Helm and Boltzmann: Energetics at the Lübeck Naturforscherversammlung
Author: Deltete, Robert
Source: Synthese, Volume 119, Numbers 1-2, April 1999 , pp. 45-68(24)
Abstract:The energetics controversy is understood variously as energy vs. atoms, thermodynamics vs. statistical mechanics, phenomenalism vs. realism, equations vs. pictures, and especially Ostwald vs. Boltzmann. It is generally thought that at Lübeck in 1895 Boltzmann and Planck demolished energetics, but while its momentum was slowed, energetics in one or more of the above senses still retained supporters as late as the great physics conference at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Indeed, after Ostwald himself abandoned it in 1908, Ernst Mach began for the first time to defend it. The main emphasis in this paper, however, is on Georg Helm (1851–1923) who had been invited to Lübeck to be the main speaker on energetics. He had adopted his position earlier than Ostwald and his views avoided many of the errors and oversights in Ostwald’s approach. Indeed, Helm could be called the strongest defender of energetics, even if Ostwald was Boltzmann’s main target. Helm was largely Machist in philosophy at that time and did not reify energy.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: April 1, 1999