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Thermodynamics (Dover Books on Physics) New Ed Edition

46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0486603612
ISBN-10: 048660361X
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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


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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: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wischmeyer on February 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
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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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By P. Mander on 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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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Michael Demkowicz on 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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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Cristiano Nisoli on October 13, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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