Timeline of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and random processes
A timeline of events related to thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and random processes.
Additional recommended knowledge
Ancient times
Void argument
 In c.485 BC, Parmenides makes the ontological argument against nothingness, essentially denying the possible existence of a void.
 In c.460 BC, Leucippus, in opposition to Parmenides' denial of the void, proposes the atomic theory, which supposes that everything in the universe is either atoms or voids; a theory which, according to Aristotle, was stimulated into conception so to purposely contradict Parmenides' argument.
 In c.350 BC, Aristotle proclaims, in opposition to Leucippus, the dictum horror vacui or “nature abhors a vacuum”. Aristotle reasoned that in a complete vacuum, infinite speed would be possible because motion would encounter no resistance. Since he did not accept the possibility of infinite speed, he decided that a vacuum was equally impossible.
 In 1643, Galileo Galilei, while generally accepting the horror vacui of Aristotle, believes that nature’s vacuumabhorrence is limited. Pumps operating in mines had already proven that nature would only fill a vacuum with water up to a height of 30 feet. Knowing this curious fact, Galileo encourages his former pupil Evangelista Torricelli to investigate these supposed limitations and in doing so invented the first vacuum and mercury thermometer.
Atomic postulates
 5th century BC  the classical elements are used to support various theories of combustion; Empedocles writes about his fourelement theory of earth, water, air, and fire
 5th century BC  Leucippus and Democritus formulate the first philosophy of atomism
 1st century BC  Lucretius writes his epic atomistic poem De Rerum Natura
Before 1800
 1620  Francis Bacon reviews a wide range of observations about heat and related phenomena, and suggests that heat is related to motion (Novum Organum, Book II, XI)
 1660  Robert Boyle experimentally discovers Boyle's Law, relating the pressure and volume of a gas
 1669  J.J. Becher puts forward a theory of combustion involving combustible earth (Latin terra pinguis).
 16761689  Gottfried Leibniz develops the concept of vis viva, a limited version of the conservation of energy
 16941734  Georg Ernst Stahl names Becher's combustible earth as phlogiston and develops the theory
 1702  Guillaume Amontons introduces the concept of absolute zero, based on observations of gases
 1738  Daniel Bernoulli publishes Hydrodynamics, initiating the kinetic theory
 1761  Joseph Black discovers that ice absorbs heat without changing its temperature when melting
 1772  Black's student Daniel Rutherford discovers nitrogen, which he calls phlogisticated air, and together they explain the results in terms of the phlogiston theory
 1776  John Smeaton publishes a paper on experiments related to power, work, momentum, and kinetic energy, supporting the conservation of energy
 1777  Carl Wilhelm Scheele distinguishes heat transfer by thermal radiation from that by convection and conduction
 1783  Antoine Lavoisier discovers oxygen and develops an explanation for combustion; in his paper "Réflexions sur le phlogistique", he deprecates the phlogiston theory and proposes a caloric theory
 1784  Jan Ingenhousz describes Brownian motion of charcoal particles on water
 1791  Pierre Prévost shows that all bodies radiate heat, no matter how hot or cold they are
 1798  Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson) performs measurements of the frictional heat generated in boring cannons and develops the idea that heat is a form of kinetic energy; his measurements refute caloric theory, but are imprecise enough to leave room for doubt
18001847
 1804  Sir John Leslie observes that a matte black surface radiates heat more effectively than a polished surface, suggesting the importance of black body radiation
 1805  William Hyde Wollaston defends the conservation of energy in On the Force of Percussion
 1808  John Dalton defends caloric theory in A New System of Chemistry and describes how it combines with matter, especially gases; he proposes that the heat capacity of gases varies inversely with atomic weight
 1810  Sir John Leslie freezes water to ice artificially
 1813  Peter Ewart supports the idea of the conservation of energy in his paper On the measure of moving force; the paper strongly influences Dalton and his pupil, James Joule
 1819  Pierre Louis Dulong and Alexis Thérèse Petit give the DulongPetit law for the specific heat capacity of a crystal
 1820  John Herapath develops some ideas in the kinetic theory of gases but mistakenly associates temperature with molecular momentum rather than kinetic energy; his work receives little attention other than from Joule
 1822  Joseph Fourier formally introduces the use of dimensions for physical quantities in his Theorie Analytique de la Chaleur
 1822  Marc Séguin writes to John Herschel supporting the conservation of energy and kinetic theory
 1824  Sadi Carnot analyzes the efficiency of steam engines using caloric theory; he develops the notion of a reversible process and, in postulating that no such thing exists in nature, lays the foundation for the second law of thermodynamics
 1827  Robert Brown discovers the Brownian motion of pollen and dye particles in water
