Stefan Pohl-Valero

Stefan Pohl-Valero nsIn existographies, Stefan Pohl-Valero (c.1977-) (CR:10) is a Spanish mechanical engineer turned social thermodynamics historian noted for a number of publications, workshops, and presentations on the application of thermodynamics in sociology, history, economics, and religion, with particularly focus on 19th century Spanish theorists.

Valero's 2007 PhD dissertation “The Circulation of Energy: Thermodynamics, National Culture, and Social Progress in Spain, 1868-1890” built on the earlier thematic work of socio-science historians Crosbie Smith and Greg Myers to discuss how scientists such as William Thomson, Balfour Stewart, Peter Tait, and Thomas Huxley applied and used thermodynamics to theorize about various humanist implications. Valero’s unique focus, however, is on a specific group of Spanish scientists and social reformers, particularly the work of physicist Enrique Serrano Fatigati, and his circle, who in the 1870s sought to construct a educational program of physics that was based on an evolutionary and energetic interpretation of nature. [1]

Borges | Heat death
Pohl-Valero opens his Energy and Culture to the following 1934 quote by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges: [4]

“La primera ley de la termodinámica declara que la energía del universo es constante; la segunda, que esa energía propende a la incomunicación, al desorden, aunque la cantidad total no decrece. Esa gradual desintegración de las fuerzas que componen el universo, es la entropía. Una vez alcanzado el máximo de entropía, una vez igualadas las diversas temperaturas, una vez excluida (o compensada) toda acción de un cuerpo sobre otro, el mundo será un fortuito concurso de átomos. En el centro profundo de las estrellas, ese difícil y mortal equilibrio ha sido logrado. A fuerza de intercambios el universo entero lo alcanzará, y estará tibio y muerto. La luz se va perdiendo en calor; el universo, minuto por minuto, se hace invisible. Se hace más liviano también. Alguna vez, ya no será más que calor: calor equilibrado, inmóvil, igual. Entonces habrá muerto.”“The first law of thermodynamics states that the energy of the universe is constant; the second, that energy tends to isolation, disorder, although the total amount does not decrease. This gradual disintegration of the forces that make the universe is the entropy. After reaching the maximum entropy, once matched the various temperatures, after excluding (or offset) all action of one body on another, the world will be a fortuitous concourse of atoms. In the deep center of the stars, that elusive and deadly balance has been achieved. A force exchanges will reach the entire universe, and is warm and dead. The light is lost in heat; the universe, minute by minute, it becomes invisible. It also becomes lighter. Ever, it will not be more than heat balance, motionless, just heat. Then there will be dead.”

Energy and Culture (2011)
Pohl-Valero's 2011 Energy and Culture, a history on social thermodynamics in late 19th century Spain. [3]

Energy and Culture
In 2011, Pohl-Valero published Energy and Culture: a History of Thermodynamics in Spain in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century, the abstract of which is as follows:

“In the second half of the 19th century, the disciplinary map of physics and life sciences was reshaped by the new science of thermodynamics, which became one of the main scientific developments of that century. At the same time, its laws played an important role in the configuration of western modern social thought. Besides cosmological and natural terrestrial phenomena, even society started to be analyzed under an energetic conceptual frame, producing a deep influence in religious, educational, political and economical discourses. European intellectuals from the entire ideological spectrum participated in these kind of discourses. Energy and culture thoroughly analyses the process of communication and appropriation of thermodynamics during the last third of the 19th century in Spain, stressing how the cultural reformulation of its laws was foundational for understanding the natural world and Spanish society during a critical period of their history.

Actually, both energy conservation and entropy were concepts interpreted and employed by local experts and lay persons with a diversity of goals. Several theological assumptions, such as God’s creation of the universe, free will or the possibility of miracles, were debated taking into consideration such theories. While some sectors of society turned to the laws of thermodynamics in order to refute the power of Catholic Church and promote secular values and a naturalistic worldview, others employed them to “scientifically prove” a number of moral traditional values and, by doing that, try to maintain the social status quo. Some heralds of thermodynamics restricted the application of its laws to the material world, while others stated their importance for the study of human beings and society. These laws gave legitimacy to several economical and social stances and represented society as a functioning thermal machine ruled by them.

