|A snapshot of the Goethe + Gibbs connection, namely: the connection between the 1809 social "affinities" work of Goethe and the 1876 general systems "free energy" work of Gibbs; affinity A and free energy G shown to be equivalent by Helmholtz in 1882, the conclusion of which being that micro-social interactions described by affinities are determined by the macro Gibbs energy changes of the social system; only about nine people have independently made this connection before 2010. The general equation connecting the two concepts, shown above, is the Goethe-Helmholtz equation, first put into the form above by Theophile de Donder in circa 1930.|
The connection between Gibbs and Goethe is a very niche subject that only a little more than a handfull of people have independently arrived at, or at least published on; only four people prior to the 21st century, namely: Carl Snyder (1902), Wilhelm Ostwald (1905), Fielding Garrison (1910), and Richard Schowen (1984), seem to have been aware of the revolution-implicating connection.
The following shows the chronology of known Gibbs + Goethe connectors, showing both "independent" and "dependent" connections, the latter shown by the # box shown in grey color.
American chemistry historian, economist, and statistician
|1902||In his “Fifty Years of Synthetic Chemistry”, outlined a rich history of synthetic chemistry, connecting the dots between Marcellin Berthelot to Willard Gibbs and then back go Johann Goethe, in human chemistry.|
German physical chemist, radical atheist, and monism philosopher
|1905||In his 24-part MIT Affinity lecture gives a modern history of affinity chemistry, 1775-1905, therein connecting Goethe to Gibbs as follows:|
The Elective Affinities [Goethe] 207
Ostwald, in the first part, "The Elective Affinities", opens to a discussion and quote from Goethe’s Elective Affinities, wherein he seems to assert that this model is “ideal for all nature as a scientific research”, in part 12 discusses Sadi Carnot and the second law, part 14 discusses August Horstmann application of thermodynamics to chemistry, then in part 15 digs into Gibbs and what Ostwald calls the “energetics”. As the entire lecture series is not yet fully translated into English it remains to be discerned if Ostwald made the direct connection between affinity and free energy, though, to note, he does cite Hermann Helmholtz on at least three pages (201, 216, 256).  This may have been the last robust intellectual connection between Gibbs and Goethe. Ostwald would shortly thereafter venture into his "Monistic Sunday Sermons", a monism-framed radical atheism, which is the next broach one has to break after connecting Gibbs to Goethe.
American physician, librarian, and science historian
|1910||In his “A Note on Traube’s Theory of Osmosis and ‘Attraction-Pressure’”, written the year following the publication of his tripartite article “Josiah Willard Gibbs and his Relation to Modern Science”, commented the following telling remarks: |
“Suppose chemical substances to be represented by a number of men and women of varying degrees of strength of character and "attractiveness," and suppose the marital combinations or what Goethe called the "elective affinities" between these men and women to be determined by certain mysterious "laws." If a man strong in character should mate with a woman, weaker but otherwise "attractive," or vice versa, one set of observers might affirm that the union was due to the man's superior potentiality or masculinity, others might maintain that the real strength in the combination or "affinity" lay in the woman's "attractiveness "; or vice versa. Curiously enough, these anthropomorphisms, which seem so plausible and fascinating in Goethe's novel, are daily and hourly employed to explain the facts of chemical combination.”
American organic chemist
|1984|| In his University of Kansas Humanities Lecture Series address “Elective Affinities: Science, Certainty and Freedom in Goethe, Henry Adams and Thomas Pynchon”, made the Gibbs-Goethe connection, via or with Henry Adams, as follows: |
“In this examination of texts of Goethe from 1809, of Henry Adams from 1909 and of Thomas Pynchon from 1973, we have, I think, never lost the red thread. The theme of affinity, certainty and binding, of election, freedom and flux, and of the hidden variable that lies beyond the veil, rendering certainty and freedom equally illusory, pervades the texts. Variations on the theme have come with times. The growth of thermodynamics and precise rendering of affinity and flux in the language of enthalpy and entropy gave Henry Adams’ phase rule of history a form that would have been incomprehensible to Goethe but which, because of further change, seems quint and eccentric to us today. But always there is the red thread. It shows the power of this metaphor of affinity and election, uncertainty and flux and of the conflicting promise of science, of a reliable mapmaker with continual revision underway, that has run the strands of our culture for two centuries.”
