Gibbs, Josiah Willard

Gibbs, Josiah Willard

Gibbs, Josiah Willard, 1839-1903, American mathematical physicist, b. New Haven, Conn., grad. Yale, 1858. He studied abroad and was professor of mathematical physics at Yale from 1871. His great contributions to physical chemistry and thermodynamics have had a profound effect on industry, notably in the production of ammonia. He formulated the concept of chemical potential. In mathematics he wrote on quaternions and was influential in developing vector analysis. His work in statistical mechanics was especially important. Gibbs also contributed to crystallography, the determination of planetary and comet orbits, and electromagnetic theory. James Clerk Maxwell was one of the first European scientists to recognize Gibbs as a theoretical physicist of international stature. Gibbs was also interested in the practical side of science; his doctorate was the first granted by Yale for an engineering thesis, and he received a patent (1866) for an improved type of railroad brake. His Scientific Papers appeared in 1906 (repr. 1961) and his Collected Works in 1928.
Josiah Willard Gibbs, Sr. (30 April 1790-24 March 1861) was a professor of theology and sacred literature at Yale University.

He was born in Salem, Massachusetts and graduated from Yale in 1809. He was a tutor at the college from 1811 to 1815, when he removed to Andover, studying Hebrew and biblical literature. He returned to New Haven in 1824 as professor of theology and sacred literature, a post he retained until his death.

Gibbs was one of the key witnesses in the Amistad trial in 1839-1840. He had been able to locate a translator for the defendants' Mende language by learning to count to ten in that language, and then counting out loud in the harbor of New York City.

He was the father of physical chemist, engineer, and mathematician Josiah Willard Gibbs. Both are buried in New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery.

He was portrayed by Austin Pendleton in the 1997 film Amistad.

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