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Thermodynamics (Dover Books on Physics) [Paperback]

Enrico Fermi , Physics
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1, 1956 048660361X 978-0486603612 New Ed
Indisputably, this is a modern classic of science. Based on a course of lectures delivered by the author at Columbia University, the text is elementary in treatment and remarkable for its clarity and organization. Although it is assumed that the reader is familiar with the fundamental facts of thermometry and calorimetry, no advanced mathematics beyond calculus is assumed.
Partial contents: thermodynamic systems, the first law of thermodynamics (application, adiabatic transformations), the second law of thermodynamics (Carnot cycle, absolute thermodynamic temperature, thermal engines), the entropy (properties of cycles, entropy of a system whose states can be represented on a (V, p) diagram, Clapeyron and Van der Waals equations), thermodynamic potentials (free energy, thermodynamic potential at constant pressure, the phase rule, thermodynamics of the reversible electric cell), gaseous reactions (chemical equilibria in gases, Van't Hoff reaction box, another proof of the equation of gaseous equilibria, principle of Le Chatelier), the thermodynamics of dilute solutions (osmotic pressure, chemical equilibria in solutions, the distribution of a solute between 2 phases vapor pressure, boiling and freezing points), the entropy constant (Nernst's theorem, thermal ionization of a gas, thermionic effect, etc.).

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Enrico Fermi: Father of the Atomic Age
Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) received the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his demonstrations of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for his related discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons." Just a year before winning the Nobel Prize, Fermi published Thermodynamics, based on a course of lectures at Columbia University, an enduring work which Dover first reprinted in 1956 and which has been in print continuously since then, one of the foundations of Dover's physics program.

Both a theorist and an experimentalist, Fermi packed an immense amount of science into his relatively short life, which ended prematurely as a consequence of the radiation he received working on the development of the atomic bomb. His work, of course, was not just in the realm of nuclear physics: Fermi will always be the most remembered for the events of December 2, 1942, when he and other scientists at the University of Chicago's Stagg Field produced the world's "first self-sustaining chain reaction . . . instituting the controlled release of atomic energy."

In the Author's Own Words:
"There are two possible outcomes: If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery." — Enrico Fermi

Critical Acclaim for Enrico Fermi:
"He was simply unable to let things be foggy. Since they always are, this kept him pretty active." — J. Robert Oppenheimer

Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Physics
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; New Ed edition (June 1, 1956)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048660361X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486603612
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
102 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Lectures on Thermodynamics, A+ for Clarity February 12, 2004
These lectures by Enrico Fermi make great reading for undergraduates in chemistry or physics, particularly those undergoing the rigors of physical chemistry and chemical thermodynamics. Fermi writes with clarity, always carefully laying the appropriate groundwork for each topic.
The mathematics assumes familiarity with calculus, including partial differentiation. Fermi provides clear explanations and motivation for the mathematics and the derivations are complete and easy to follow. For example, he carefully explained the form of a perfect differential of two variables and how it can be more readily integrated. I appreciated this help.
The first four chapters will be familiar to students of physics: Thermodynamic Systems, First Law of Thermodynamics, Second Law of Thermodynamics, and Entropy. The derivation of the Clapeyron equation and the Van der Waals equation may be new to some students.
Thereafter, the text begins to look more like physical chemistry with chapters titled Thermodynamic Potentials, Gaseous Reactions, Thermodynamics of Dilute Solutions, and the Entropy Constant. I found these last chapters to be more difficult, but not overly so.
At some points Thermodynamics becomes a real page-turner, but not in the sense of a fast-paced action story. The page-turning is necessary to retrieve earlier mathematical expressions. Occasionally, you will encounter statements like "the expression for the free energy is immediately obtained from equations (111), (29), and (86)." Fermi does not allow the reader to forget earlier derivations and discussions.
If your familiarity with thermodynamics is limited (or now foggy due to the passage of years), I suggest first reading Understanding Thermodynamics by H. C. Van Ness. This 100-page book, a series of lectures, is an excellent introduction to thermodynamics from an engineering and physics perspective. It corresponds to the first four chapters of Fermi's text.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the core of thermodynamics January 28, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
fermi presents thermodynamics with beutiful economy. many other authors obfuscate the subject with extraneous detail, often missing the most important points. fermi misses absolutely nothing of importance, but does not weigh down his explanations with ramblings or tangents either. he presents the bare core of thermodynamics.
though the following analogy is somewhat cheesy, i find it appropriate: most authors who have written on thermo are like beginning kung fu students who do all sorts of fancy moves, backflips, and sommersaults but who ultimately land on their behinds. fermi is like the grand master who uses a stunning sparsity of moves, but each one is necessary and each one is enough. in the end, his competition doesn't stand a chance. he's just that good.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A classic text that shows its age May 17, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This slim volume is based on a course of lectures given by Fermi at Columbia University, New York, in the summer of 1936. The intended audience for this book is clearly the science undergraduate, but given the age of this text, one wonders whether it is more of historical interest than a course book for the modern student.

