Lewis school of thermodynamics

Lewis school
Photo of the University of California, Berkeley, home to the Lewis school of thermodynamics.
In thermodynamics schools, the Lewis school of thermodynamics is generally known as the location of the University of California, Berkeley centered around the work of American physical chemist Gilbert Lewis (1895-1946). [1] Notables from this school include: Merle Randall (1909-1947), George Gibson (1914-1954), William Giauque (1916-1962), Herman Kalckar (1939), Frederick Rossini (1927-1971), Terrell Hill (1936-1942), and Peter Rock (1962-2003).

UC Berkeley chemical engineering | History
In circa 1906, Frederick Cottrell, classified as UC Berkeley’s first true chemical engineer, invented electrostatic dust-precipitation.

In 1912, Gilbert Lewis, as incoming dean of the College of Chemistry, instituted a chemical technology major, subsequently directed by Merle Randall. In 1942, Donald McLaughlin, Wendell Latimer, Randall, Llewellyn M. K. Boelter, and others formed a "graduate group" to offer the MS degree in chemical engineering. [3]

The 1946 appointment of Philip Schutz as professor of chemical engineering marked the administrative decision that ultimately led to the present chemical engineering program at Berkeley. [4]

In 2010, the name of the UC Berkeley "Chemical Engineering" department was changed to the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering to reflect the widened scope of teaching and research activities in the department.

Lewis school | Formation
The “Lewis school", a term used as early as 1923, or G.N. Lewis school, a term that came into use commonly into the 1950s, refers to anyone schooled under the logic of American physical chemist Gilbert Lewis. In the 20th century, the most cited textbook on thermodynamics was the 1923 Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances written by Lewis and his editorial assistant American physical chemist Merle Randall.

This activity centered around the University of California, Berkeley beginning in 1912 when Lewis was made dean of the College of Chemistry. Lewis stayed there, reorganizing the department, until his death in one of the UC Berkeley laboratories in 1946.

In circa 1914, Lewis, whose major interests were thermodynamics and physical chemistry, placed George Gibson in charge of two new honors courses, ‘thermodynamics’ and ‘advanced physical chemistry’. Out of this, Gibson published, in 1917, an English translation of A Textbook of Thermochemistry and Thermodynamics, by Otto Sackur, and this served as a reference text for this subject until 1923, when Lewis and Randall's now-famous textbook on chemical thermodynamics appeared. [2]

Beginning in about 1895, based on work by American engineer Willard Gibbs, Lewis was aware that chemical reactions proceeded to an equilibrium determined by the free energy of the substances taking part. Lewis then spent 25 years determining free energies of various substances via experimental measurement. In 1923, he and Randall published the results of this study, which helped formalize modern chemical thermodynamics. One of his notable students was Frederick Rossini, who wrote one of the first chemical thermodynamics textbooks (1850). Herman Kalckar, who had spent a year at Cal Tech (California Institute of Technology) in Pasadena, was famously said to be in “the orbit of the great G. N. Lewis school of thermodynamics”. [1]

Canadian-born American chemist William Giauque, who won the 1949 Nobel Prize in chemistry for studies on the properties of matter at temperatures close to absolute zero, was a student of Lewis at Berkeley receiving his bachelors there in 1920 and PhD in chemistry with a minor in physics in 1922. He later became a full professor of chemistry there in 1934, where he stayed until his retirement in 1962.

1. (a) Ott, Bevan J. and Boerio-Goates Juliana. (2000). Chemical Thermodynamics – Principles and Applications, (pg. 229). Academic Press.
(b) Kaplan, Nathan O., Lipmann, Fritz A., Kennedy, Eugene P. (1966). Current Aspects of Biological Energetics: Fritz Lipmann Dedicatory Volume, (pg. 2). Academic Press.

2. Anon. (date). “George Ernest Gibson, Chemistry: Berkeley”, Calisphere.
3. Chemical Engineering – Content.Cdlib.org.
4. About the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department – Cheme.Berkeley.edu.

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