite of his lack of education in the field of classical languages. He studied from 1862 to 1865, earning degrees in mathematics and physics. He was married to Anna Magdalena Smit and had three daughters and one son.

In 1866, he became director of a secondary school in The Hague. In 1873, he obtained a doctorate degree in Leiden under Pieter Rijke. In 1876, he was appointed the first professor of physics at the newly established University of Amsterdam.

Van der Waals died in Amsterdam in 1923, one year after his daughter's death.

See also


  1. ^ Van der Waals, Johannes, D. (1910). "The Equation of State for Gases and LiquidsPDF (588 KiB)." Nobel Lecture, December 12.

Further reading

  • Kipnis, Aleksandr Yakovlevich; Boris Efimovich Yavelov, and John Shipley Rowlinson (July 1996). Van der Waals and Molecular Science. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-855210-6. 

NAME Waals, Johannes van der
DATE OF BIRTH November 23, 1837
PLACE OF BIRTH Leiden, Netherlands
DATE OF DEATH Diederik Korteweg
PLACE OF DEATH Amsterdam, Netherlands
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Johannes_Diderik_van_der_Waals". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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