German metallurgist, solid state thermodynamicist, and physical socioeconomist
|2000||In his "Society as a Many Particle System", and other articles to follow, cites both Empedocles and Goethe, in the context of his Gibbs free energy theory, in the form of the Lagrange principle, of socioeconomics; Mimkes, to note, doesn't seem to be aware of the direct connection of free energy to affinity via the affinity-free energy equation proved in 1882 by Hermann Helmholtz.|
German organic chemist
|2001||In his April fool’s day News in Chemistry article “Humans, All Too Chemical”, made the Gibbs and Goethe connection, passingly discussing Gibbs energy and driving force in respect to love and passion. |
|7.||Tominaga Keii |
Japanese chemical engineer and chemical thermodynamicist
|2004||In his chapter “Thermodynamics and Chemical Reactions”, devoted an entire chapter subsection entitled “Chemical Affinity in 1806”, of his book Heterogeneous Kinetics: Theory of Ziegler-Natta-Kaminsky, to the connection, but in the end averred with the forest blind comment that Goethe’s Elective Affinities “did not add any scientific knowledge.” |
Canadian-born American chemist
|2006||In his Valentine’s day article “Chemical Eye on Love”, made the Gibbs + Goethe connection as follows: |
“Chemistry and romance have a long history. A comparison of books on Western civilization, and the history of science, will reveal that physics became King of the sciences during the Enlightenment, while chemistry became their Queen with the inadvertent help of Romanticism. The German romantic, Johann Goethe, may be most famous for his timeless portrayal of Herr Faust and his deal with the devil. Literary chemists, however, are enamored with his most fundamental depiction of human emotions in "Elective Affinities". In this novel, the characters act out the chemistry of acids and bases, positives and negatives, that the author, a closet chemist, believed to have the ultimate starring role on life's stage. To revisit this long-lost sentimentality, I would like to chemically paraphrase John Lennon's famous theorem [“all you need is love”, 1967 (Ѻ)]. First, however, I need to tell you that the most important thing about chemical reactions is that they try to reach equilibrium. Or, to put it in thermodynamic terms, when they occur in the open, they seek to minimize their Gibbs energy, which is universally given the symbol capital G. Graphically, and truthfully, one can say that reacting molecules spontaneously find the lowest spot on their G-curves [“G-spot” (Ѻ) pun]. Getting back to the Beatles, perhaps the love you take is in equilibrium with the love you make?”
|9.||Libb Thims |
American electrochemical engineer
|2007||After working on the elective affinities problem, albeit in terms of "Gibbs energies", i.e. human free energy theory, the same problem Goethe worked on (see: love thought experiment), for about eleven years (1995-2006), discovered Goethe, in 2006, via footnote 2.5 of Ilya Prigogine, went on over the next 14-months and 18-days to write the world’s first Gibbs + Goethe based “human chemistry” textbook. |
|10.||Alec Groysman |
Russian-born Israeli chemical engineer
|2011||In his conference presentation “Use of Art Media in Engineering and Scientific Education”, cites the human chemistry work of Johann Goethe and Libb Thims, among others; and discusses how not only is their "two cultures", but more likely "three cultures"; and advocates the teaching of Goethe + Gibbs based human chemistry in engineering.|
● Goethe + Empedocles
● Gibbs, Goethe, and Empedocles
● Hmolscience citation ranking
● Scientists who’ve cited Elective Affinities (Ѻ)
1. Garrison, Fielding H. (1910). “A Note on Traube’s Theory of Osmosis and ‘Attraction-Pressure’” (elective affinities, pg. 285) Science, 32: 281-86.
2. Keii, Tominaga. (2004). Heterogeneous Kinetics: Theory of Ziegler-Natta-Kaminsky (ch. 2: Thermodynamics of Chemical Reactions, pgs. 11-20; section: Chemical Affinity in 1806, pgs. 16-17). Springer.
3. (a) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
4. Ostwald, Wilhelm. (1905). The career of science: Seven public lectures evident from the history of chemistry (Der Werdegang einer Wissenschaft: Sieben Gemeinverständliche Vorträge aus der Geschichte der Chemie), MIT, autumn (Goethe, pgs. 122, 192; Sixth Lecture: Affinity (Affinität)”, pgs. 207-; Die Wahlverwandtschaften, pg. 207). Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft m. b. H., 1908.
5. Schowen, Richard L. (1984). “Elective Affinities: Science, Certainty and Freedom in Goethe, Henry Adams and Thomas Pynchon”, Humanities Lecture Series, University of Kansas.
6. MacDougall, Preston. (2006). “Chemical Eye on Love”, Stories in the News, Ketchikan, Alaska.
7. Bott, Kaspar. (2001). “Humans, All Too Chemical” (“Menschliches, allzu Chemisches”), News in Chemistry (Nachrichten aus der Chemie) (abs), 49(4):471-72, April.