Fermi's treatment of the fundamentals in the first four chapters - thermodynamic systems, the first law, the second law, and entropy - is attractive in its clarity. He takes his time, and is careful not to lose the reader as he elaborates the concepts. Given the timeless nature of these topics, this part of the book does not suffer on account of its age.

Regarding the subjects presented in the next three chapters - thermodynamic potentials, gaseous reactions and the thermodynamics of dilute solutions - my view is that today's student would be better advised to study a more contemporary text. Important equations, such as the Gibbs-Helmoltz equations, are not mentioned here, and some of the nomenclature and symbols are outdated, which is unlikely to help the student when cross-referencing to contemporary texts and class notes.

The final chapter is devoted to the third law and the entropy constant.

It is evident from the book that Fermi has a liking for theorems and proofs. The Clapeyron equation, for example, is proved in two different ways for no apparent reason other than to show that it can be done, and his derivation of the phase rule extends over six pages. If you're a fan of such rigor, there is much for you to enjoy here.

Overall, I would say that Fermi's book has probably passed its time as a course text for the modern student of thermodynamics, but that for the purposes of deepening understanding of the fundamental concepts addressed in the first four chapters, it still has much to recommend it.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Straight from the Horse's Mouth July 18, 1997
By A Customer
Would you be interested in an introductory piano "how to" written by Mozart? How about a Driver's Education couse taught by Al Unser?
No student of physics or chemistry should be without this clear, cogent examination of thermodynamics. As one of the top scientists of this century, one can consider Fermi's thermo text as science that's "straight from the horse's mouth."
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one and only book to learn thermodynamics. October 13, 2010
Last week I was having dinner with friends in a restaurant in northern New Mexico. All physicists, slightly drunk, we were debating as different topics as "why did Hannibal not march on Rome after annihilating its legions at the battle of Canne?", or "how could those 19th century guys figure out a concept as like entropy BEFORE knowing statistical mechanics", when many lamented how unnatural thermodynamics felt as undergraduates, and how all textbooks were perhaps not incomplete but incapable of convey the physics. And then I said "well, there is Fermi's Thermodynamics..." end soon everybody agreed. My freshman course in thermodynamics, in Italy, was based on this book: although it is short and concise, no other text has its compelling clarity in explaining the basic laws. And it has that distinctive Fermi style: cutting the crap, straight to the physical point. Undergraduates learning the subject on any other book are really missing out.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best printing
The quality of the printing is a little cheap--pages are thin and text is closely spaced, making it difficult to annotate the book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by wil3
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and to the point
If you want a good understanding if thermodynamics for fun and don't mind some heavy lifting in terms of math exposition, this book by one of the greatest physicists of all time is... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Robert Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Everything you need to know about thermodynamics up to and including a graduate level in physics. Used it for my Ph.D. Qualifying exams
Published 5 months ago by physicsprof
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect introductory book in thermophysics
Explanation is not only clear but also easy to follow. Excellent textbook! All physics textbook should follow the pattern of this one!
Published 6 months ago by Taster
5.0 out of 5 stars Thermodynics from the first hands
Written in mid 30's, this book might not be much different if written today.

The book is not too easy to read, and one can immediately feel that the text is not Fermi's... Read more
Published 8 months ago by eugenen
1.0 out of 5 stars No sign of editing and even some incorrect information
An average of probably 4-5 spelling or grammatical errors per page, inconsistently-numbered equations, and references to non-existent figures. Read more
Published 10 months ago by M D
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the best short explications of classical thermodynamics, by a...
Among the short treatments of thermodynamics (Pippard, Pauli, etc.) Fermi's little book stands out as the most readable. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Gustav Derkits
4.0 out of 5 stars Great resource
Very easy to read. This book, albeit seemingly short, is deceptively informative and helpful in teaching thermodynamics. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Divya Singh
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and understandable
This book is very short (only about 100 pages) but it is thorough if you do not want to go into statistical mechanics. Read more
Published 11 months ago by tmchale
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent review text. A poor introductory text.
I took a thermodynamics course a few years ago and am reading this book now to brush up on the subject. I am currently half way through the book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by J. Olson
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