The historical period studied in this book begins in the late 1860’s and finishes the first years of 1890; it covers the first Spanish democratic period (1868-1874) and an important part of the Bourbon Restoration period. During the decade of 1870 to 1880, the communication of thermodynamics mainly focused its attention on moral and theological implications of its laws and on the role of this science in legitimating a materialistic worldview. Amidst a social debate on scientific materialism and its possible social consequences, the laws of thermodynamics, laden with natural, moral and social meanings, experienced a wide public circulation, going through multiple cultural re-elaborations.

Through a process of popularization, the local advocates of the new science of energy stressed that its laws did not support materialism and that its teaching was important for the material and moral progress of the nation. This “adequate” public image of thermodynamics gained force in the decade of 1880, when it social use went beyond theological and cosmological aspects, entering into debates around the functioning of society. Thermodynamics acquired a more neutral public meaning and an increasingly practical sense, allowing the restoration reformers to elaborate – as part of their political and social projects – a social thermodynamics. Different interpretations of its laws were then used to support social and economical reforms, which the intellectual leaders of the time tried to apply in a context of increasing social tensions.”

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Valero completed his BS in mechanical engineering at the Universidad de los Andes in 1999; was a research assistant in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Munich, Germany from 1999 to 2001; he completed his MS and PhD in History of Science, at Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain in 2007.

Valero has been visiting researcher at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge (United Kingdom, 2004 and 2005), Visiting Professor in the Masters in Social Studies of Science at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (2009 and 2010) and Masters in Science, History and Society of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2010). Between 2008 and 2010 he served as Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the Universidad Javeriana (Bogota, Colombia) and from 2009 to 2010 was editor of the journal Memory and indexed History Society. [2]

Valero currently is a professor in the School of Human Sciences, and the Universidad de Rosario, Columbia.

1. (a) Pohl-Valero, Stefan. (2007). “La Circulacion de la Energia: Una Historia Cultural de la Termodinamica en la Espana de la Segunda Mitad del Siglo XIX”, D.Phil thesis, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona; Thesis supervisor: Agusti Nieto-Galan; early version of this chapter/thesis was presented to the History of Science Workshop, HPS, University of Cambridge, February 2006.
(b) Pohl-Valero, Stefan. (2009). “The Circulation of Energy: Thermodynamics, National Culture, and Social Progress in Spain, 1868-1890”, in: Popularizing Science and Technology in European Periphery, 1800-2000 (ch. 6, pgs. 115-34). Editors: Papanelopoulou, Faidra, Nieto-Galan, Agusti, and Perdiguero, Enrique. Ashgate Publishing.
2. Stefan Pohl Valero (Spanish → English) –
3. Pohl-Valero, Stefan. (2011). Energy and Culture: A History of Thermodynamics in the Spain in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century (Energía y cultura. Historia de la termodinámica en la España de la segunda mitad del siglo XIX) (abs) (Ѻ). Bogota: Editorial Universidad Javeriana, Editorial Universidad del Rosario;

Further reading
● Pohl-Valero, Stefan. (2005). "The 'Morality' of Thermodynamics: the Controversy of its Laws in a New Public Sphere, Spain 1868-1880." Third Milan Workshop “The Physical Sciences in the Third World: A Social History of Science and Development.” Universidad Nacional de Colombia. 11-13 de junio de 2005.
● Pohl-Valero, Stefan. (2009). “La comunicación de la termodinámica: Física, cultura y poder en la España de la segunda mitad del siglo XIX” (“The Communication of Thermodynamics: Physical Culture and Power in Spain in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century”), Memoria y Sociedad, 13, no.27 (2009): 121-141.
● Pohl-Valero, Stefan and Vitery, Favio C. (2010). “Energia, Entropia y Religion: Un Repaso Historico” (“Energy, Entropy, and Religion: A Historical Review”), Rev. Acad. Colomb. Cienc. 34(130): 37-52.
Further reading
● Pohl-Valero, Stefan. (2010). “Termodinamica, Pensamiento Social y Biopolitica in la espana de la Restauracion” (“Thermodynamics, Social Thought, and Biopolitics in the Spain of the Restoration”), Publicado en Universitas Humanística, 69 (2010): 33-58.

External links
Historia de las Ciencias –
Stefan Polh Valero (Spanish) – Twitter.
Publications –

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