 1831  Macedonio Melloni demonstrates that black body radiation can be reflected, refracted, and polarised in the same way as light
 1834  Émile Clapeyron popularises Carnot's work through a graphical and analytic formulation
 1841  Julius Robert von Mayer, an amateur scientist, writes a paper on the conservation of energy, but his lack of academic training leads to its rejection
 1842  Mayer makes a connection between work, heat, and the human metabolism based on his obervations of blood made while a ship's surgeon; he calculates the mechanical equivalent of heat
 1842  William Robert Grove demonstrates the thermal dissociation of molecules into their constituent atoms, by showing that steam can be disassociated into oxygen and hydrogen, and the process reversed
 1843  John James Waterston fully expounds the kinetic theory of gases, but is ridiculed and ignored
 1843  James Joule experimentally finds the mechanical equivalent of heat
 1846  KarlHermann Knoblauch publishes De calore radiante disquisitiones experimentis quibusdam novis illustratae
 1846  Grove publishes an account of the general theory of the conservation of energy in On The Correlation of Physical Forces
 1847  Hermann von Helmholtz publishes a definitive statement of the conservation of energy, the first law of thermodynamics
18481899
 1848  William Thomson extends the concept of absolute zero from gases to all substances
 1849  William John Macquorn Rankine calculates the correct relationship between saturated vapour pressure and temperature using his hypothesis of molecular vortices
 1850  Rankine uses his vortex theory to establish accurate relationships between the temperature, pressure, and density of gases, and expressions for the latent heat of evaporation of a liquid; he accurately predicts the surprising fact that the apparent specific heat of saturated steam will be negative.
 1850  Rudolf Clausius gives the first clear joint statement of the first and second law of thermodynamics, abandoning the caloric theory, but preserving Carnot's principle.
 1851  Thomson gives an alternative statement of the second law.
 1852  Joule and Thomson demonstrate that a rapidly expanding gas cools, later named the JouleThomson effect
 1854  Helmholtz puts forward the idea of the heat death of the universe
 1854  Clausius establishes the importance of dQ/T (Clausius's theorem), but does not yet name the quantity.
 1854  Rankine introduces his thermodynamic function, later identified as entropy
 1856  August Krönig publishes an account of the kinetic theory of gases, probably after reading Waterston's work
 1857  Clausius gives a modern and compelling account of the kinetic theory of gases in his On the nature of motion called heat
 1859  James Clerk Maxwell discovers the distribution law of molecular velocities
 1859  Gustav Kirchhoff shows that energy emission from a black body is a function of only temperature and frequency
 1865  Clausius introduces the modern macroscopic concept of entropy
 1865  Josef Loschmidt applies Maxwell's theory to estimate the numberdensity of molecules in gases, given observed gas viscosities.
 1867  Maxwell asks whether Maxwell's demon could reverse irreversible processes
 1870  Clausius proves the scalar virial theorem
 1872  Ludwig Boltzmann states the Boltzmann equation for the temporal development of distribution functions in phase space, and publishes his Htheorem
 1874  Thomson formally states the second law of thermodynamics.
 1876  Josiah Willard Gibbs publishes the first of two papers (the second appears in 1878) which discuss phase equilibria, statistical ensembles, the free energy as the driving force behind chemical reactions, and chemical thermodynamics in general.
 1876  Loschmidt criticises Boltzmann's H theorem as being incompatible with microscopic reversibility (Loschmidt's paradox).
 1877  Boltzmann states the relationship between entropy and probability.
 1879  Jožef Stefan observes that the total radiant flux from a blackbody is proportional to the fourth power of its temperature and states the StefanBoltzmann law.
 1884  Boltzmann derives the StefanBoltzmann blackbody radiant flux law from thermodynamic considerations.
 1888  HenriLouis Le Chatelier states his principle that the response of a chemical system perturbed from equilibrium will be to counteract the perturbation.
 1889  Walther Nernst relates the voltage of electrochemical cells to their chemical thermodynamics via the Nernst equation.
 1889  Svante Arrhenius introduces the idea of activation energy for chemical reactions, giving the Arrhenius equation.
 1893  Wilhelm Wien discovers the displacement law for a blackbody's maximum specific intensity.
19001944
1945present
 1948  Claude Elwood Shannon establishes information theory.
 1957  Aleksandr Solomonovich Kompaneets derives his Compton scattering FokkerPlanck equation.
 1957  Ryogo Kubo derives the first of the GreenKubo relations for linear transport coefficients.
 1957  Edwin T. Jaynes gives MaxEnt interpretation of thermodynamics from information theory.
 1972  Jacob Bekenstein suggests that black holes have an entropy proportional to their surface area.
 1974  Stephen Hawking predicts that black holes will radiate particles with a blackbody spectrum which can cause black hole evaporation
See also
